Frost Named Playoff MVP

Jake Frost
Jake Frost

The SHL selected C Jake Frost of the champion Anchorage Igloos as its Playoff MVP.  Frost led all scorers in the championship series with 8 points (4 goals, 4 assists).  His playoff performance built on his exceptional regular season, when he led the Igloos with 60 goals, second-highest total in the league.

In the Finals, Frost saved his best for last, scoring a pair of goals in the deciding Game 7 to lift the Igloos to a 4-2 win over the Washington Galaxy.

“Jake is the heart and soul of our outfit,” said Igloos coach Sam Castor.  “Whatever we’ve achieved this season, Jake’s been driving it.  He’s the first one to the arena in the morning and the last one to leave.  He sets an example that the rest of the team follows, and that’s why we’re champions.”

Frost’s final-game heroics helped him claim the MVP trophy over his teammate Les Collins, who was the runner-up in the award voting.  The 22-year-old left winger had a breakout Finals, scoring 4 goals in the postseason after having scored only 9 in the regular season.  “I believe we’re going to see great things out of Les in the years to come,” said Castor.  “He really left it all out on the ice and did a lot to help us win.  I want us to build a dynasty here, and Les is one of the key guys to help us do that.”

2015 SHL Finals – Game 7

Anchorage SmallWashington SmallANCHORAGE 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.”

Continue reading “2015 SHL Finals – Game 7”

2015 SHL Finals – Game 6

Anchorage SmallWashington SmallANCHORAGE IGLOOS 5, WASHINGTON GALAXY 3

The SHL Finals are going the distance.  With their backs against the wall in a must-win Game 6, the Anchorage Igloos ran up the score early against the Washington Galaxy and went on to a 5-3 win, setting the stage for a winner-take-all Game 7 for tomorrow at Arctic Circle Arena.

“Today, we showed that we had the backbone of a champion,” said Igloos coach Sam Castor.  “We were aggressive and hard-nosed, and we let our superior talent shine through.  Washington’s played a great series, and they’ve pushed us to the limit.  But today’s game shows that we’re ready to respond.”

The first period of this game was highly reminiscent of Game 3.  Just as in that game, Anchorage dominated the action early on and built a 3-0 lead.  LW Jerry Koons was a man possessed for the Igloos, scoring the first two goals and driving the pace of play.

“We haven’t come this far and worked this hard all season to come up short now,” said Koons.  “I wasn’t about to let us roll over and die.”

About halfway through the first stanza, Anchorage D Olaf Martinsson forced a turnover in his own end and flipped the puck to Koons, who started a two-man breakaway with RW Nicklas Ericsson.  Koons finished with a beautiful deke before poking it between the legs of Galaxy goalie Roger Orion.

Three minutes later, the Igloos were on the power play when Koons banged home a rebound at the goal mouth off a shot from C Jake Frost to make it 2-0.  “Orion made a great save on that play,” said Castor, “but Jerry didn’t give up on the play and made sure we found the back of the net.  That’s the kind of greasy goal you need in the playoffs.”

When LW Misha Petronov tipped in another rebound to make it 3-0, the arena was rocking and the crowd was taunting Orion, who had faced only 8 shots to that point.  Galaxy coach Rodney Reagle called timeout and spoke to his netminder, but did not pull Orion from the game.

“Roger’s the guy who got us here,” said Reagle.  “If you pull a guy in that situation, you’re telegraphing that you’ve got no confidence, and I’m not about to do that at this point of the season.”

Unlike in Game 3, though, the Galaxy didn’t wait until the second period to get back in the game.  Immediately following Petronov’s goal, Washington C Drustan Zarkovich won the ensuing faceoff and started a march up the ice that led to a goal by RW Sindri Pentti, getting the Galaxy on the board.  And in the waning seconds of the first, C J.C. Marais buried a shot from the right faceoff circle to make it 3-2.

“We were right back in it!” said Washington LW Casey Thurman.  “We went into the locker room feeling great.”

The Igloos clearly learned their lesson from Game 3, however, and never let the Galaxy tie the game.  Early in the second period, Anchorage C Nile Bernard flipped a puck over a sprawling Orion and into the upper right corner of the net to put the Igloos ahead 4-2.

“I hadn’t been planning to shoot,” said Bernard, “but [Orion] overcommitted to the left side and left me with a wide open net.  I felt like I had to put it in.”

Washington did not go quietly, though.  After Igloos D Ted Keefe was sent off for slashing with 6 minutes left in the second frame, Marais flicked a wrister in off the top crossbar to get the Galaxy back within one.

That 4-3 score held up through the rest of the second period and much of the third.  Finally, with less than 5 minutes left in the game, the Igloos got an insurance goal in a most bizarre manner.  Orion turned aside a shot from RW Sven Danielsen but failed to corral the rebound.  The puck slid out to the blue line, and Keefe fired it back toward the goal.  The puck ticked off fellow D Dave Frederick’s stick and popped high in the air.  When it came down, the puck bounced off Orion’s back and into the net.

