2018 SHL Division Playoff – Game 4

Eastern Division Series

HAMILTON PISTOLS 2, QUEBEC TIGRES 0

After the Hamilton Pistols dropped the first two games of the best-of-five Eastern playoff to the Quebec Tigres despite outshooting their opponent in both games, many observers predicted that the Tigres would make quick work of the series.  Hamilton had finished the regular season on a cold streak, and it looked like Tigres goalie Riki Tiktuunen would extend their slump right out of the playoffs.

Pistols coach Keith Shields dismissed the naysayers.  For one thing, he felt that Tiktuunen’s success wasn’t sustainable.  “Tiktuunen’s a great goalie, but he’s not unbeatable,” Shields told reporters.  “I feel like the puck luck is due to break our way.  If we keep firing pucks at him, he’s going to crack eventually.”

Even more, though, he felt that the enthusiasm of the home crowds would shift the momentum in Hamilton’s favor.  “You feed off the energy of your fans in your building,” said Shields.  “Our fans are great, and I know they’re gonna be loud for us.  That will give us extra energy and tilt the ice our way.”

The Pistols and their fans validated the coach’s faith in the last two games.  After surviving a long grind and pulling out a double-overtime win in Game 3, Hamilton came out strong and used the energy in the building to fuel a 2-0 win, sending the series to a winner-take-all Game 5 back in Quebec.  Tiktuunen looks mortal, and the Pistols’ top-notch top line is getting hot at the right time.

“Now, all those smart guys who were reading our obituary after the first two games, don’t you feel silly?” said Shields.  “I told you this team was too talented to be held down, especially with our fans behind us.”

The game started slowly, as both clubs seemed a bit drained from their Game 3 marathon.  But an early penalty on Tigres D Doug Wesson got the crowd fired up, and the Pistols quickly warmed to the task.  They pinned Quebec in their own zone through the power play, and LW Steven Alexander broke through with a shot from the bottom of the left faceoff circle that snuck in above Tiktuunen’s blocker.  If was only the second shot of the entire game, but it put Hamilton in front.

“Getting that first goal was huge,” Alexander said.  “It fired up the crowd and fired up our bench, too.  It was the shot of adrenaline we needed.”

As the second period began, the Pistols had found a rhythm.  They nearly cashed in on another early-period power play, as RW Kenny Patterson fired a shot that dribbled between Tiktuunen’s pads.  The Quebec netminder managed to sweep the puck away before it crossed the goal line, however.  A couple minutes later, Hamilton killed off an elbowing penalty to LW Jamie Campbell, and the crowd roared and stomped so hard that the benches shook.

“It felt like it was an earthquake,” said Tigres C Mikhail Ilyushin.

Shortly after the Campbell penalty ended, Pistols C Calvin Frye grabbed a loose puck near his own blue line and fired a perfect pass to Alexander, who had leaked out of the zone.  Alexander streaked up the ice, deked past Quebec D Hal Pugliese, and thundered a slapshot that beat Tiktuunen and went bar-down for a second goal.

That two-goal lead felt more like ten given Quebec’s challenges in jump-starting its sluggish offense.  The Tigres had one more power play opportunity in the second and two in the third, but they couldn’t convert on them, and they found it virtually impossible to generate shots during 5-on-5 play.

“We need more quality and more quantity on offense,” said Quebec coach Martin Delorme.  “What we saw tonight will not get the job done.”

Meanwhile, Pistols goalie Lasse Koskinen looked sharp, turning aside all 24 shots he faced.  “Lasse really stayed on it tonight,” said Hamilton D Hercules Mulligan.  “There were stretches were the action in our end was so dead he probably wanted to pull out a rocking chair and take it easy.  But whenever they made it through to our end, he was on his toes and making the stops.”

