SHL Division Playoff – Game 2

Eastern Division Series

QUEBEC TIGRES 2, HAMILTON PISTOLS 1

The Quebec Tigres are taking an unconventional route to success.  In Game 1, the Hamilton Pistols outshot them by a 2-to-1 margin, but Quebec still pulled out a 2-1 win in overtime thanks to the heroics of goalie Riki Tiktuunen.  In Game 2, the Tigres managed to reduce the Pistols’ volume of shots, although Quebec was still outshot.  With Tiktuunen turning in another strong game, the Tigres were able to come from behind and claim a 2-1 win that gives them a 2-0 lead in the series.

“I think all of our postseason paychecks should go to Riki,” said Quebec C Mikhail Ilyushin.  “He has been our star in this series.”

Of the 27 shots Hamilton aimed at Tiktuunen in this game, the Finnish netminder turned aside 26 of them.  The only one that eluded him occurred in the first minute of the game, when the Tigres failed to clear Pistols D Clayton “Crusher” Risch from in front of the net, and he redirected a shot from C Edz Zalmanis underneath the crossbar.

“Riki never had a shot at that one,” said Tigres coach Martin Delorme.  “Even Superman cannot stop what he cannot see.”

Faced with their first deficit of the series, the Tigres went to work trying to even the score.  But Quebec’s attempts to rally were stymied by a rash of penalties.  They spent a significant chunk of the first period killing off penalties to LW Walt Camernitz and D Laurie Workman.  Then in the second period, Tigres C Drustan Zarkovich was sent to the penalty box three separate times.

“I spent so much time in the sin bin, I thought maybe I should bring my toothbrush,” said Zarkovich.

In between penalty kills, D Richard McKinley managed to tie the game for Quebec by going five-hole on Pistols netminder Lasse Koskinen.  It was one of only six shots for the Tigres in the second period.  “Between the penalties and all, it felt like we were trying to climb out of a pit of quicksand,” said Camernitz.

Just over three and a half minutes into the third period, Camernitz fired a laser that seemed to go through Koskinen and into the net, giving Quebec the lead.  “I thought I was going to look down and find a hole in my jersey,” said Koskinen.

After Camernitz’s tally, the Tigres turned up their defense for the rest of the period, holding the Pistols to eight shots, all of which Tiktuunen turned aside.

Delorme praised his team’s effort, although he criticized them for taking too many penalties.  “We looked much more like ourselves today,” the Quebec coach said.  “As long as we can avoid taking careless calls, we will be in good shape.”

Pistols coach Keith Shields remained upbeat, although his team is now only one loss away from elimination.  “The whole mojo of this series is going to shift when we’re back in our place,” Shields told reporters.  “We’ve got to solve Tiktuunen, but I’m confident we can do that when we’ve got our crowd behind us.”

 

E Final - Game 2, Hamilton @ Quebec, Centre Citadelle

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hamilton           1   0   0        1
Quebec             0   1   1        2

 
Hamilton               G   A PTS PIM +/-   Quebec                 G   A PTS PIM +/-

Alexander       LW     0   0   0   0  -1   Camernitz       LW     1   0   1   2   1
Smyth           D      0   1   1   0   0   Workman         D      0   0   0   2   0
Frye            C      0   0   0   0  -1   Zarkovich       C      0   0   0   6   0
Risch           D      1   0   1   0   0   McKinley        D      1   0   1   0   0
Lafayette       RW     0   0   0   0  -1   Mirac           RW     0   1   1   0   1
Gunnarson       LW     0   0   0   0   0   Fisker          LW     0   0   0   0   0
Mulligan        D      0   0   0   5  -1   Ilyushin        C      0   0   0   0   1
Constantine     C      0   0   0   0   0   Jones           D      0   1   1   0   1
Werner          D      0   0   0   0  -1   Robinson        RW     0   0   0   0   0
Patterson       RW     0   0   0   0   0   MacDiarmid      LW     0   1   1   0   0
Campbell        LW     0   0   0   2   0   Pugliese        D      0   0   0   0   0
Glasco          D      0   0   0   0   0   Kalashnikov     D      0   0   0   4   0
Zalmanis        C      0   1   1   0   0   Pentti          RW     0   0   0   5   0
Soforenko       LW     0   0   0   0   0   Miller          C      0   0   0   0   0
Dyomin          D      0   0   0   0   0   Wesson          D      0   0   0   0   1
----------------------------------------   ----------------------------------------
TOTALS                 1   2   3   7  -1   TOTALS                 2   3   5  19   1

