2020 SHL Playoff – Game 3

Western Division Playoff (Anchorage leads, 2-1)

PORTLAND BLUEBACKS 8, ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 4

After suffering two embarrassing losses at home to open this Western final, the Portland Bluebacks had one goal for Game 3.  As RW Vince Mango put it succinctly: “We damn well better win.  We can’t get swept again.”

Mango and the Bluebacks made good on that goal.  They walked into Arctic Circle Arena and not only defeated the Anchorage Igloos, they did it convincingly, by a score of 8-4.  It was a statement win for a team that desperately needed to make a statement, to prove that they could match up with the Igloos in the postseason.

“That was the game we’ve been looking for the last two years,” said Mango.  “That was the dominating performance I knew we had in us.”

The win itself was enough of a statement, but the Bluebacks also flexed their roster depth: Each of their goals was scored by a different player. “That was a really nice touch, I thought,” said coach Harold Engellund.  “People tend to think our team is all about Vince and Eddie [Costello], but there’s so much more to us.”

In fairness, the Igloos put up more of a fight than the final score would indicate.  In spite of the fact that Portland built a 3-0 lead in the first half of the opening period, Anchorage declined to give in.  When Bluebacks D Benny Lambert was penalized for holding the stick, Igloos D Sebastian Pomfret scored on the ensuing power play to break the shutout.  Portland regained their three-goal edge just 20 seconds later on a tip-in by LW Rod “Money” Argent, but then Anchorage struck back again when LW Les Collins caught Portland goalie Jesse Clarkson out of position and buried it in the upper-left corner of the net.  And when C Jens Bunyakin scored 11 seconds into the second period, Anchorage pulled within one goal and the crowd started coming to life.

At that point, Mango called his teammates together to deliver a brief but pointed message.  “Hey, we need this,” Mango shouted.  “Let’s go out and break them.”

And that’s exactly what Portland did.  First, they broke loose on an odd-man rush, which Costello finished by going five-hole on Ty Worthington.  Next, less than a minute later D Woody Fairwood pinched along the board to thwart an attempted Anchorage clear, then passed to fellow blueliner Doron Lidjya, who banked it in off the right post.  Then just over a minute later, RW Philippe Durien stuffed home a wraparound before Worthington could seal off the post.  Suddenly it was 7-3, the crowd was silenced, and Worthington was off to the bench having stopped just 8 of 15 shots, replaced by backup Curt Freeze.

The rest of the game was a formality, with the teams trading goals, but the Igloos weren’t happy with a couple of Portland’s third-period actions.  Durien earned an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taunting the Igloos bench, a performance that involved several obscenities as well as the grabbing of his groin.  Later in the period, in response to some chirping from Anchorage directed at Mango, LW Alphonse Gaspard fired a water bottle in the direction of the home bench, also earning an unsportsmanlike penalty.

“It’s really interesting to me that they hadn’t even won one game yet, and they were already running their mouths,” said LW Jerry Koons.  “Apparently they didn’t think they could let their play do the talking.  You’d better believe that we’re going to make a mental note of that.”

Coach Sam Castor echoed Koons’ sentiments.  “I don’t think we have to worry about finding any motivation for the next game,” he said.  “The Bluebacks were nice enough to take care of that for us.  I really appreciate that.”

W Final - Gm 3, Portland @ Anchorage, Arctic Circle Arena

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Portland           4   3   1        8
Anchorage          2   1   1        4

