Angry Badgers Fans Nearly Start Riot Over Pizza Denied

Fans of the Boston Badgers get their excitement where they can.  In the Badgers’ first two seasons of existence, they finished dead last.  This season, the team has made some significant upgrades – including midseason trades for LW Casey Thurman and RW Gordon Lunsford – but they still have a sub-.500 record and are a long shot to make the playoffs.  But while they may have much hope for the postseason, Boston fans have something else to get excited about.  A local pizza chain runs a promotion for all home games: if the Badgers win and score five or more goals, all fans in attendance can bring in their ticket stubs to get a free pizza the next day.

Needless to say, the promotion is hugely popular.  When the Badgers are sitting on four goals late in the game, chants of “Piz-za! Piz-za!” will echo throughout Shawmut Arena.  After that, every save by the opposing goaltender is met with robust boos.  When the fans are denied their shot at free pizza, things can get ugly.  And on Tuesday, when a questionable call by a referee wiped the pizza-winning goal off the board, the fans nearly rioted.

Up to that point, the crowd had been in a good mood.  The Badgers were hosting the Western Division leaders, the Portland Bluebacks, and the home team was well on its way to a surprising rout.  Boston goalie Roger Orion stopped every Portland shot, while the Badgers scored repeatedly. After D Brett Stolte scored Boston’s fourth goal less than five minutes into the third, only one question remained: would the fans get their much-desired pie?

Lix Darnholm

As the game reached its closing minutes, the familiar “Piz-za! Piz-za!” chant rang from the rafters.  And with two and a half minutes remaining, it appeared that the fans would go home happening.  Boston broke loose on an odd-man rush that ended with LW Lix Darnholm firing a shot that trickled between the pads of Bluebacks netminder Jesse Clarkson and trickled toward the net.  As the puck crossed the line, Darnholm and a Portland defender crashed into the goal and dislodged it from its moorings.  The goal siren went off and the crowd went wild, with visions of pepperoni dancing in their heads.

But referee Brandon Fosse called for a review to see whether the puck crossed the line before the net came loose.  The crowd booed as Fosse watched replays for several minutes.  And when Fosse came back to center ice and announced that the goal didn’t count, the mood turned furious.  A new chant filled the air: “Bull-s***!  Bull-s***!”  About a minute later, a tense situation turned worse when Fosse sent Stolte to the penalty box for elbowing, essentially ending Boston’s chance at a fifth goal.  Fans began throwing coins and beer cups onto the ice.  A couple people even ran down the aisles and tried to climb the glass to assault Fosse; they were ejected from the arena.

The game ended with a 4-0 Badgers victory, but no pizza.  Irate fans continued to aim obscene chants at the refs and bombard the ice with debris.  Fosse and his crew needed a police escort to escape unscathed.

After the game, Badgers coach Kyle Barrow admonished the fans for their reaction.  “Look, I understand the allure of free pizza,” the coach noted.  “But come on, if you can afford a ticket to the game, you can afford your own pizza, right?  And there’s no excuse for threatening the refs.  You can be unhappy about a call without turning into a mob.”

Stolte, on the other hand, seemed impressed by the fans’ wrath.  “You don’t want to mess with these fans, boy!” enthused Stolte.  “We’re a team with an edge, and I love that our crowds have an edge too.  Get between them and their pizza, and… well, sucks to be you.”

Night’s Foster Accuses Officials of Anti-NY Bias

Nick Foster

In a bizarre coda to the New York Night‘s 6-5 victory over the Washington Galaxy on Saturday, Night coach Nick Foster used his postgame press conference to accuse referee Brandon Fosse and his crew of being biased against New York.  Foster went on to argue that the league was “scared of” his team and determined to keep them out of the postseason.

In a lot of ways, the game was a successful one for the Night.  They outshot the rival Galaxy 47-32 and secured a key win that all but guarantees them a third-place finish in the East.  But the third period was a harrowing one for New York, as Washington scored four unanswered goals that nearly erased a 6-1 Night lead.  Many observers thought the late rally was evidence that the Night took their foot off the gas, or that netminder Jesse Clarkson was continuing his recent stretch of shaky play.  But to Foster, the real cause of the Washington rally was a string of penalties called by Fosse and his crew.

“It’s pretty impressive that we pulled that one out, considering that we were playing against 10 guys there in the third,” said the Night coach, referring to the six Washington players and the four officials.  “They really didn’t want us to win this one, but we got the W anyway.”  Asked to elaborate, Foster said, “Come on, you’re all smart guys.  You’ve got eyes.  You think it was a coincidence that all the whistles went against us down the stretch?  I’m not sure what we did to piss [Fosse] off, or if the call came from upstairs, but he had it in for us.”