All in all, it was a decisive win for the Pistols, and momentum is definitely on their side going into the deciding game.  But will they be able to keep it going as the action shifts back to Quebec?  Shields pointed out repeatedly that his team got a boost from the red-clad throngs at Gunpowder Armory; how will they do amid the orange-clad throngs at Centre Citadelle, rooting for their defeat?  How badly will the Pistols miss third-line center Edz Zalmanis, who left the game late in the second period with an upper-body injury and is reportedly done for the year?

And what about Tiktuunen, who looked superhuman in the first two games but distinctly mortal in the last two?  Will he rediscover his mojo on home ice, or have the Pistols figured him out?

A shot at the Vandy rides on the answers to those questions.  Both teams can’t wait to find out what happens next.

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

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

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

Camernitz       LW     0   0   0   0  -1   Alexander       LW     2   0   2   0   1
Workman         D      0   0   0   0   0   Smyth           D      0   1   1   0   0
Zarkovich       C      0   0   0   2   0   Frye            C      0   2   2   0   1
McKinley        D      0   0   0   0   0   Risch           D      0   0   0   2   0
Mirac           RW     0   0   0   0  -1   Lafayette       RW     0   0   0   0   1
Fisker          LW     0   0   0   0   0   Gunnarson       LW     0   0   0   0   0
Ilyushin        C      0   0   0   0  -1   Mulligan        D      0   0   0   0   0
Jones           D      0   0   0   0   0   Constantine     C      0   0   0   4   0
Robinson        RW     0   0   0   0   0   Werner          D      0   0   0   2   0
MacDiarmid      LW     0   0   0   0   0   Patterson       RW     0   0   0   0   0
Pugliese        D      0   0   0   0  -1   Campbell        LW     0   0   0   2   0
Kalashnikov     D      0   0   0   2  -1   Glasco          D      0   0   0   0   1
Pentti          RW     0   0   0   0   0   Zalmanis        C      0   0   0   0   0
Miller          C      0   0   0   0   0   Soforenko       LW     0   0   0   0   0
Wesson          D      0   0   0   2   0   Dyomin          D      0   0   0   0   1
----------------------------------------   ----------------------------------------
TOTALS                 0   0   0   6  -1   TOTALS                 2   3   5  10   1

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

 
Quebec              SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Tiktuunen           31    29    2  0.935

Hamilton            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Koskinen            24    24    0  1.000

 

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

GOALS:
03:31  HAM  Alexander PP (Smyth, Frye)

PENALTIES:
02:34  QUE  Wesson 2:00 (Diving)
04:06  HAM  Constantine 2:00 (Cross-checking)
14:06  QUE  Kalashnikov 2:00 (Diving)

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

GOALS:
09:07  HAM  Alexander (Frye)

PENALTIES:
01:37  QUE  Zarkovich 2:00 (Tripping)
05:03  HAM  Campbell 2:00 (Elbowing)
17:18  HAM  Werner 2:00 (Interference)

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

GOALS:
None


PENALTIES:
01:29  HAM  Risch 2:00 (Holding the Stick)
14:35  HAM  Constantine 2:00 (Holding the Stick)


 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Quebec             7   8   9       24
Hamilton           8  11  12       31

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

Quebec           0 for 5
Hamilton         1 for 3

 
INJURIES
--------

Edgars Zalmanis (HAM) -- Upper-body  20 games

 

Tigres, Galaxy Make Dueling Deals

The race for the SHL’s Eastern Division remains in flux.  While the Hamilton Pistols remain the favorite to win the division, they haven’t put it away.  Meanwhile, the Quebec Tigres and Washington Galaxy have been jostling for position all season long, knowing that there is likely only room for one of them in the postseason.

The Pistols made their move at the beginning of the week, shoring up their depth amid a run of injuries.  Meanwhile, the Tigres and Galaxy waited until the final minutes before Thursday’s deadline, but each made a move designed to address shore up key areas and position themselves to punch their ticket to playoffs.

“We knew they were going to make a move,” said Galaxy GM Ace Adams of his Quebec rivals.  “And if they were going to get better, we knew we needed to keep up, and hopefully get a step ahead.”