Scratches:
HAM:  Kratz, Jennings, Rodney
QUE:  Shovshenkov, Zhzhynov, Kane

 
Hamilton            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Koskinen            21    19    2  0.905

Quebec              SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Tiktuunen           27    26    1  0.963

 

First Period
------------

GOALS:
00:59  HAM  Risch (Zalmanis, Smyth)

PENALTIES:
04:34  QUE  Camernitz 2:00 (Diving)
08:10  QUE  Workman 2:00 (Tripping)

Second Period
-------------

GOALS:
02:51  QUE  McKinley (MacDiarmid)

PENALTIES:
00:08  QUE  Zarkovich 2:00 (Delay of Game)
03:40  QUE  Zarkovich 2:00 (Roughing)
16:58  QUE  Zarkovich 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)

Third Period
------------

GOALS:
03:43  QUE  Camernitz (Jones, Mirac)

PENALTIES:
06:23  QUE  Pentti 5:00 (Fighting)
06:23  HAM  Mulligan 5:00 (Fighting)
12:32  HAM  Campbell 2:00 (Delay of Game)
13:02  QUE  Kalashnikov 2:00 (Roughing)
19:13  QUE  Kalashnikov 2:00 (Holding the Stick)


 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hamilton          12   7   8       27
Quebec             7   6   8       21

 
POWER PLAYS
-----------

Hamilton         0 for 7
Quebec           0 for 1

 
INJURIES
--------

None

Western Division Series

ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 4, MICHIGAN GRAY WOLVES 2

Anchorage Igloos coach Sam Castor is always quick to point to his team’s depth as its greatest strength.  “Guys like Frosty and Koonsy and Ty [Worthington] get all the headlines,” Castor says, “but lots of teams have stars.  But even if your stars match up with ours, we’re still going to beat you because our second and third lines, and our bottom-pair D, is better than yours.  No other team can match up with us all the way down.”

In Game 2, the Igloos showed the truth of Castor’s statement.  Thanks to the exceptional performance of their third line and the ability to push the pace of the game, Anchorage once again stunned the Michigan Gray Wolves in their building, winning 4-2 to take a 2-0 lead in this best-of-five series.

“It’s the triumph of the scrubs,” said Igloos C Harvey Bellmore.  “We may not get a ton of ice time, but we’re making the most of it.”

Anchorage’s third line – which consists of Bellmore, LW Waldo Miranda, and RW Ben Summers – has been the difference maker so far in this series.  They’ve put up a +5 rating, and they’ve forced Wolves coach Ron Wright to use his top lines heavily in an effort to stop the bleeding.

Michigan got the early edge in this game, as Igloos LW Jerry Koons was whistled for diving within the first minute, and Wolves LW Todd Douglas cashed in on the ensuing power play for a 1-0 Michigan lead.  With the crowd at Cadillac Place in full roar, Castor decided to take a page from his Game 1 playbook and turn the contest into a track meet.  In order to do that, he turned to heavy minutes for his speedy bottom line.

“They can’t trap us if they can’t catch us,” Castor said.

Michigan initially withstood the onslaught – with the help of several Anchorage penalties – but the Igloos broke through before the end of the first period.  Just after killing off a 5-on-3 situation, D Olaf Martinsson blasted home the game-tying shot with the third line on the ice.  Six minutes later, Summers finished off an odd-man rush by slipping one between Dirk Lundquist’s pads for his third goal of the series.  After Wolves D Brooks Zabielski was called for holding the stick late in the first, Koons tipped on in on the power play to make it 3-1.  At period’s end, the arena was as silent as a library.

“They ambushed us and took us right out of the game,” admitted Wolves C Warren Marlow.  “We let the game get away from us.”

In the second period, D Fritz Kronstein scored on another power play to get the Wolves within a goal and stir up the crowd a bit.  But that was as close as they would get, and Bellmore fired one home just inside the post early in the third period to all but seal the game.  Whatever hope Michigan had of rallying in the closing minutes died after D “Mad Max” Madison and C Phoenix Cage both took penalties that Wright said were “just out of frustration.”