Foster continued, “I’m going to talk to the league; I don’t want his crew working our games any more.  I don’t think they’ll listen, though.  Now that we’re getting better, they’re scared of us winning.  The last thing they want to see is us in the playoffs.”

On the surface, it seemed Foster’s complaint might have some merit.  The last four penalties of the game, called in the latter half of the third period all went against New York, including two in quick concession that gave the Galaxy a 5-on-3 edge for over a minute and a half.  Foster contended that the fatigue of the extended penalty-kill shifts left his team exhausted and vulnerable to a late rally.

On the other hand, only one of Washington’s third-period goals actually came on the power play.  And Foster’s accusation ignored the fact that over the game as a whole, New York actually had more power plays than Washington.  In fact, the Galaxy didn’t go a man up even once until the third.

Fosse and the other officials join a lengthy list of people and teams with which Foster has feuded this season, including the Hamilton Pistols, their star Steven Alexander, the Dakota Jackalopes, and the Corn Palace.

The league did not make Fosse available for comment after the game, but they did take swift action against Foster, fining the coach $5,000.  “The idea that our referees or our league are biased against any of our teams is ludicrous,” said Commissioner Perry Mitchell.  “I don’t know why Coach Foster would make crazy accusations like that.  It’s disappointing on a personal level; more importantly, it’s inappropriate and unacceptable.”

Galaxy coach Rodney Reagle, on the other hand, reacted to Foster’s accusations with amusement.  “I’ve got to hand it to that guy,” Reagle said.  “Ordinarily, after a game like that, you’d figure he’d be answering questions about why his team can’t close out a game, or why his goalie couldn’t stop a cold.  Instead, he’s got us all talking about whether the refs and the league have a vendetta against his team.  Talk about post-game spin!”

Hershey’s Gromov Gets Physical, Gets Suspended

Hershey Bliss D Ruslan Gromov is an old-school, hard-hitting blueliner.  His aggressive, take-no-guff approach to the game has won him both admirers and detractors.  On Saturday, in an otherwise unremarkable 5-2 win over the New York Night, Gromov’s physical play went over the line and earned him a one-game suspension.

Ruslan Gromov

Gromov has been vocal about his lack of respect for New York’s speed-and-offense-based game.  In the past, he’s said of New York’s game, “That’s not hockey; it’s figure skating.”  Almost from the drop of the puck, Gromov sought to intimidate the Night with his physical play.  He targeted one of New York’s more physical players, D Tuomas Nurmi, with a series of slashes and rough checks.  About a minute into the game, a frustrated Nurmi shoved Gromov in the chest.  Gromov responded by punching Nurmi in the side of the head.  The two wound up dropping gloves and tussling for a couple minutes before being separated and assessed matching majors.

“I do not know what his problem is,” said Nurmi of Gromov.  “He seemed like he is a crazy man.”

Later in the first period, the Night established possession in the offensive zone and began peppering shots at the Hershey net.  New York F Elmer Sigurdson, Jr. tried to set up a screen in front of the crease.  Gromov responded by drilling him in the back and riding him down to the ice, and was whistled for interference.

Early in the second period, Sigurdson tried to get even by laying a hard open-ice hit on Gromov.  The Hershey defenseman popped up and flung Sigurdson into the boards, earning another two-minute penalty for roughing.  The two seemed destined to scrap, and six minutes later, Gromov jumped Sigurdson on a faceoff and the antagonists began trading blows, resulting in another pair of fighting majors.

Gromov finally crossed the line early in the third period, when he rammed Night C Phil Miller in the stomach with the butt end of his stick.  That earned the defenseman a double minor for spearing and a game misconduct from referee Brandon Fosse.

Gromov claimed that his spearing of Miller was unintentional, but showed no remorse for his actions.  “I play a physical game,” the Bliss blueliner said.  “If the other team cannot handle that, they should not be playing hockey.”

The league wasted no time slapping Gromov with a suspension.  “While we don’t object to physical play in this league,” said SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell, “there’s a difference between hard play and assault.  Gromov’s actions were reckless, unprovoked, and dangerous.  He could easily have injured someone with that kind of play.  We don’t want to discourage him from playing hard, but he’s got to know where to draw the line.”

Gromov appeared undaunted by the discipline.  In his first game back from the suspension, he got into two fights and racked up 12 penalty minutes.  “I only know how to play one way,” said Gromov with a shrug. “I cannot change that.”