The Anchorage Igloos come into the inaugural Vandenberg Trophy finals as the heavy favorites to win the championship. “We’re confident that we’ll come in and finish the job,” said Igloos coach Sam Castor. “We’ve achieved a lot this year, and the next step is for us to go get the Vandy.”
The Igloos head into the championship with a league-best 41-14-5 record, having withstood a stiff challenge from the Michigan Gray Wolves to win the Western Division title. If defense wins championships, Anchorage definitely has the upper hand: they allowed 137 goals over the course of the season; only Michigan was stingier. The Igloos also provide a stiff scoring punch, with C Jake Frost among the SHL’s leading scorers in the regular season.
But the Washington Galaxy are not about to let Anchorage waltz to a championship. “We believe we’re every bit as good as the Igloos,” said Galaxy LW Casey Thurman. “They’re a really strong team, but so are we. If they’re expecting us to be a pushover, they’re in for a surprise.”
Although the Galaxy finished the season with a less-than-stellar 31-23-6 record, they emerged from the highly competitive East with a reputation as a tough, well-balanced team, solid on both ends of the ice. The team suffered a late scare when starting goaltender Roger Orion went down with an injury in the last week of the season, but team sources indicated that Orion is expected to be in full health and ready to go for the playoffs.
Washington coach Rodney Reagle has relied on unorthodox motivational techniques all season long, so it came as no surprise that he chose to screen the 1995 Mel Gibson film “Braveheart” on the flight to Anchorage for Game 1. The film’s theme, of a plucky underdog rising up against a tyrannical oppressor, seems like a natural fit. But why not a more traditional sports-themed underdog movie, such as “Major League” or “Hoosiers?” Because, as Reagle explained, “hockey’s different from baseball or basketball. Hockey is more like… war. It seems like a great parallel to me. Besides, it gives me an excuse to give my pre-game pep talk in a Scottish accent.”