The Wolves, who finished with the SHL’s best record by a comfortable margin, find themselves in a most unexpected position.  If they’re going to avoid a humiliating sweep, they’ll need to win Game 3 on enemy ice.  If they’re going to advance to the Finals, they’ll need to reel off three straight wins, including two in Anchorage.

“We’ve dug ourselves into a deep hole,” said Wright.  “Obviously, it’s hurt us that [C Hunter] Bailes is out, but that’s an excuse.  We’ve let Anchorage dictate the game to us, and it’s burned us twice.  Now we need to go win the next three.  We’re capable of doing that, but we’re going to have to get control of the game if we’re going to do it.”

W Final - Game 2, Anchorage @ Michigan, Cadillac Place

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Anchorage          3   0   1        4
Michigan           1   1   0        2

 
Anchorage              G   A PTS PIM +/-   Michigan               G   A PTS PIM +/-

Koons           LW     1   0   1   4   0   Douglas         LW     1   1   2   0   0
Keefe           D      0   1   1   0   1   Kronstein       D      1   1   2   2  -1
Frost           C      0   1   1   0   0   Madison         D      0   1   1   4  -1
Martinsson      D      1   0   1   4   2   Lunsford        RW     0   0   0   0   0
Ericsson        RW     0   0   0   0   0   Beruschko       LW     0   0   0   0   0
Collins         LW     0   0   0   0   0   Mudrick         D      0   0   0   0  -2
Pomfret         D      0   0   0   0   1   Marlow          C      0   1   1   0   0
Bernard         C      0   0   0   0   0   Zabielski       D      0   0   0   2  -2
Frederick       D      0   1   1   0   2   Poulin          RW     0   0   0   0   0
Montrechere     RW     0   0   0   0   0   Davenport       LW     0   0   0   0  -3
Miranda         LW     0   3   3   0   3   Bergdorf        D      0   0   0   0   0
Citrone         D      0   0   0   0   0   Knight          C      0   0   0   0   0
Calligan        D      0   0   0   6   0   Tollefson       D      0   0   0   0   0
Summers         RW     1   1   2   0   3   Denison         RW     0   0   0   0  -3
Bellmore        C      1   1   2   0   3   Cage            C      0   0   0   2  -3
----------------------------------------   ----------------------------------------
TOTALS                 4   8  12  14   3   TOTALS                 2   4   6  10  -3

Scratches:
ANC:  Zhlotkin, Druzek, Trammell
MIC:  Bailes (inj), Berlinger, Bullock, Eberlein

 
Anchorage           SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Worthington         23    21    2  0.913

Michigan            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Lundquist           39    35    4  0.897

 

First Period
------------

GOALS:
00:42  MIC  Douglas PP (Marlow, Kronstein)
10:45  ANC  Martinsson (Frederick, Miranda)
16:50  ANC  Summers (Bellmore, Miranda)
18:52  ANC  Koons PP (Frost, Keefe)

PENALTIES:
00:32  ANC  Koons 2:00 (Diving)
01:43  ANC  Calligan 2:00 (Roughing)
07:33  MIC  Kronstein 2:00 (Tripping)
08:09  ANC  Martinsson 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)
08:29  ANC  Koons 2:00 (Roughing)
17:19  MIC  Zabielski 2:00 (Holding the Stick)

Second Period
-------------

GOALS:
13:24  MIC  Kronstein PP (Douglas, Madison)

PENALTIES:
09:57  ANC  Calligan 4:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)
19:54  ANC  Martinsson 2:00 (Diving)

Third Period
------------

GOALS:
01:59  ANC  Bellmore (Summers, Miranda)

PENALTIES:
17:01  MIC  Madison 4:00 (Elbowing)
19:50  MIC  Cage 2:00 (Interference)


 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Anchorage         18  10  11       39
Michigan          11   6   6       23

 
POWER PLAYS
-----------

Anchorage        1 for 4
Michigan         2 for 6

 
INJURIES
--------

None
Advertisements

SHL Division Playoff – Game 1

Western Division Series

ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 3, MICHIGAN GRAY WOLVES 1

The Western playoff is shaping up as a contest of momentum vs. body of work.  Based on their season records, the Michigan Gray Wolves entered the series as strong favorites, having finished 14 points clear of the division.  But the Anchorage Igloos came in hot, going 10-1-1 over the last three weeks of the regular season.  Meanwhile, the Wolves hadn’t played a truly meaningful game in weeks, and they lost leading scorer Hunter Bailes to injury.

