2020 SHL Finals – Game 3


(Hamilton leads series, 3-0)

Facing a must-win Game 3, the Anchorage Igloos improved in a number of critical ways over the first two games.  With the home crowd at Arctic Circle Arena behind them, they managed to slow down the Hamilton Pistols at least a bit, and prevented them from shooting at will.  Goalie Ty Worthington upped his game after a couple of rocky starts.  The Igloos power play, which had come up dry in the first two games, finally struck pay dirt – twice, even.  But even with all those improvements, the Igloos still came up short, as the Pistols came from behind to claim a 3-2 win and move to the brink of claiming their second straight title.

“We felt like we did everything we needed to do in order to win,” said Igloos C Jake Frost.  “But we didn’t win.  That’s pretty frustrating.”

Today’s game didn’t unfold at the same full-tilt pace at the last two, but the Igloos didn’t take long to take the lead.  Pistols C Marco Venezio wound up in the penalty box for elbowing just 28 seconds into the game, and RW Jean Pierre Fleury scored on the ensuing power play.  Better still, the Igloos were able to make that goal stand up – and keep Hamilton off the board for the rest of the first period and much of the second.  Unfortunately, they were unable to add to their lead despite numerous opportunities.

“The first half of the game, we were getting the better end of the play,” said Anchorage coach Sam Castor.  “But we really should have been up 2-0 or 3-0 at that point, not 1-0.  We were taking the first shot instead of the best shot on too many occasions.”

As a result, when Pistols C Calvin Frye redirected a shot into the upper right corner of the net, that wound up tying the score and deflating the crowd.  Hamilton coach Keith Shields felt that Frye’s goal was critical to Hamilton’s eventual victory.

“Before that point, we’d had some great shots, but it seemed like we weren’t ever going to get anything through,” said Shields.  “But then Cal scored, and that got things going for us.”

In the first minute of the third period, the Igloos got the fans back into the game, as D Tony Citrone fired it home to give Anchorage the lead back.  But a few short minutes later, Hamilton was able to shift the game’s momentum in their favor, this time for good.

Unsurprisingly, it was team leader Steven Alexander who was responsible for the Pistols’ tying goal.  It came on an extended shift in the offensive zone, one that Alexander himself helped to extend by chasing down a loose puck just before it crossed the blue line.  After several tic-tac-toe passes, the puck wound back up on Alexander’s stick, and he ripped a slapshot so powerful that it seemed to go through Worthington and into the net.

“That was a textbook shift for us, and for Alex to end it with a goal was perfect,” said Shields.  “If you want to know what Pistols hockey at its best is all about, just watch that shift.”

It was not Alexander, however, who scored the winning goal.  Instead, it was LW Jamie Campbell, the young winger who struggled through a mediocre season but has come to life in the postseason skating on the second line.  On this play, Campbell parked himself in front of the Anchorage net and would not allow himself to be dislodged, despite vigorous hacking and whacking from a couple of Igloos.  He took Worthington’s eyes away on a shot from the point by D Burt Hampton, and so the netminder was helpless when Campbell tipped the shot just inside the post.

“I’m finally contributing the way I feel like I should,” said Campbell.  “It’s about time.”

The Igloos tried desperately to find the tying goal, firing 19 shots in the third period (and 45 for the game).  But they couldn’t get another one past Hamilton’s Lasse Koskinen.  Shields lavished praise on his goalie after the game.

“Koski’s definitely been under fire in this series,” said the coach, “and he’s come through clean every time.  He’s been Johnny on the spot for us every time.  Heck of a goalie!”

Meanwhile, Worthington and the Igloos sat at a quiet locker room and pondered the uncomfortable truth.  They’d played their best game of the series, and it still hadn’t been enough.  One more loss and their season will come to an end.

In spite of that, Anchorage remains confident of a comeback.  “We’ve got to win four in a row,” said Frost.  “We’ve done that plenty of times this year.  We can do it again.”

Castor, though, doesn’t want his team looking that far ahead.  “We just need to take it one game at a time,” the coach said.  “Let’s win tomorrow and go from there.”