“That was just a strange play all the way around,” said Reagle.  “I think everybody sort of lost it up in the air, and then the way it came down and got in before Roger could react… it’s almost like the puck had a mind of its own, you know?”

Reagle rebuffed calls for replacing Orion in net for Game 7.  “That’s just silly,” said the Galaxy coach.  “Roger’s gotten us this far, and he’s my guy all the way.  He had a bit of a rough game today, but I’m confident he’ll be strong for us tomorrow.”

With the series tied and the deciding game at home, the Igloos are confident.  “The Vandy is within our grasp now,” said Castor.  “There’s been a lot of talk about momentum in this series, but you can forget about that now.  It’s one game for all the marbles, let the best team win.  I like our chances.”

Continue reading “2015 SHL Finals – Game 6”

2015 SHL Finals – Game 5

Washington SmallAnchorage SmallWASHINGTON GALAXY 3, ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 1

With one more game at home in the SHL Finals, the Washington Galaxy were eager to capture a victory and move to the brink of capturing the Vandy. They got what they wanted, snagging a 3-1 win and leaving the heavily favored Anchorage Igloos needing to claim back-to-back wins in order to avoid a stunning upset loss in the Finals.

“This is not the position we wanted to be in,” said Igloos C Jake Frost.  “We established ourselves as the best team all season long, and for us to lose the Finals… that would be a real blow.”

Just as they did in game 4, the Galaxy struck first.  When C Eddie Costello scored on a three-on-one a little more than four minutes into the game, the crowd at Constellation Center practically raised the roof with delight.  “The place was really rocking,” said Washington RW Jefferson McNeely.  “The fans were believing right from the start, and we were believing too.”

Igloos C Broni Zhlotkin dampened the crowd’s enthusiasm with less than two minutes left in the period, redirecting a blue-line shot by RW Remi Montrechere and beating Galaxy goaltender Roger Orion stick-side to even the score at 1.

“For us, getting it back even before the break was key,” said Montrechere.  “We didn’t want them getting too confident.  The momentum was shifting away from us, and we needed to snatch it back.”

In a repeat of Game 2, the 1-1 tie persisted through a scoreless second period, as both teams took turns making furious rushes to no effect.  In the first half of the period, the Igloos dominated the action, stepping up the pace of action with their patented fast breaks and trying to overwhelm the depleted Washington skaters.  Orion did a valiant job turning them aside, although on two separate occasions Anchorage rang shots off the post.

In the latter half of the period, Washington took its turn in the driver’s seat, scarcely letting the Igloos get the puck out of their own end and bombarding Worthington with shots.  But the Anchorage netminder held firm, keeping the Galaxy from breaking the tie.  The home fans remained excited, but their cheers took on a nervous edge.

“When [the Igloos] were trying to race past us and we were able to stop them, that got everybody fired up,” said Galaxy LW Casey Thurman.  “But then we threw everything we had at them and we couldn’t get it done either.  And we all felt like this was a must-win game for us.  It was getting intense.”

The Galaxy got a much-needed break 2:47 into the third period.  Although the referees had been calling a fairly loose game to that point, head linesman Scott Pritchard whistled Anchorage D Hans Mortensen for a controversial interference call, sending the Igloos bench into hysterics.  Igloos coach Sam Castor remained miffed about the penalty even after the game.

“We got burned by inconsistent officiating,” said the Anchorage coach.  “If they’d been calling it tight all game, fine.  But they’d already made it clear they were going to let the teams play, at least up until that point.  There were easily a half-dozen things [the Galaxy] did that were worse than what Hans did, with no call.  All I ask for is consistency.  If something’s not a penalty in the first, it shouldn’t be in the third.”

Castor and the Igloos only became more furious when Galaxy LW Todd Douglas beat Worthington top-shelf 32 seconds into the power play to put Washington ahead. “That one really burns,” said Castor.  “It was a knife in the gut at the worst possible time.”

Less than three minutes later, an Anchorage defensive breakdown sprung Douglas on a breakaway; he fed C Drustan Zarkovich, who slid the puck under Worthington’s right pad for a 3-1 lead.

“You’ve really got to look in the mirror if Drustan beats you on a breakaway,” Galaxy coach Rodney Reagle quipped after the game.  “He’s a great guy and a good player, but he’s not exactly a racehorse out there.”

After securing the two-goal edge, the Galaxy spent the rest of the game in a defensive mode.  With Orion (30 saves) continuing to provide stout netminding, Washington preserved their win and took a 3-2 lead in the series.

“All we’ve got to do now is win one in Anchorage, and we’ve already done that,” said Thurman.  “We’re ready for this.”

The Igloos headed home fueled by anger at the late call against Mortensen.  “A lot of guys in here feel like the refs won this one, not the other team,” said Frost.  “We’re not looking for the refs to decide this series.  We want to take care of business ourselves.”

Continue reading “2015 SHL Finals – Game 5”