“[Michigan is] still the favorite, but they’ve got to be a little nervous,” said Igloos coach Sam Castor.  “If we can steal one on their ice, they might just start to panic.”

The Igloos took a big step toward Castor’s goal in today’s Game 1.  Anchorage came into Cadillac Place, dictated the pace, and walked away with a 3-1 win.

“See any knees shaking over the other clubhouse?” joked Castor.  “Bet they didn’t see that coming.”

Anchorage came out firing in a frenetic first period.  The Igloos unloaded 21 shots on Wolves netminder Dirk Lundquist.  Only one got through – a top-shelf shot from LW Les Collins to finish a two-man breakaway – but that was enough to give Anchorage the lead at the end of the frame.

The second period was a more sedate affair, as Michigan asserted its trapping defensive style and slowed the game down.  Both teams combined managed only 17 shots in the period, and the Igloos held onto their 1-0 lead.

Midway through the third period, Wolves LW Scot Davenport scored on a power play to tie things up.  But the stalemate lasted less than a minute, as Igloos RW Ben Summers deflected a Dave Frederick slapper past a screened Lundquist to reclaim the lead.  A minute and a half later, Summers struck again on a wraparound that banked off the far post and went in. Anchorage was able to cruise to victory from there.

“I definitely need to tighten up my game,” said Lundquist afterward.  “I let in a couple of softies, which isn’t like me at all.  But tip of the cap to [the Igloos]; they played hard and really tilted the ice, especially in the first.”

Michigan coach Ron Wright said that his team needs to get its mojo back in Game 2.  “We’ve had the division on lock for so long that we lost our edge,” Weight said after the game.  “Castor’s boys came in here and took it to us, and we weren’t ready.  We’d better be ready next time, or this is going to be a short series.”

W Final - Game 1, Anchorage @ Michigan, Cadillac Place

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Anchorage          1   0   2        3
Michigan           0   0   1        1

 
Anchorage              G   A PTS PIM +/-   Michigan               G   A PTS PIM +/-

Koons           LW     0   0   0   0   0   Douglas         LW     0   0   0   0   0
Keefe           D      0   0   0   2   1   Kronstein       D      0   0   0   0  -1
Frost           C      0   0   0   0   0   Madison         D      0   0   0   2  -1
Martinsson      D      0   1   1   0   1   Lunsford        RW     0   0   0   0  -1
Ericsson        RW     0   0   0   0   0   Beruschko       LW     0   0   0   0  -1
Collins         LW     1   0   1   4   1   Mudrick         D      0   0   0   0  -1
Pomfret         D      0   1   1   0   1   Marlow          C      0   0   0   0   0
Bernard         C      0   0   0   0   1   Zabielski       D      0   1   1   0  -1
Frederick       D      0   1   1   0   1   Poulin          RW     0   0   0   2   0
Montrechere     RW     0   1   1   4   1   Davenport       LW     1   0   1   4  -2
Miranda         LW     0   0   0   0   2   Bergdorf        D      0   0   0   0  -1
Citrone         D      0   0   0   0   1   Knight          C      0   1   1   0  -1
Calligan        D      0   0   0   2   1   Tollefson       D      0   0   0   0  -1
Summers         RW     2   0   2   0   2   Denison         RW     0   0   0   0  -2
Bellmore        C      0   1   1   0   2   Cage            C      0   0   0   0  -2
----------------------------------------   ----------------------------------------
TOTALS                 3   5   8  12   3   TOTALS                 1   2   3   8  -3

Scratches:
ANC:  Zhlotkin, Druzek, Trammell
MIC:  Bailes (inj), Berlinger, Bullock, Eberlein

 
Anchorage           SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Worthington         31    30    1  0.968

Michigan            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Lundquist           42    39    3  0.929

 

First Period
------------

GOALS:
05:28  ANC  Collins (Montrechere)

PENALTIES:
11:01  ANC  Montrechere 2:00 (Holding the Stick)
11:34  MIC  Davenport 2:00 (Tripping)
19:13  ANC  Montrechere 2:00 (Hooking)
19:28  ANC  Calligan 2:00 (Tripping)

Second Period
-------------

GOALS:
None


PENALTIES:
None


Third Period
------------

GOALS:
09:02  MIC  Davenport PP (Zabielski, Knight)
09:58  ANC  Summers (Frederick, Martinsson)
11:37  ANC  Summers (Bellmore, Pomfret)