For the Tigres, the target areas for a trade were obvious.  They wanted a better third-line center; Florian Theroux remains a fan favorite, but his stats were lackluster.  And for a team that is built on defense, Quebec was relying heavily on a trio of rookies: Laurie Workman, Richard McKinley, and Geoff Moultrie.

Doug Wesson

They addressed both needs in one deal, acquiring C Phil Miller and D Doug Wesson from the Kansas City Smoke in exchange for Moultrie and minor-league winger Aaron Knorr.

“This was the perfect deal for us,” said Tigres GM Pete Gondret.  “Kansas City had what we wanted, and the price was right.”

Wesson certainly add toughness for the Tigres; he is regularly one of the SHL leaders in penalty minutes and has been involved in several heavyweight bouts.  He is an excellent fit with Quebec and coach Martin Delorme’s scrappy, hard-checking style.  With the Smoke, he contributed 1 goal and 15 assists, in addition to 63 penalty minutes.

“I’m a two-fisted blue-collar guy, and Quebec is a two-fisted blue-collar team,” said Wesson.  “Let’s go!”

Phil Miller

With the deal, Miller continues his tour around the SHL.  The Tigres are Miller’s fifth club in four seasons; he’d ben with Saskatchewan, Dakota, and New York before being claimed by the Smoke in the expansion draft.  He rotated between the second and third lines for Kansas City, compiling 7 goals and 6 assists.

“Story of my life,” said Miller.  “Good enough that teams want me, but not good enough to keep around.”

Moultrie was the least productive of Quebec’s trio of blueline rookies, putting up 6 points in 40 games.  But at age 21, he presents considerable upside for a KC team that’s building for the future.  Knorr was the leading scorer for the Tigres’ minor-league affiliate in Maine, with 19 goals, and he scored four goals in a game last season; however, he lacked the passing and defensive skills to make him a fit with Quebec.

Charlie Brooks

The Galaxy, meanwhile, have struggled to get production from their bottom two lines, and their third defensive pairing has been a revolving door.  To address those issues, Washington picked up RW Charlie Brooks and D Scott Hexton from the Boston Badgers in exchange for D Graham Bellinger and minor-league RW Marty “Fish” Pescatelli.

“I think we got underrated value here,” said Adams.  “Charlie Brooks and Scott Hexton aren’t household names, but they’re both guys who can come in right away and help us get to the playoffs.  We’re thrilled with this pickup.”

Brooks was one of the few offensive bright spots for Boston, producing 17 goals and 19 assists on the top line across from rookie Lix Darnholm.  He’s known by the nickname “Sunny” for his cheerful disposition, which has made him a popular teammate throughout his career.

“Washington did well to land Sunny,” said Gondret; Brooks played for Quebec the last two seasons.  “He’s a great guy to have around.”

Scott Hexton

Hexton, meanwhile, is known as a solid defender who isn’t as active on offense; he posted 9 points this season with the Badgers.  It’s not clear whether he’ll replace Burt Hampton or Bruce Hogaboom on the bottom pairing, or whether the three will rotate.  Coach Rodney Reagle said that “we’ll figure that out as we go, but it’s nice to have a lot of good choices to pick from.”

Bellinger was a highly-regarded prospect when Washington drafted him last year, but he struggled to get established and fell out of favor with Reagle.  Twice in a row, he started the year with the Galaxy, only to be demoted to the minors in midseason.  The Smoke hope that more consistent playing time and a longer leash will allow him to live up to the hype.  Pescatelli is only 18 and showed some promise in the minors, scoring 5 goals and 18 assists in 41 games.

Will these deals put either team over the top?  Perhaps not; neither acquisition is a blockbuster.  But as Adams put it, “It really feels like we’ve got two teams that are about equal talent-wise.  Any little edge that we can find to come out on top, we’re gonna take it.”