Continue reading “2020 SHL Finals – Game 3”

2020 SHL Finals – Game 1


(Hamilton leads series, 1-0)

The SHL Finals got off to a fast start.  Both teams came out in top offensive form; they combined to fire 88 shots on goal.  But it was the defending champion Hamilton Pistols who got the upper hand, breaking the game open in the second period and cruising to a 6-3 victory over the Anchorage Igloos.

“We played the kind of game we wanted to play today,” said Pistols C Calvin Frye, who scored two of Hamilton’s half-dozen goals.  “We controlled the flow of play, kept the energy level high, and came away with the W.”

The first period established that this was going to be an offense-focused contest, but it wasn’t clear who would come away with the win.  The teams were trading goals in the early going.  The home team struck first, as D Burt “Hacksaw” Hampton – normally known more for his hard-hitting defense than his scoring touch – pounced on a loose puck above the faceoff circle and swatted it past a screened Ty Worthington and into the Anchorage net.  Worthington never tracked the puck, and didn’t flinch as it sailed over his catching glove.

“That was a real goal-scorer’s goal,” said LW Steven Alexander, struggling to suppress a smirk.  “Can’t wait to see the highlight reel on that.”

Just over a minute later, Igloos D Sebastian Pomfret deflected a slap-pass under the crossbar to tie things up.  About a minute after that, RW Claude Lafayette finished an odd-man rush with a knuckling shot that Worthington couldn’t corral before it crossed the goal line, putting Hamilton back in the lead.  On the following faceoff, Igloos C Jake Frost won the draw, then promptly led his team up the ice and pumped a slapshot top shelf.  Less than 5 minutes had elapsed, and the score already stood 2-2.

“At that point, it felt like we were headed for a football-type score,” said Frye.  “It was a little too crazy out there.”

After the initial adrenaline rush wore off, the pace settled down slightly, and the red-light parade came to a halt.  It wasn’t until after the halfway point of the period that Frye jabbed one home from the slot to break the deadlock, and got the crowd cranked up again.

Both sides agree that the key momentum shift occurred at the end of the first frame and the beginning of the second.  The Pistols had a pair of power plays that were virtually back-to-back and came up empty.  Then, with less than two minutes to go in the first, Hampton caught Igloos C Tom Hoffman up high with his stick.  Hoffman came away with a nasty cut below his eye; Hampton came away with a double-minor for high-sticking.

Anchorage had four minutes with which to tie the game or take the lead.  And they tried their hardest; they kept the puck in the offensive zone for well over three minutes of the man advantage and fired seven shots.  But Pistols goalie Lasse Koskinen didn’t buckle under the assault, stopping all seven, sometimes with acrobatic moves that left the crowd roaring.

As the seconds ticked away and the Igloos still couldn’t find the equalizer.  The Pistols and their fans steadily gained confidence as Koskinen stopped shot after shot.  And 35 seconds after the power play came up empty, RW Kenny Patterson swooped into the Anchorage zone and beat Worthington short-side to make it a 4-2 game.  Frye added his second tally a few minutes later to put the home team firmly in command.

“That double-minor, and the fact that we couldn’t convert, that swung the whole game,” said Igloos coach Sam Castor.  “Tip of the cap to Koskinen there; he really stood on his head.  But when we came up with that goose egg, and then Patterson went down and scored, that was a real back-breaker.”

The teams traded goals early in the third – C J.C. Marais scored for Hamilton, while Pomfret got his second for Anchorage – but the outcome was never really in doubt.

Pistols coach Keith Shields lauded praise on Koskinen, who made 40 saves in all.  “We really needed Koski today,” Shields said.  “It was a run-and-gun type of game, and you really need your goalie to be on his toes in that kind of game.  Koski definitely was.  Obviously, he was huge on that penalty kill, but all game he was seeing the puck great and making tremendous saves.  It’s a totally different game if he has an off night.”

If Koskinen and the Pistols are sharp again in tomorrow’s Game 2, they’ll be halfway to being the SHL’s first bakc-to-back champs.  But Anchorage will be eager to tilt the ice and even the series.

“We’ll be ready to bring the fight to them tomorrow,” said Frost.  “We had our hands full with them today, but they’ll have their hands full with us tomorrow.”