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

Costello        C      5   1   0   1   1   0  +2   Keefe           D      0   0   1   1   2   2  -4
Mango           RW     3   1   1   2   0   0  +2   Ericsson        RW     2   1   0   1   0   0  -2
Fairwood        D      1   0   3   3   3   0  +4   Koons           LW     2   0   1   1   0   0  -2
Lidjya          D      1   1   2   3   1   0  +4   Frost           C      5   0   1   1   0   0  -2
Gaspard         LW     1   0   1   1   2   2  +2   Pomfret         D      3   1   0   1   2   0  -4
Argent          LW     1   1   0   1   0   0  +2   Kerasov         D      0   0   1   1   2   0   0
Lambert         D      1   0   3   3   3   2   0   Hoffman         C      1   0   1   1   0   0  -2
Beasley         C      5   1   1   2   1   0  +2   Collins         LW     2   1   0   1   1   0  -2
Pepper          RW     3   1   2   3   0   0  +2   Citrone         D      2   0   0   0   0   2   0
Gallagher       D      1   0   0   0   1   0   0   Zhlotkin        F      5   0   0   0   1   0  -2
Gatecliff       D      2   0   0   0   2   0  +1   Martinsson      D      1   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Durien          RW     3   1   1   2   0   2  +1   Adamczyk        LW     2   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Mortensen       D      0   0   0   0   2   4  +1   Calligan        D      4   0   0   0   1   2  -1
Derringer       C      1   1   1   2   0   2  +1   Bunyakin        C      3   1   0   1   0   0  -1
Bannon          LW     1   0   0   0   2   0  +1   Fleury          RW     3   0   1   1   2   2  -1
------------------------------------------------   ------------------------------------------------
TOTALS                29   8  15  23  18  12   5   TOTALS                35   4   6  10  11   8  -5

Coach: Harold Engellund                            Coach: Sam Castor                               

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

 
Portland            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Clarkson            35    31    4  0.886

Anchorage           SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Worthington         15     8    7  0.533
Freeze              14    13    1  0.929

 

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

GOALS:
05:16  POR  Derringer (Fairwood, Durien)
08:21  POR  Pepper (Lidjya, Fairwood)
10:41  POR  Beasley (Pepper, Lambert)
15:02  ANC  Pomfret PP (Koons, Keefe)
15:22  POR  Argent (Beasley, Pepper)
16:25  ANC  Collins (Hoffman)

PENALTIES:
00:11  POR  Mortensen 2:00 (Tripping)
01:06  ANC  Fleury 2:00 (Slashing)
13:43  POR  Lambert 2:00 (Holding the Stick)

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

GOALS:
00:11  ANC  Bunyakin (Kerasov, Fleury)
01:56  POR  Costello (Mango, Gaspard)
02:54  POR  Lidjya (Fairwood)
04:09  POR  Durien (Derringer, Lambert)

PENALTIES:
04:39  ANC  Calligan 2:00 (Holding the Stick)
12:47  POR  Mortensen 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)

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

GOALS:
00:12  POR  Mango PP (Lambert, Lidjya)
09:58  ANC  Ericsson PP (Frost)

PENALTIES:
00:10  ANC  Citrone 2:00 (High-sticking)
03:32  POR  Durien 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)
08:48  POR  Derringer 2:00 (Roughing)
12:21  POR  Gaspard 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)
17:47  ANC  Keefe 2:00 (Delay of Game)


 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Portland          11   9   9       29
Anchorage         17   8  10       35

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

Portland         1 for 4
Anchorage        2 for 6

 
INJURIES
--------

None

 

Eastern Division Playoff (Hamilton leads, 2-1)

HERSHEY BLISS 4, HAMILTON PISTOLS 3

Justin Valentine is a natural-born leader.  The Hershey Bliss center has that combination of movie-star good looks, natural eloquence, and strong play that makes teammates naturally want to follow him.  And when his team faced a win-or-go-home Game 3 against the defending champion Hamilton Pistols, Valentine came up big, potting a pair of goals – including the game-winner – and contributing an assist to lead his team to a 4-3 win to stave off elimination in the Eastern final.

“Great players want the puck in big moments,” said Bliss coach Chip Barber.  “And Justin always wants the puck in those spots.  Like a good premium chocolate, he’s perfect for every occasion.”

Valentine’s first heroic moment came early in the second period.  Hershey found themselves trailing after the first, despite once again scoring the game’s first goal, a power-play tally by D Steve Cargill.  Tallies by Pistols D Raymond Smyth and LW Steven Alexander quickly put the Bliss behind, and neither the Bliss bench nor the crowd at Chocolate Center wanted to risk a multi-goal deficit.  So when D Jean-Luc Aubin found Valentine in the slot, the center wasted no time going top shelf to tie things up.

“[The Igloos] were beating me up pretty good in front of the crease,” Valentine said, “but I was determined to strike pay dirt there.”