PENALTIES:
01:23  ANC  Collins 2:00 (Hooking)
01:44  MIC  Davenport 2:00 (Elbowing)
04:40  MIC  Poulin 2:00 (Hooking)
06:37  ANC  Collins 2:00 (Tripping)
06:40  MIC  Madison 2:00 (Tripping)
08:03  ANC  Keefe 2:00 (Roughing)


 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Anchorage         21  10  11       42
Michigan          14   7  10       31

 
POWER PLAYS
-----------

Anchorage        0 for 4
Michigan         1 for 6

 
INJURIES
--------

None

 

Eastern Division Series

QUEBEC TIGRES 2, HAMILTON PISTOLS 1 (OT)

Coming into the Eastern playoffs, the Hamilton Pistols were hoping to turn the game into a shooting gallery, while the Quebec Tigres were hoping that defense and goaltending would prevail.  Each team got some of what it wanted in Game 1.  The Pistols generated the high-volume offense they were looking for, outshooting the Tigres 46-22.  But thanks to an outstanding performance from goalie Riki Tiktuunen and some good work on the power play, Quebec emerged with a 2-1 win in overtime.

“Riki really saved our bacon in this one,” said Tigres LW Walt Camernitz.  “We were outplayed on just about every level, but Riki kept us in it.  Make no mistake, though, we have to get better.”

Quebec drew first blood in the game six and a half minutes into the first period, with Camernitz banging home a slapper past Pistols goalie Lasse Koskinen in the dying seconds of a power play.  A couple minutes later, Hamilton’s Calvin Frye beat Tiktuunen on the glove side to tie the score at 1 apiece.

The next two periods saw an onslaught of offense from the Pistols, who outshot Quebec 25-9 in the second and third periods combined.  The middle of the third period was a particularly hairy stretch for the Tigres, as they took four straight penalties.  Fortunately for the home team, Tiktuunen stood on his head and answered every Hamilton blast.  He got a bit of help from the pipes, as the Pistols rang the iron twice in the last six minutes of regulation, including a blistering shot from LW Steven Alexander that actually dented the crossbar.

“I’m still not sure how we made it to OT,” said Camernitz.  “It felt like we were under siege the whole time.”

In the extra session, the Pistols kept firing and Tiktuunen kept stopping them.  As the extra session wore on, the penalty luck began to shift Quebec’s way.  Frye was sent off for cross-checking just under eight minutes into overtime.  The Pistols managed to kill that one off, but no sooner had that penalty ended than D Craig Werner was whistled for interference.

The Pistols penalty killers were worn down (and Werner, one of their top PK men, was in the box), and they were unable to stop the Tigres from crashing the net.  LW Stellan Fisker faked a shot from a sharp angle, then fired a pass to RW Rupert MacDiarmid at the top of the crease.  MacDiarmid had a wide-open net, and he banged it in to end the game.

“Riki was everything we needed him to be today, and thank God for that,” said Tigres coach Martin Delorme.  “In the next game, our defense will need to step up and take some of the pressure off.”

Despite losing the game, the mood in the Hamilton locker room was fairly optimistic.  “We played the game we wanted to play,” said coach Keith Shields.  “If you outshoot your opponent 2-to-1 like we did, you win that game 99 times out of 100.  In this case, you tip your cap to the goalie for a great game.  But if we can play every game like we did this time, we’re going to win it.”

E Final - Game 1, Hamilton @ Quebec, Centre Citadelle

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hamilton           1   0   0    0   1
Quebec             1   0   0    1   1

Hamilton               G   A PTS PIM +/-   Quebec                 G   A PTS PIM +/-