Continue reading “2020 SHL Finals – Game 1”

2020 SHL Playoff – Game 1

Western Division Playoff (Anchorage leads, 1-0)


The Portland Bluebacks came into today’s game at Willamette River Arena prepared to notch their first-ever postseason victory.  They were fired up but not overamped.  They had a sellout crowd of screaming fans behind them.  They flew up and down the ice, fired crisp tape-to-tape passes, and bombarded the Anchorage Igloos‘ net with 41 shots.  In short, they did everything they needed to win.

They just weren’t counting on Ty Worthington.  The Igloos goalie was a buzz saw, turning aside all 41 Portland shots.  Thanks to Worthington’s brilliance, Anchorage managed to steal one on the road, claiming a 2-0 win.

“He just sealed it up,” said Bluebacks D Woody Fairwood, who unloaded 10 shots on Worthington to no avail.  “He was never out of position, and he wasn’t leaving any daylight. He just had the net on lock.”

Worthington has five seasons worth of playoff experience; at this point in his career, the bright lights don’t raise his heart rate.  “I was able to block out the noise and just focus,” he told reporters.  “I was seeing the puck really well, and muscle memory took over from there.:

Igloos coach Sam Castor praised Worthington, but he also credited the team’s defense for denying the Bluebacks good looks at the net.  They were particularly effective at containing Portland’s top line of LW Alphonse Gaspard, C Eddie Costello, and RW Vince Mango, limiting them to just six shot.  “Sure, [the Bluebacks] took a lot of shots, but they weren’t top-quality shots,” said Castor.  “They were firing from the outside and severe angles a lot, and they weren’t getting second looks.  It wasn’t always pretty, but it was effective.”

With Worthington standing on his head, the Igloos didn’t need much offense.  C Jake Frost scored the winning goal for Anchorage just over three minutes into the game, catching the Bluebacks in a poor line change and finishing a breakway by firing the puck over the right shoulder of Portland netminder Jesse Clarkson.  They added a bit of insurance early in the second, when Bluebacks C Cliff Derringer was whistled for a controversial offsides to nullify a potential odd-man rush.  A frustrated Derringer whacked the puck into the stands, earning a minor for unsportsmanlike conduct.  On the ensuing power play, D Sebastian Pomfret cycled down from the blue line and fired a slapper that Clarkson couldn’t corral.

After the game, Derringer took responsibility for the loss.  “I have no idea what I was thinking,” he said.  “I just lost my head out there, and you can’t do that on this stage.”

In spite of their strong season, Portland now finds itself facing a must-win situation in Game 2.  Coach Harold Engellund believes his team is up to the challenge.  “We got knocked down today,” said Engellund.  “But I know we’re going to get off the mat and come back swinging.  They can’t shut us out every time.”


W Final - Gm 1, Anchorage @ Portland, Willamette River Arena

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Anchorage          1   1   0        2
Portland           0   0   0        0

Anchorage             SH   G   A PTS BLK PIM +/-   Portland              SH   G   A PTS BLK PIM +/-

Keefe           D      0   0   1   1   2   4  +1   Costello        C      3   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Ericsson        RW     1   0   2   2   1   0  +1   Mango           RW     1   0   0   0   0   2  -1
Koons           LW     2   0   1   1   0   0  +1   Fairwood        D     10   0   0   0   0   2  -1
Frost           C      4   1   0   1   2   0  +1   Lidjya          D      0   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Pomfret         D      6   1   0   1   2   2  +1   Gaspard         LW     2   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Kerasov         D      2   0   0   0   1   0   0   Argent          LW     1   0   0   0   2   5   0
Hoffman         C      3   0   0   0   1   0   0   Lambert         D      4   0   0   0   4   0   0
Collins         LW     1   0   0   0   0   5   0   Beasley         C      5   0   0   0   1   0   0
Citrone         D      4   0   0   0   4   2   0   Pepper          RW     1   0   0   0   0   0   0
Zhlotkin        F      1   0   0   0   0   0   0   Gallagher       D      3   0   0   0   1   0   0
Martinsson      D      2   0   0   0   1   0   0   Gatecliff       D      4   0   0   0   1   0   0
Adamczyk        LW     1   0   0   0   0   0   0   Durien          RW     1   0   0   0   0   0   0
Calligan        D      3   0   0   0   2   0   0   Mortensen       D      0   0   0   0   1   0   0
Bunyakin        C      1   0   0   0   0   0   0   Derringer       C      4   0   0   0   1   6   0
Fleury          RW     3   0   0   0   1   0   0   McElvern        F      2   0   0   0   0   0   0
------------------------------------------------   ------------------------------------------------
TOTALS                34   2   4   6  17  13   1   TOTALS                41   0   0   0  11  15  -1

