ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 4, WASHINGTON GALAXY 2
Before the SHL Finals began, Anchorage Igloos coach Sam Castor declared himself “confident that we’ll come in and finish the job.” But Washington Galaxy LW Casey Thurman countered that his team was “every bit as good as the Igloos” and added, “If they’re expecting us to be a pushover, they’re in for a surprise.” As it turns out, both of them were right: the Galaxy were definitely no pushover, taking the series to the limit, but the Igloos did finish the job, claiming the SHL’s first championship with a 4-2 victory in Game 7.
“Mission accomplished!” crowed Igloos C Jake Frost, who carried his team to victory with a pair of third-period goals. “Ever since the season started, we’ve all believed that we were the best in the league. And now we’ve proved it!”
In order to prove it, Frost and his teammates had to battle through a tense, competitive series. Even the deciding contest was in doubt throughout much of the game. “Nobody in here has to hang their head,” said Thurman. “We left everything we had on the ice. We came up on the losing end, but we showed that we’re just as good as they are. We’re focused on coming back and winning it all next year.”
Game 7 was a tremendous back-and-forth contest, a microcosm for the Finals as a whole. The game began in chippy fashion, as both teams were determined to gain a physical edge. “Both teams have worked up a healthy hate over this series,” said Galaxy D Bruce “Boom Boom” Hogaboom. “We really went at it claws-out today.”
The teams traded minor penalties in the early going, but it was Hogaboom who put his team on the defensive by taking a double minor for spearing Anchorage C Nile Bernard. On the ensuing power play, the Igloos took the lead when LW Les Collins stuffed in a wraparound shot behind Galaxy goalie Roger Orion. It was the fourth Finals goal for Collins, who has turned the playoffs into his own personal coming-out party.
“God, Les is something special, isn’t he?” said Castor. “This is the kind of performance that turns a young kid into a legend.”
Despite falling behind early, the Galaxy didn’t fold, just as they’ve stood strong all series. They seemed to find another gear in the latter half of the opening frame, and they scored a pair of goals to grab the lead.
First, during an extended shift in the Anchorage end, Washington C Drustan Zarkovich sent a wobbly shot on net. The puck deflected off the stick of LW Todd Douglas and snuck between the legs of Igloos netminder Ty Worthington to tie it up. “That one was just dogged persistence,” said Douglas. “We wouldn’t let them clear it out of their zone, and we just wore them out. Sooner or later, we were going to get one in.”
Just over a minute later, the Galaxy’s first line broke out on an odd-man rush, with Thurman exchanging passes with C Eddie Costello and RW Jefferson McNeely. It was McNeely who went top-shelf on Worthington to make it 2-1 and stun the crowd at Arctic Circle Arena.
“The fans were figuring that [the Igloos had] toyed with us long enough, and they were going to bury us in this game,” said Thurman. “When we went ahead, it really sent a chill up their spine.”
Washington’s lead lasted through the remainder of the first and into the second, as the fans began to get antsy. The Igloos remained confident, but Castor felt something was missing. “We were looking a little flat out there,” the Anchorage coach said. “I could tell we needed a spark. I told my guys to try to get something started.”
Six and a half minutes into the second period, Igloos D Ted Keefe did just that. Keefe has a well-earned reputation as Anchorage’s enforcer, and he took offense to what he felt was overly aggressive forechecking by Galaxy D Rusty Anderson. Keefe expressed his displeasure by dumping Anderson into the bench with a hard check. Anderson bounced back out and gave Keefe a shove from behind, and the two quickly dropped the gloves and started a fight. It was only the second fight of the series, and Keefe won handily, yanking Anderson’s sweater over his head and dropping him with a flurry of jabs. For the Igloos, it was well worth the extra two-minute instigation penalty that Keefe served.
“We hadn’t really thrown our weight around in the Finals,” said Keefe. “And the scuffle clearly got our guys fired up, and the fans too.”
The Igloos successfully killed Keefe’s penalty, and shortly after the fighting majors expired, Anchorage tied the game on a blue-line blast from D Dave Frederick.
“The fight was the turning point in the game for us,” said Castor.
The game remained tied after two periods, and stayed that way for much of the third, until Frost stepped into the spotlight. The Igloos star had been largely contained for much of the Finals. Washington knew of his fondness for breakaway goals, and they did their best to frustrate him and slow his down, harassing him in the neutral zone and keeping his speed in check. But Frost was ready to break out.
“At some point, if you’re going to be the man, you’ve got to put the team on your back,” said Frost. “It was time for me to do that.”
When LW Jerry Koons dug a puck out of the corner and flipped it to Frost with about seven minutes remaining, the Anchorage center turned on the jets and burned up the ice. Eluding a Hogaboom check, Frost slipped past the Washington defense for a one-on-one with Orion. He faked a slapshot and then flicked a shot under Orion’s blocker to make it 3-2.
Just over a minute later, Frost did it again. Collecting a pass from RW Nicklas Ericsson, Frost shook off his defenders and buried a shot in the upper right corner of the net. Though there were still over five minutes left in the game, the outcome was clear.
“Once Jake got it going, we kind of knew we were done,” admitted Galaxy coach Rodney Reagle. “We had a two-goal deficit, and we were just out of gas.”
Frost got to take the Vandenberg Trophy, the SHL’s championship award, for its first spin around the ice. As he skated, he reflected on the long journey that brought Anchorage to the title. “Everybody in here worked so hard to get us here,” said Frost. “It’s a team game, and we had the best team to take the title.”
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