Alexander       LW     0   0   0   0   1   Camernitz       LW     1   0   1   2  -1
Smyth           D      0   0   0   0   0   Workman         D      0   1   1   0   0
Frye            C      1   0   1   2   1   Zarkovich       C      0   0   0   0   0
Risch           D      0   0   0   0   0   McKinley        D      0   0   0   0   0
Lafayette       RW     0   1   1   0   1   Mirac           RW     0   1   1   0  -1
Gunnarson       LW     0   0   0   0   0   Fisker          LW     0   1   1   2   0
Mulligan        D      0   0   0   2   1   Ilyushin        C      0   0   0   0  -1
Constantine     C      0   0   0   0   0   Jones           D      0   0   0   0  -1
Werner          D      0   0   0   4   1   Robinson        RW     0   0   0   0   0
Patterson       RW     0   0   0   0   0   MacDiarmid      LW     1   0   1   0   0
Campbell        LW     0   0   0   0   0   Pugliese        D      0   0   0   0   0
Glasco          D      0   0   0   2   0   Kalashnikov     D      0   0   0   2   0
Zalmanis        C      0   0   0   0   0   Pentti          RW     0   0   0   0   0
Soforenko       LW     0   0   0   0   0   Miller          C      0   0   0   2   0
Dyomin          D      0   0   0   0   0   Wesson          D      0   0   0   0  -1
----------------------------------------   ----------------------------------------
TOTALS                 1   1   2  10   1   TOTALS                 2   3   5   8  -1

Scratches:
HAM:  Kratz, Jennings, Rodney
QUE:  Shovshenkov, Zhzhynov, Kane

Hamilton            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Koskinen            22    20    2  0.909

Quebec              SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Tiktuunen           46    45    1  0.978


First Period
------------

GOALS:
06:29  QUE  Camernitz PP (Mirac, Workman)
08:57  HAM  Frye (Lafayette)

PENALTIES:
04:41  HAM  Werner 2:00 (Hooking)

Second Period
-------------

GOALS:
None


PENALTIES:
15:23  HAM  Mulligan 2:00 (Roughing)

Third Period
------------

GOALS:
None


PENALTIES:
05:23  HAM  Glasco 2:00 (Holding the Stick)
06:55  QUE  Kalashnikov 2:00 (Holding the Stick)
07:25  QUE  Camernitz 2:00 (Tripping)
10:29  QUE  Miller 2:00 (Roughing)
11:46  QUE  Fisker 2:00 (Clipping)

Overtime
--------

GOALS:
10:41  QUE  MacDiarmid PP (Fisker)

PENALTIES:
07:48  HAM  Frye 2:00 (Cross-checking)
10:00  HAM  Werner 2:00 (Interference)


SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hamilton           8   8  17   13  46
Quebec             5   4   5    8  22

POWER PLAYS
-----------

Hamilton         0 for 4
Quebec           2 for 5

INJURIES
--------

None

2017 SHL Finals – Game 4

ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 2, HERSHEY BLISS 1

Coming into today’s pivotal Game 4, Anchorage Igloos coach Sam Castor insisted that it was not a must-win game for his team.  “Look, we’ve got to break serve,” Castor told reporters before the game.  “We know that.  They won one in our barn, so we have to win one in their barn.  What order we do it in doesn’t matter, as long as we do win one.”

Despite Castor’s statement, the coach must have been relieved that his team was able to prevail over the Hershey Bliss in a close contest, 2-1, and tie the series at two games apiece.  “Really good to see the boys take care of business today,” said the Igloos coach.  “I think this one really swung the series in our favor.”

After a couple of slower-paced, defensive games, the Igloos turned on the jets and dominated possession of the puck, outshooting Hershey 41-23.  “We hadn’t had a game yet this series where we’ve really been in control,” said C Jake Frost.  “This time, we were able to dictate the play.”

Although they were able to dominate the puck, the Igloos weren’t able to run away with the game thanks to the heroics of Bliss goalie Brandon Colt.  The Hershey netminder made a number of dazzling saves to keep the game close.  In the first two periods, the Igloos were only able to pierce Colt once, when D Dave Frederick put a rebound just inside the right post with five and a half minutes left in the first period.  The score would have been much higher if not for multiple acrobatic saves by Colt, as he bounced around the crease and made save after save.

“Colter was like Inspector Gadget out there,” said Bliss C Henry Constantine.  “Anytime there was a shot that looked like it was going in, he’d shoot out his arm or his leg and make a crazy stop.  He was keeping us in it.”

Bliss RW Christopher Hart tied the game eight minutes into the third period by whistling a shot just underneath Igloos goalie Ty Worthington‘s left pad.  The crowd at Chocolate Center came alive, and on the visiting bench, the Igloos became agitated.

“We felt like we’d been getting the better end of the play, but it wasn’t showing up on the scoreboard,” said Anchorage C Nile Bernard.  “We felt like the next goal was going to win it, and we had to make sure it was us.”