Coach: Sam Castor                                  Coach: Harold Engellund                         

ANC:  Kennedy, Dyomin, LaNeige, Miranda (DL)
POR:  Bannon, Hexton, Gauss

Anchorage           SH    SV    G    Sv%
Worthington         41    41    0  1.000

Portland            SH    SV    G    Sv%
Clarkson            34    32    2  0.941


First Period

03:19  ANC  Frost (Ericsson, Koons)

09:06  POR  Derringer 4:00 (Spearing)
14:25  POR  Argent 5:00 (Fighting)
14:25  ANC  Collins 5:00 (Fighting)

Second Period

02:47  ANC  Pomfret PP (Keefe, Ericsson)

02:28  POR  Derringer 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)
04:54  POR  Fairwood 2:00 (High-sticking)
08:09  ANC  Citrone 2:00 (Slashing)

Third Period


02:11  ANC  Pomfret 2:00 (Tripping)
06:59  POR  Mango 2:00 (Holding the Stick)
09:30  ANC  Keefe 2:00 (High-sticking)
18:00  ANC  Keefe 2:00 (Elbowing)

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Anchorage          8  12  14       34
Portland          19  10  12       41


Anchorage        1 for 4
Portland         0 for 4




Eastern Division Playoff (Hamilton leads, 1-0)


After the first period of today’s series-opening game, Hamilton Pistols coach Keith Shields knew he needed to reset his team.  Within the first six minutes, the visiting Hershey Bliss had built a 2-0 lead on a pair of power-play goals.  Those power plays had come courtesy of two ill-advised penalties by D Burt “Hacksaw” Hampton, who earned a seat on the best for the rest of the period.  The Pistols reacted to the early deficit by turning frantic, firing a flurry of shots that Bliss goalie Christien Adamsson easily stopped.

“I could tell our hearts were beating a little fast,” said Shields.  “We needed to slow down a bit.”

So Shields reminded his team of who they are.  “You’re the defending champions,” he said to his players.  “You’re mighty warriors.  You’re behind, but you’re not out of it by a long shot.  You’ve faced bigger deficits than this.  Take a breath and relax.  You’ve got this.”

He turned to Hampton and said, “I’m letting you out of jail.  But we need you on the ice, so go forth and sin so more.”

The Pistols took their coach’s words to heart.  They went out and rallied, notching a come-from-behind 3-2 win that marked their first step toward defending their title.

“This was a big statement win for us,” said Pistols RW Claude Lafayette.  “It showed that if somebody else wants the Vandy, they’re going to have to come take it from us.”

Hamilton got a break just seven seconds into the second period, when Bliss D Steve Cargill was penalized for high-sticking on a failed lift check.  On the power play that followed, the Pistols whipped the puck around with aplomb until it wound up on the stick of LW Steven Alexander, who fired one of his trademark slapshots to the short side to cut the deficit in half.  The crowd at Gunpowder Armory, which had been unusually quiet, roared back to life after Alexander’s tally.

The scored remained 2-1 through the rest of the second, but the momentum was shifting, and both teams felt it.

“When that crowd got going, that seemed to settle [the Pistols] down,” said Hershey C Justin Valentine.  “They lost that nervous energy and started playing with more confidence.  And then they started tilting the ice.”

Just over six minutes into the third period, the Pistols set up on an extended shift in the offensive zone.  The puck came to Alexander, who wound up for a booming slapper… only instead of shooting, he fired a pass to Hampton, who was breaking toward the net.  The hulking defenseman finished with a surprisingly light touch, flipping the puck over Alexander’s blocker to tie it up.  It was a tremendous relief for Hampton, who toned for his earlier blunders.

“When coach let me out of the doghouse, I wanted to show him that he was right to trust me,” Hampton said after the game.  “Scoring isn’t really my game, but I was glad for the chance to lift the team up.”