A couple minutes into the third, Valentine threw an impressive check on Pistols C Calvin Frye to relieve him of the puck.  After corraling the biscuit, Valentine through a head-man pass to D Cedric Meloche, who found LW Lance Sweet cutting to the net.  Sweet went glove-side to out Hershey back on top.

“Everybody thinks of Justin as a scorer, but he doesn’t get enough credit for his D,” said Sweet.  “Frye’s a pretty big rig, and that was a big-boy check that Justin put on him.”

Hershey’s bliss was short-lived, as Pistols D Clayton Risch tied things up less than two minutes later.  But Valentine bided his time, waiting for an opportunity to strike again.  When Hamilton RW Claude Lafayette was sent off from cross-checking with less than nine minutes remaining, the captain had his chance.  Hershey was in its standard umbrella formation, with Valentine stationed low near the left post.  Sensing a seam in the Hamilton penalty kill, Valentine signaled Sweet to switch just as Cargill unloaded from the point.  Crossing in front of the net, Valentine was able to redirect into the top left corner of the net as Sweet screened Pistols goalie Lasse Koskinen.  That tip proved to be the winning goal.

“I knew the team needed me to deliver today,” said Valentine.  “Now we just need two more like that.”

Hamilton coach Keith Shields graciously acknowledged Hershey’s strong play, while maintaining confidence in the outcome of the series.  “We figured [the Bliss] would have a game like this in them,” Shields noted.  “They’re too good a team to go down quietly.  But we’ve got two more shots to close this out, and we’re going to do it.”

E Final - Gm 3, Hamilton @ Hershey, Chocolate Center

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hamilton           2   0   1        3
Hershey            1   1   2        4

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

Lafayette       RW     2   0   0   0   1   2  -1   Milton          D      3   0   1   1   1   2   0
Frye            C      4   0   1   1   2   0  -1   Sweet           LW     5   1   2   3   0   0  +1
Alexander       LW     5   1   0   1   2   0  -1   Hart            RW     2   0   1   1   1   0  +1
Mulligan        D      0   0   1   1   2   0   0   Aubin           D      2   0   1   1   3   0   0
Risch           D      5   1   0   1   1   0   0   Valentine       C      8   2   1   3   0   0  +1
Smyth           D      2   1   1   2   0   2  +1   Kirkpatrick     C      4   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Summers         RW     1   0   0   0   0   0  +1   Cargill         D      2   1   1   2   0   0  -1
Venezio         C      5   0   1   1   0   0  +1   Meloche         D      3   0   1   1   1   0  -1
Campbell        LW     3   0   1   1   0   2  +1   Swindonburg     LW     2   0   0   0   1   0  -1
Hampton         D      3   0   0   0   0   2   0   Montrechere     RW     1   0   0   0   1   0  -1
Marais          C      4   0   0   0   0   0  +1   Ketterman       C      1   0   0   0   1   0  -1
Glasco          D      2   0   0   0   2   0  +1   Daniels         RW     5   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Patterson       RW     1   0   0   0   0   0  +1   Nahorniak       LW     5   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Jennings        F      1   0   1   1   0   0  +1   Minnik          D      2   0   0   0   1   0   0
Klemmer         D      0   0   0   0   0   0   0   Snelling        D      1   0   0   0   5   2   0
------------------------------------------------   ------------------------------------------------
TOTALS                38   3   6   9  10   8   1   TOTALS                46   4   8  12  15   4  -1

Coach: Keith Shields                               Coach: Chip Barber                              

Scratches:
HAM:  Bodett (INJ), Pedersen, Winston (INJ), Gunnarson (DL)
HSY:  Kulkarov, Kilborn, Lapointe

 
Hamilton            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Koskinen            46    42    4  0.913

Hershey             SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Adamsson            38    35    3  0.921

 

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

GOALS:
01:35  HSY  Cargill PP (Sweet, Milton)
02:16  HAM  Smyth (Venezio, Campbell)
05:15  HAM  Alexander (Frye, Smyth)

PENALTIES:
00:57  HAM  Smyth 2:00 (Hooking)

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

GOALS:
01:03  HSY  Valentine (Aubin, Sweet)

PENALTIES:
02:44  HSY  Milton 2:00 (Slashing)

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

GOALS:
02:21  HSY  Sweet (Meloche, Valentine)
03:45  HAM  Risch (Mulligan, Jennings)
11:25  HSY  Valentine PP (Cargill, Hart)