Bernard was right; the next goal did decide the game, and the Igloos got it.  The winning tally came from a somewhat unlikely source.  LW Ben Summers arrived in Anchorage this season as a free agent, and he quickly became a favorite among fans and teammates alike as a quality third-line contributor.  But the top line has driven the action for both teams in this series, so few were expecting Summers to be the difference-maker.  But with less than five minutes remaining in the game, he deflected a shot from RW Tyler Cloude past Colt for the go-ahead tally.  There were some anxious moments for Anchorage while the referees reviewed the goal, since Hershey argued that Summers had played the puck with a high stick.  But after review, the goal was upheld, and the Igloos celebrated.

“Benny really came through for us,” said Frost.  “Just like he’s come through us all year.”

It was another physical game, with Bliss D Ruslan Gromov drawing the ire of some on the Anchorage bench after getting into his third fight in the last two games, this time going after LW Les Collins.  Castor indicated that he thought the league should consider suspending Gromov, because “he’s not playing hockey out there.  He’s trying to turn this series into a street fight.”  He paused, then added with a smile, “Of course, we’ve got the upper hand, so we’re not going to press the point.”

Do the Igloos really have the upper hand in a tied series?  Hershey coach Chip Barber reacted to Castor’s confident talk with a smirk.  “Sam’s a sly one, I’ll give him that,” said Barber.  “He’s walking around like M&Ms wouldn’t melt in his mouth.  But he’s more nervous than he lets on.  This is a wide-open series, and anyone can win it.  He can’t talk that away.”

Continue reading “2017 SHL Finals – Game 4”

2017 SHL Finals – Game 2

HERSHEY BLISS 2, ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 1 (OVERTIME)

After the Hershey Bliss were embarrassed 5-1 in the first game of the SHL Finals, many observers were ready to declare the series over.  The heavily favored Anchorage Igloos had bludgeoned the Bliss, goading them into taking foolish penalties and stonewalling their shots.  Although Bliss coach Chip Barber pointed out that it “only counts as one loss,” many wondered if Hershey would be able to recover.

Turns out that they could.  The Bliss shook off the sting of the previous game, and although it required overtime, they managed to top the Igloos 2-1, tying the series at 1-1.

“When it comes to the playoffs, you’ve got to have a short memory,” said Bliss LW Lance Sweet, who scored the game-winning goal.  “If you led a bad game get in your head, you might as well forfeit.  We weren’t going to let that happen.”

In the first game, Hershey committed four penalties in the first period and giving up three goals, digging themselves into a big hole that they were never able to climb out of.  With that in mind, Barber cautioned his team to avoid taking cheap penalties in this game.  It appeared that the Bliss hadn’t heeded their coach’s words when, less than a minute into the game, linesman Ken McGillis made a controversial offsides call that nullified a potential odd-man rush for Hershey.  A frustrated Henry Constantine slammed his stick into the boards and was assessed a two-minute penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

“I was so mad at myself,” said Constantine.  “I thought we’d been ripped off on a bad call, then I went and made it worse.”

But the Bliss managed to kill off the penalty, and avoided taking any others in the period, which ended with no score.  Hershey also managed to avoid taking any penalties in the second period, after which the game still remained scoreless.  Through two periods, the game was about as evenly matched as possible: both teams had taken 18 shots, committed one minor penalty, and not managed to record a goal.

“Coming into the locker room after that second period with it still 0-0 really made us feel good,” said Bliss C Justin Valentine.  “Our confidence level was rising like, ‘Hey, we can hang with these guys.  And we can win this.'”

In the third period, Hershey went on the power play two minutes in when Igloos D Olaf Martinsson received a double minor for spearing Bliss LW Russell Nahorniak.  The Bliss needed only five second to convert, with Valentine blistering a close-range shot off of Anchorage goalie Ty Worthington‘s shoulder and into the net.  “That really silenced the crowd,” said Valentine.  “They knew that the way we were both playing, that might be the only goal of the game.”

The Igloos stepped up their pace after that in an effort to tilt the ice and overwhelm the Bliss.  Hershey held strong for much of the period, but with just under four minutes remaining, Igloos C Jake Frost and LW Jerry Koons got loose on a two-man breakaway that ended with Koons going top-shelf and finding the back of the net to tie it up.  The crowd at Arctic Circle Arena exploded as their heroes received new life.

The din only got louder a couple minutes later when Bliss LW Vonnie McLearen accidentally clipped Igloos LW Ben Summers in the face and got a minor for high-sticking.  The Igloos sent Worthington to the bench for a 6-on-4 advantage.  “We knew we were really going to be tested,” said Valentine.  “We knew we needed to stand strong.”