A couple minutes after that, LW Jamie Campbell – who struggled for much of the season – earned his shot at redemption.  Campbell is skating on the second line due to Magnus Gunnarson‘s injury, and when that line set up in the Hershey end, the Bliss defenders ignored Campbell to focus on C Marco Venezio and RW Ben Summers.  Seeing the opportunity, Venezio found Campbell, who had a clear lane to a wide-open net.  He didn’t miss, tucking it under the crossbar to put the Pistols in front.

“I had a feeling the game was going to find me,” said Campbell.  “And I knew if it did, I wanted to be ready.”

As exciting as the win was for the Pistols, it came at a cost.  Rookie D Elvis Bodett left the game in the third period after taking an awkward check up high and he did not return.  The team announced that he will miss the rest of the series.

Meanwhile, the visiting locker room was quiet after the deflating loss.  But Hershey will need to readjust quickly if they’re going to bounce back in Game 2.

“We need to be more aggressive with the lead next time,” said coach Chip Barber.  “That’s the defending champs over there, and if you give them a chance to get back into a game, they’re going to take it.  When we get ahead next time, we need to finish them off.”


E Final - Gm 1, Hershey @ Hamilton, Gunpowder Armory

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hershey            2   0   0        2
Hamilton           0   1   2        3

Hershey               SH   G   A PTS BLK PIM +/-   Hamilton              SH   G   A PTS BLK PIM +/-

Milton          D      1   0   1   1   1   0   0   Lafayette       RW     0   0   2   2   0   0  +1
Sweet           LW     3   0   0   0   1   0  -1   Frye            C      4   0   1   1   0   2  +1
Hart            RW     1   0   0   0   0   2  -1   Alexander       LW     3   1   1   2   0   0  +1
Aubin           D      2   0   0   0   2   0   0   Mulligan        D      2   0   0   0   2   0   0
Valentine       C      4   1   0   1   3   0  -1   Risch           D      3   0   0   0   3   0   0
Kirkpatrick     C      2   1   0   1   0   0  -1   Smyth           D      1   0   0   0   5   0  +1
Cargill         D      6   0   1   1   0   4  -1   Summers         RW     2   0   1   1   0   0  +1
Meloche         D      0   0   0   0   0   0  -1   Bodett          D      4   0   0   0   0   2  +1
Swindonburg     LW     1   0   0   0   0   2  -1   Venezio         C      1   0   1   1   0   0  +1
Montrechere     RW     1   0   0   0   1   0  -1   Campbell        LW     7   1   0   1   1   0  +1
Ketterman       C      1   0   0   0   0   0   0   Hampton         D      5   1   0   1   2   4  +1
Daniels         RW     2   0   1   1   1   4   0   Marais          C      2   0   0   0   0   0   0
Nahorniak       LW     2   0   1   1   2   0   0   Glasco          D      1   0   0   0   0   0  +1
Minnik          D      2   0   0   0   1   0  -1   Patterson       RW     2   0   0   0   1   0   0
Kulkarov        D      0   0   0   0   3   0  -1   Jennings        F      2   0   0   0   2   0   0
------------------------------------------------   ------------------------------------------------
TOTALS                28   2   4   6  15  12  -2   TOTALS                39   3   6   9  16   8   2

Coach: Chip Barber                                 Coach: Keith Shields                            

HSY:  Kilborn, Snelling, Lapointe
HAM:  Klemmer, Pedersen, Winston (INJ), Gunnarson (DL)

Hershey             SH    SV    G    Sv%
Adamsson            39    36    3  0.923

Hamilton            SH    SV    G    Sv%
Koskinen            28    26    2  0.929


First Period

01:51  HSY  Kirkpatrick PP (Nahorniak, Daniels)
05:54  HSY  Valentine PP (Cargill, Milton)

01:06  HAM  Hampton 2:00 (Interference)
05:02  HAM  Hampton 2:00 (Cross-checking)
13:38  HSY  Daniels 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)

Second Period

00:41  HAM  Alexander PP (Frye, Lafayette)

00:07  HSY  Cargill 2:00 (High-sticking)
02:02  HAM  Bodett 2:00 (High-sticking)
13:56  HSY  Cargill 2:00 (High-sticking)
15:15  HSY  Hart 2:00 (Holding the Stick)
16:43  HSY  Swindonburg 2:00 (Cross-checking)

Third Period

06:32  HAM  Hampton (Alexander, Lafayette)
08:33  HAM  Campbell (Venezio, Summers)

00:44  HSY  Daniels 2:00 (High-sticking)
02:00  HAM  Frye 2:00 (Clipping)

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hershey            9   8  11       28
Hamilton          18  10  11       39


Hershey          2 for 4
Hamilton         1 for 6


Elvis Bodett (HAM) -- Upper-body  7 games

Night, Pistols Resume Unpleasantries in OT Thriller

On Sunday, the Hamilton Pistols and New York Night faced off for the first time this season at Gunpowder Armory.  Even though the teams came into the game with very different records, with the Pistols undefeated and the Night winless, the game between the two bitter rivals was expected to be very closely contested.