PENALTIES:
05:07  HSY  Snelling 2:00 (Diving)
11:06  HAM  Lafayette 2:00 (Cross-checking)
11:40  HAM  Hampton 2:00 (Tripping)
19:33  HAM  Campbell 2:00 (High-sticking)


 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hamilton          15  11  12       38
Hershey           12  15  19       46

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

Hamilton         0 for 2
Hershey          2 for 4

 
INJURIES
--------

None

2020 SHL Playoff – Game 1

Western Division Playoff (Anchorage leads, 1-0)

ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 2, PORTLAND BLUEBACKS 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                         

Scratches:
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
------------

GOALS:
03:19  ANC  Frost (Ericsson, Koons)

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

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

GOALS:
02:47  ANC  Pomfret PP (Keefe, Ericsson)

PENALTIES:
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
------------

GOALS:
None


PENALTIES:
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)


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

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

Anchorage        1 for 4
Portland         0 for 4

 
INJURIES
--------

None

 

Eastern Division Playoff (Hamilton leads, 1-0)

HAMILTON PISTOLS 3, HERSHEY BLISS 2

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                            

Scratches:
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
------------

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

PENALTIES:
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
-------------

GOALS:
00:41  HAM  Alexander PP (Frye, Lafayette)

PENALTIES:
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
------------

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

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


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

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

Hershey          2 for 4
Hamilton         1 for 6

 
INJURIES
--------

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

Pistols, Bliss Ready for Rematch in East Playoff

This year’s Eastern Division playoff has a familiar ring to it.  The matchup features the same two teams that faced off last year.  In one corner, the Hamilton Pistols, the defending champions who are looking to be the first SHL team to win back-to-back titles.  In the other corner, the Hershey Bliss, the scrappy contenders who had to battle all the way until the last week of the season to secure a postseason spot.

“This should be a hell of a matchup,” said Pistols LW Steven Alexander.  “We know each other inside and out, our strengths and weaknesses, our go-to moves, all of that.  It’s like playing against your twin brother.”

Calvin Frye

The champs have returned with the core of their highly potent offense intact.  Hamilton led the SHL in goals with 233, an average of over 3.6 per game.  This season has seen a potential passing of the torch, however.  Last season, the Pistols’ heart and soul was their captain, Alexander, who scored 70 of his 100 points in the second half of the season and practically willed his team to the title.  This season, Alexander wasn’t even the leading scorer on the team; that would be his linemate, C Calvin Frye, who scored 42 goals to lead the league.

Alexander doesn’t mind sharing the spotlight with his younger teammate.  “Cal’s the perfect complement to me and Claude,” he said, referring to his longtime friend RW Claude Lafayette.  “If he’s the future of this team, then we’re in great shape.”

For his part, Frye vigorously insists that Alexander is still the man.  “This is still Alex’s team, no question,” Frye said.  “It’s his hustle, his scrappy spirit, his hunger and intensity that shaped us.”

The Pistols lost a couple of key contributors from last year – most notably C Eddie Costello, who’s now in Portland – but they also filled the holes with capable veterans on fairly cheap deals. C Marco Venezio and RW Ben Summers, the two key additions, have bolstered the Pistols’ second line and given the team a depth it lacked previously.  (That second line took a big hit with the late-season injury to LW Magnus Gunnarson, who was having a career year.  He will miss the entire divisional round.)

“Our top line is the best in the league,” said coach Keith Shields, “but our second line’s nothing to sneeze at either.  We’ve got a lot of ways to beat you.”

Though they’ve kept last year’s scoring touch, Hamilton has taken a big step back on defense.  They were ninth in the league in GAA at 3.19, thanks in large part to spotty play in their own end; they allowed 36.2 shots per game on average.

The Bliss, meanwhile, are eager to wash the bitter taste of last season’s playoff from their mouths.  They won the first game and took an early 2-0 lead in Game 2, only to see everything fall apart after that.  They coughed up that early lead, and collapsed in a ghastly five-goal third period that turned a loss into an 8-4 rout.  When the series shifted to Hamilton’s Gunpowder Armory, the Bliss were rattled by the noisy crowd and haunted by the previous game’s fiasco, suffering a 5-0 shellacking that essentially ended the series.  (The Pistols took a 2-1 overtime win in Game 4 to officially close things out.)