Stand strong they did, fighting off the penalty and sending the game to overtime.  The Bliss dominated the play in overtime but couldn’t quite break through until Igloos D Hans Mortensen was whistled for slashing, putting Hershey on the power play.

The Bliss didn’t press or panic with the man advantage.  They kept control of the puck, passing it around and waiting for an opportunity.  Sweet finally saw one when Bliss D Reese Milton faked a shot and slid it over to Sweet.  With Worthington out of position, the Bliss winger was able to find the open net, ending the game and giving Hershey a much-needed victory.

After the game, Barber highly praised the work of netminder Brandon Colt.  After a rough outing in Game 1, some fans were calling for Colt to be benched in favor of backup Milo Stafford.  But the coach kept faith in his starter, and Colt rewarded him with a strong game, stopping 33 shots.

“A lot of people were saying Brandon couldn’t handle it at this level, that he melts in the clutch like a bag of Kisses in a hot car,” said Barber.  “I don’t think they’ll be saying that after tonight.  This is a wide-open series.”

Continue reading “2017 SHL Finals – Game 2”

Seeking Streak, New York Turns to Rally Song

New York smallAll the members of the New York Night, from coach Preston Rivers on down, insist that they’re not superstitious.  “We know we have the talent to go all the way,” said Rivers.  Still, the Night face a double-digit deficit in the division with only 20 games left, and they’ll gladly take any advantage they can find.  They seem to have found one this week, in the unlikely form of a ’70s pop song.

This was a week of interdivisional play, with the East’s teams hosting.  The Night split their first two games of the week, and then on Tuesday found themselves trailing the woeful Seattle Sailors 4-2 going into the third period. “We knew this week, with the homestand, it was a big opportunity,” said Night LW Chase Winchester.  “And we were letting it slip away.  We needed to get turned around and quick.”

During a break in the action about 5 minutes into the third, the sound man at Neon Sky Center played the 1974 Kiki Dee hit “I’ve Got the Music In Me.”  The song was a hit with the crowd, but not as much as what happened next.  Shortly after play resumed, Night D Dominic Sanchez banged home a rebound past Sailors netminder Rocky Goldmire. That was the beginning of a string of three unanswered goals, including the game-winning slapshot from the faceoff circle by RW Rick “The Stick” Nelson with 35 seconds remaining to secure a 5-4 comeback win.

A thrilling and inspiring win, to be sure.  But the game by itself wasn’t enough to turn the song into a legend.  It needed some help, in the form of a viral GIF.  While the song was playing, the Night’s TV broadcast happened to catch LW Ben Summers boogieing along, bobbing his head and shimmying his shoulders.  A New York fan captured the moment, made it into a GIF, and posted it on Instagram with the capture “This is what won it 4 us tonight #RallyDance” The clip circulated quickly among SHL fans, becoming one of the most-viewed videos on the site.

ben-summers
Ben Summers

The next night, the Night were hosting the Anchorage Igloos.  During the first intermission, with the score tied 2-2, the Night once again played the Kiki Dee song and displayed the video of Summers’ dance on the Jumbotron, while flashing “#RallySong” at the bottom.  The crowd went wild.  Apparently inspired, the Night scored a pair of goals in the second en route to a 4-2 win.  After the game, Rivers referenced the video and song.  “I think Ben and Kiki Dee really turned the tide tonight,” said the coach.  “That was the turning point, no doubt about it.  After they played that video, we were unstoppable.”

On Friday, the Night took on the Dakota Rapids.  New York fell behind early, and with less than 5 minutes left in the game, Rapids C Phil Miller tipped in a shot to make it 5-3.  In desperate need of a rally, the Night once again played the song and the Summers video.  And sure enough, New York scored a pair to tie the game, including a Daniel Bellanger slapper with 22 seconds left, and then RW Ivan Trujwirnek fired home the game-winner in overtime for a 6-5 victory.

“Well, it’s official,” said Rivers at his postgame press conference.  “Kiki Dee is magic.”  He said that he planned to ask the staff to continue playing the song at every home game for the rest of the season.

For his part, Summers enjoys his newfound fame.  “I haven’t done that much to help the team on the ice this season,” said the winger.  “But at least I’m able to help us out on the bench!”