Nick Foster

In case anyone thought that the mutual enmity between the clubs had cooled since last year, Night coach Nick Foster happily re-stoked the flames in his press conference the day before, stating: “We’ve had this one circled on our calendar since the schedule came out.  We’re excited to come to Tank Town and skate into that festering old dump and snatch a win from the Nutcracker and his boys.  My guys all got their tetanus shots and their cups, so they’re ready.  As long as we get out before the roof caves in, we’re good.”

Pistols star Steven Alexander shot back, “It’s too bad [the Night] can’t play as good as their coach runs his mouth.  Apparently Foster forgot who won the Vandy last year.”

The match lived up to its advance billing, as a sellout crowd got to see a fast-paced see-saw of a contest with action from beginning to end.  Regulation wasn’t enough to settle things, but in the end the Night backed up Foster’s boast, heading back to the Big Apple with a 7-6 win.

According to league sources, the Pistols sought permission from the SHL to delay their banner-raising ceremony until this game, but the league vetoed the idea.  So instead, when the Pistols took the ice for the pre-game skate, Alexander came out holding the Vandy over his head and took a lap while the PA system played “We Are the Champions.”  As Alexander skated past the New York bench, the visitors greeted him with upraised middle fingers.

Once the game began, it took the champs a mere 25 seconds to get on the board, as D Burt “Hacksaw” Hampton deflected a shot by RW Ben Summers into the lower right corner of the net.  The rest of the period, however, belonged to the Night.  Just over two minutes after Hampton’s goal, the visitors struck twice, as D Rocky Winkle and C Rod Remington scored just eight seconds apart to give the Night the lead.  When Hampton went to the sin bin for high-sticking late in the period, Remington banged home a slapper to make it 3-1.

In the locker room between periods, Pistols coach Keith Shields exhorted his team to get back into it.  “Coach Shields never curses,” said Alexander, “but you could tell he wanted to.  ‘All right, boys, let’s go stick it to those flipping buggers!’”

Hamilton drew back even early in the second.  About ninety seconds into the frame, LW Magnus Gunnarson finished an odd-man rush with a shot that went through the five-hole on Night netminder Sherman Carter.  Less than a minute later, LW Jamie Campbell got the equalizer on a shot from the bottom of the faceoff circle that snuck in above Carter’s catching glove.  The score remained even for much of the second, but Night LW Charlie Brooks jammed one in from the slot with just under seven minutes left to give New York a 4-3 edge, which they took to the dressing room.

Steven Alexander

Less than two minutes into the third, Campbell got his second goal of the night, finishing on a beautiful pass from RW Kenny Patterson that split the Night defenders.  Campbell waved his arms to the crowd, which responded with ecstatic approval.  That tie lasted barely over three minutes, before Brooks scored again on a tip-in for a 5-4 New York.  A few minutes later, Alexander scored on a laser-beam slapper that bounced off of Carter’s blocker and in.  The feisty winger by holding his stick like a rifle and firing “shots” at the New York bench, who responded with another middle-finger salute.  Alexander was later fined by the league for his actions.

The crowd was roaring for more; they got it with six minutes remaining, as C Calvin Frye redirected an Alexander slapper just under the crossbar to give the Pistols their first lead since the opening minutes.  If the Hamilton fans thought it was over, though, they had another think coming.  Two minutes after Frye’s go-ahead tally, rookie C Norris Fletcher jabbed home the tying goal for New York, prying it loose from under the pad of Pistols goalie Lasse Koskinen.  The Pistols argued vigorously that the play should have been whistled dead, but the referees denied their appeal.  As boos filled the arena, Fletcher smirked and cupped his hand to his ear.