Justin Valentine

“We really weren’t happy with the way the series got away from us,” said C Justin Valentine.  “We’re definitely ready to redeem ourselves.  That was a painful lesson, but we came away stronger and tougher.”

Although the Pistols finished with the superior record, Hershey’s underlying statistics were better in many ways.  They scored nearly as many goals as Hamilton (226), but their defense was noticeably better; they allowed just 32.4 shots per game, good for fifth in the league.

In the end, Hershey’s chances in the series may come down to goaltending.  They have largely the same roster as last year except in net, where they replaced veteran Brandon Colt with Christien Adamsson, who turned in a credible campaign (24-19-5, 2.96 GAA, .907 save percentage).  But Adamsson has never been never appeared in the postseason before.  Neither has his backup, rookie Nash Gould.  It’s unkown how they’ll perform in the playoff limelight.  Meanwhile, Hamilton’s Lasse Koskinen is in the playoffs for the third straight year, and has shown he can stay cool under pressure. Will that give the champs a crucial edge?

“Christien’s been terrific for us,” said Bliss coach Chip Barber.  “I’m confident that he’ll rise to the occasion.”

If Adamsson proves to be the right man for the moment, Hershey has an excellent shot at getting revenge for last year’s embarrassment.  If he struggles, however, the Pistols might move one step closer to a second straight crown.

Bliss Claim Final Playoff Spot

Coming into the final week of the 2020 SHL season, three of the four playoff spots were spoken for.  The Portland Bluebacks, Anchorage Igloos, and Hamilton Pistols had all secured their tickets.  But the Hershey Bliss and Quebec Tigres were locked in a battle for the final berth in the East.  In the end, it was the Bliss, powered by a red-hot offensive attack, who earned the spot and a rematch with the defending champion Pistols.

“When this team needed to come up big, they did it,” said Hershey coach Chip Barber.  “They have the heart of a champion, and they played like champions this week.”

The Bliss opened the week one point up on the Tigres.  Facing a home-and-home with last-place Washington, Hershey rolled to a pair of routs, outscoring the hapless Galaxy by a combined score of 13-5.

Justin Valentine

“That was a pair of trap games right there, but we didn’t get caught in the trap,” said C Justin Valentine, who scored four goals in the Bliss’ 8-3 Sunday win at Constellation Center in DC.  “We didn’t let ourselves take those games for granted; we kept our foot on the gas and kept piling it on.”

Meanwhile, Quebec faced a home-and-home against the Pistols.  They won the front half at Centre Citadelle 5-4, but in the return engagement, Lasse Koskinen stopped all 38 Tigres shots en route to a 2-0 shutout.  The loss pushed Quebec to the brink of elimination.

On Thursday, the Bliss went to Boston seeking a closeout win against the scrappy Badgers.  Boston took an early lead, holding a 2-1 edge after the first period.  But Hershey hung tough, essentially grinding the home team’s offense to a halt for much of the rest of the game.  D Reese Milton tied it up on a shot from the faceoff circle in the first minute of the second.  In the third, Hershey broke the game open by scoring four times on their way to a 6-3 win.

As the Bliss celebrated their third postseason trip in the last four years, team captain Valentine paused the thumping music and celebrated his teammates’ resilience.  “Everybody outside this room was ready to write us off,” he shouted as he wiped the champagne from his eyes.  “Everybody thought Quebec was going to chase us down, but we held on and sent them packing.  Now everybody’s expecting Hamilton to wipe us out.  Let’s go shock the world one more time… wait, make that two more times!”

Meanwhile, Quebec sat in silence and pondered their near miss.  “It is a great disappointment, yes,” said RW Stephane Mirac.  “To come this close and not succeed, it is an arrow to the heart.  But we cannot feel ashamed; we gave a great effort.  Still, I wish we had won.”

Tigres coach Martin Delorme praised his team’s competitiveness.  “Although we fell short of our goal,” Delorme said, “we can hold our head high.  We gave every ounce of our devotion and our effort.  We have the components of greatness here.  And next season, I believe we will achieve it.”

The Bliss open their series in Hamilton on Friday.