Less than two minutes later, Fletcher cemented his status as Public Enemy#1 in Hamilton by felling Alexander with a high stick that opened a gash under the winger’s eye.  Alexander went down the tunnel to get stitches, and Shields argued that Fletcher should be ejected for attempting deliberate injury.  Instead, he got a double minor.  Angry fans poured beer on the rookie as he sat in the penalty box; Fletcher responded by blowing kisses.

In the wake of the penalty, Hampton challenged New York D Donald Duckworth to answer for Fletcher’s high stick, but Duckworth declined the invitation.  “Typical New York,” Alexander fumed after the game.  “Big talk and cheap shots, but they won’t back it up.”

The Pistols tried furiously to score the game-winner on the ensuing power play, but their shots kept missing the net.  The penalty continued into the overtime session, when a sewed-up Alexander returned to the ice to rapturous applause.  Even with their star on the ice, though, Hamilton couldn’t get the puck over the line.  Finally, about midway through the overtime session, LW Chase Winchester scored from a severe angle to give the Night the win.

The visitors celebrated by blasting Ace Frehley’s “New York Groove” in the locker room – “loud enough for [the Pistols] to hear,” said RW Rick “The Stick” Nelson.  In his postgame press conference, Foster sarcastically thanked the Pistols for their pre-game Vandy skate.  “That gave us all the inspiration we needed,” the coach said with a grin.  “No matter what else happens this season, we’ll always remember we got our first W here in Tank Town.  Love you guys!”

Continue reading “Night, Pistols Resume Unpleasantries in OT Thriller”

2019 SHL Playoff – Game 4

Eastern Division Series (Hamilton wins, 3-1)


A month and a half ago, Eddie Costello was going nowhere.  The veteran center, who is in his contract year, was biding his time playing meaningless games with a Washington Galaxy team that was mired in the depths of the division.  Though Costello had numerous friends on the team, he longed for the excitement of a playoff race.

Then the Hamilton Pistols came along and acquired Costello at the trade deadline.  The Pistols were firmly fixed on winning the Vandy, and they felt that the center would provide the secondary scoring they needed.  He didn’t come cheaply – he cost the Pistols two top prospects and a first-round pick – but they felt his speed, scoring touch, and postseason experience would be just what the young club needed.

Today, Costello repaid the investment that Hamilton made in him, scoring an overtime goal that propelled the Pistols to their first-ever SHL Finals appearance with a 2-1 win over the Hershey Bliss.

“The playoff excitement, this is what you live for as a player,” Costello said in the middle of a boisterous Hamilton locker room, as teammates pounded his back and poured beer on his head.  “I didn’t think I was going to be here this year, but these guys took the plunge, and thank God they did!”

Costello’s goal brought an end to a tense, close game that bore no resemblance to the Pistols’ 5-0 blowout the night before.  In that game, the visiting Bliss seemed rattled by the din at Gunpowder Armory, and never got their heads into the game.  This time around, Hershey didn’t allow the noise to distract them.

“We’re all professionals, and we’re not going to let a little crowd noise throw us off our game,” said C Justin Valentine before Game 4.  “We just need to tune it out and focus on what happens on the ice.”

Indeed, Hershey played with an edge and a hunger that was missing in the previous game.  Even when the seemingly unstoppable Steven Alexander scored on a first-period power play to put the Pistols ahead and whip the crowd into a frenzy, the Bliss didn’t panic.  They hung tough and didn’t let the Pistols add to their lead through the remainder of the first and through all of the second.

In the opening seconds of the third, Hamilton D Hercules Mulligan took a cross-checking penalty.  Although Hershey’s power play had been missing in action since Game 2, they clicked this time, with Valentine jabbing a rebound underneath the right pad of Pistols goalie Lasse Koskinen to tie the score.  The crowd quieted suddenly, and the normally mild-mannered Valentine capped his hand to his ear, mocking the silence.

The game remained tied through the remainder of regulation, even through a bizarre stretch that saw a Bliss penalty followed by two Pistol penalties in the span of 33 seconds.  As the game went into overtime, the fans resumed their raucous cheering, albeit with a bit of a nervous edge.

Just over six minutes into the extra session, Bliss LW Sven Danielsen was attempting to bring the puck into the offensive zone when he was leveled by a ferocious check from Pistols D Burt “Hacksaw” Hampton.  The crowd cheered the hard hit, but Pistols RW Kenny Patterson spotted the puck trickling free in the neutral zone.  He scooped it up just ahead of a couple Hershey players, then flicked a headman pass to Costello.

Costello sailed through center ice and past the blue line.  All that stood between him and the net was Bliss goalie Brandon Colt and D Nikolai Kulkarov.  The center bore down on the net, using Kulkarov as a screen, and fired a low line drive toward the right post.  The puck eluded Colt’s catching glove, banked off the post, and went in.

Costello turned around, dropped to his knees, threw his arms in the air, and slid toward his jubilant teammates, who engulfed him near the blue line.

“Bring on the Igloos!” roared Alexander during the postgame celebration.  “What are they gonna do to stop us?!”

In the visiting locker room, Bliss coach Chip Barber praised his team in defeat.  “My guys gave it a heck of a ride this season,” said Barber.  “When you consider where we came from last year and everything we overcame, there’s nothing to hang our heads over.  We just ran across a team that was a little better.  It would have been good to get a few more bites of the chocolate bar, but it’s still a sweet season.”


E Final - Game 4, Hershey @ Hamilton, Gunpowder Armory

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hershey            0   0   1    0   1
Hamilton           1   0   0    1   2

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

Milton          D      0   1   1   0   0   Alexander       LW     1   0   1   0   0
Valentine       C      1   0   1   2   0   Smyth           D      0   0   0   0   0
Baldwin         D      0   0   0   2   0   Frye            C      0   1   1   0   0
Hart            RW     0   1   1   0   0   Risch           D      0   0   0   0   0
Nahorniak       LW     0   0   0   0   0   Lafayette       RW     0   0   0   0   0
Meloche         D      0   0   0   0  -1   Gunnarson       LW     0   0   0   0   1
Kirkpatrick     C      0   0   0   2  -1   Mulligan        D      0   1   1   2   0
Montrechere     RW     0   0   0   0   0   Glasco          D      0   0   0   2   0
Danielsen       LW     0   0   0   4   0   Patterson       RW     0   1   1   2   1
Aubin           D      0   0   0   0   0   Campbell        LW     0   0   0   2   0
Kulkarov        D      0   0   0   0  -1   Dyomin          D      0   0   0   0   1
Daniels         RW     0   0   0   0  -1   Marais          C      0   0   0   0   0
Ketterman       C      0   0   0   0   0   Hampton         D      0   0   0   2   1
Swindonburg     LW     0   0   0   4  -1   Estabrook       F      0   0   0   0   0
Cargill         D      0   0   0   0   0   Costello        C      1   0   1   2   1
----------------------------------------   ----------------------------------------
TOTALS                 1   2   3  14   0   TOTALS                 2   3   5  12   1

HSY:  Minnik, Chappelle, Lapointe, Sweet (DL)
HAM:  Constantine, Baker, Klemmer

Hershey             SH    SV    G    Sv%
Colt                32    30    2  0.938

Hamilton            SH    SV    G    Sv%
Koskinen            40    39    1  0.975

First Period

05:36  HAM  Alexander PP (Frye, Mulligan)

02:14  HSY  Swindonburg 2:00 (Tripping)
03:15  HAM  Hampton 2:00 (Holding the Stick)
05:28  HSY  Valentine 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)
15:42  HAM  Glasco 2:00 (Holding the Stick)
19:38  HSY  Danielsen 2:00 (Delay of Game)

Second Period


09:00  HAM  Costello 2:00 (High-sticking)
12:32  HSY  Danielsen 2:00 (Roughing)
14:21  HSY  Baldwin 2:00 (Tripping)
18:08  HSY  Swindonburg 2:00 (High-sticking)

Third Period

00:34  HSY  Valentine PP (Hart, Milton)

00:09  HAM  Mulligan 2:00 (Cross-checking)
07:30  HSY  Kirkpatrick 2:00 (High-sticking)
07:51  HAM  Patterson 2:00 (Diving)
08:03  HAM  Campbell 2:00 (Tripping)


06:31  HAM  Costello (Patterson)


                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hershey           11  12  14    3  40
Hamilton          12   8  10    2  32


Hershey          1 for 6
Hamilton         1 for 7