2021 SHL Finals – Game 3

HAMILTON PISTOLS 2, ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 1

(Hamilton leads series, 2-1)

Lasse Koskinen told us this was coming.  In Game 2, the Hamilton Pistols goalie returned from an injury he suffered during the divisional playoff against Boston but struggled badly after the first period, surrendering five goals.

After the game, reporters asked him if he was still dealing with lingering effects from the injury.  Koskinen denied it, saying that he’d just had a bad game.  “If I play better next game, perhaps then you will believe it,” he said.

In tonight’s Game 3, the Finnish-born netminder played one of the best games of his career.  He showed no signs of injury, moving comfortably all around the crease and making 39 saves, including several acrobatic stops.  Thanks to Koskinen’s brilliance in net, the Pistols stole a game on the road, 2-1, against an Anchorage Igloos team that clearly outplayed them for most of the contest.

“Seeing the game happen live, I couldn’t understand how we lost,” said Igloos coach Sam Castor.  “Then I looked at the stat sheet, and I still couldn’t understand it.  But when you’ve got a hot goalie, anything is possible.  And Koskinen was on fire tonight.  I have to tip my hat to him.”

Anchorage looked like a team possessed throughout this contest.  They were buzzing on offense, outshooting Hamilton 40 to 27.  They were just as engaged on defense, blocking an amazing 21 shots compared to just 9 for the Pistols.  But in spite of their dominance, they kept running into a roadblock in the form of Koskinen.

“The way [Koskinen] was stretching out his arms and legs to makes saves, he looked like Inspector Gadget,” said Igloos C Jake Frost, who was held scoreless despite taking 10 shots in the game.  “I couldn’t get it under, over, around, or through him.  It was one of the best performances I’d ever seen.”

The home team came out of the locker room ready to tilt the ice.  They absolutely blitzed the Pistols in the first period, outshooting them 14-5.  And yet somehow when the period was over, Anchorage trailed 1-0 thanks to a fluky goal by Pistols RW Brad Stevens that redirected a couple times before going in.

“After the way we played in the first, we should have had 2 or 3 goals for sure,” said LW Jerry Koons.  “But we just couldn’t solve Koskinen.”

Koskinen made several impressive saves during that first-period barrage, but two in particular stood out.  One came about the midway point of the period, when Igloos C Tom Hoffman got loose on a breakaway and fired a shot ticketed for the upper-right corner of the net, only to be foiled by a great glove save from Koskinen.  A few minutes later, during an extended offensive zone shift, Frost got the puck on his stick with a wide-open net.  But Koskinen managed to flick his right pad out just in time to smother Frost’s bid.

“I already had my arms halfway in the air because I was sure it was in,” said Frost.  “When I realized it wasn’t, I couldn’t believe it.”

In the second period, the Igloos’ frustration mounted as Koskinen continued to stonewall them.  Meanwhile, at the 4:15 mark of the period, LW Magnus Gunnarson scored on a nifty curl and drag to make it a 2-0 game.  Gunnarson’s shot was just the second for Hamilton in the period and their seventh for the game.

Later in the period, the Igloos went on the power play when Pistols D Elvis Bodett was whistled for interference.  In the opening seconds of the man advantage, Frost saw an opening on the short side and whistled a shot toward it.  But Koskinen launched himself over to seal the post and stop the shot, leaving the Anchorage center shaking his head in frustration.

The Igloos finally got on the board with 1:11 left in the second, after Hamilton LW Kelvin Starkey committed a hooking penalty in the neutral zone.  Koons launched a rocket of a shot the Koskinen got a piece of, but couldn’t keep out of the net.

“That was a hallelujah moment for us,” said Koons.  “It was like, ‘Okay, we can actually get it past him!’”  But that was the only puck they would put behind him.

The game took a turn for the physical in the latter stages.  Pistols D Hercules Mulligan and Igloos LW Veikko Sikanen fought late in the second after Mulligan objected to a rough hit that Sikanen put on Stevens in the corner.  In the third, a scrum in front of the Anchorage net turned violent, as poking and jostling turned into face washes and flying fists.  Igloos D Tony Citrone and Pistols C Hilliard Macy received fighting majors as a result of that fracas.

The Igloos and Pistols have gotten in four fights in the last two games, and Hamilton coach Keith Shields indicated that he would ask his team to tone it down.  “We know this is a heavyweight series, but there’s a difference between being physical and being reckless,” said Shields.  “Our guys have stayed on the right side of that line so far, but the last thing I want is for us to see someone important get hurt or suspended because something boils over.  Let’s win this with goals, not fists.”

But even when the game got chippy, Koskinen’s excellence remained the major story.  Anchorage valiantly killed off some third-period penalties, including a 5-on-3 situation that lasted a minute and a half, but they couldn’t come up with the tying goal.  Koskinen wasn’t called upon to make many acrobatic saves down the stretch; instead, he stood tall in net, calmly turning the Anchorage pucks aside.

Game 4 is essentially a must-win for Anchorage.  But they can’t help but ask themselves: given how well they played in this game only to come up short, what do they need to do to get a win?

“If we play tomorrow the way we played today, we should get the win,” said Castor.  “Koskinen can’t stop them all, can he?”

Continue reading “2021 SHL Finals – Game 3”

2021 SHL Finals – Game 2

ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 5, HAMILTON PISTOLS 2

(Series tied, 1-1)

The Anchorage Igloos showed up today humiliated and hungry for revenge.  In Game 1, Anchorage got rattled by the crowd noise and came unglued against the Hamilton Pistols.  For a veteran team that prides itself on its poise in big moments, the meltdown was shocking.  Coming into today’s Game 2, the Igloos were determined to prove that the crowd wasn’t in their heads and that they could win on the road.

The Igloos delivered that message loud and clear, rallying from a first-period deficit and taking charge in the third period on the way to a 5-2 win that evened the Finals at a game apiece.

“This was an important win for us,” said Anchorage C Jake Frost.  “Yesterday was embarrassing for us.  It was critical for us to come out strong today, and show that we aren’t going to fall to pieces just because the fans are screaming.  They can scream and stomp until the roof caves in, and we’ll still get the win on the road.”

It didn’t look like Anchorage would be able to deliver that message after a plodding first period in which Hamilton claimed a 2-0 lead on goals by Ds Hercules Mulligan and Raymond Smyth.  Naturally, the crowd roared, stomped, and aiming singsong chants at the Igloos, in particular goalie Ty Worthington, whom they mocked with cries of “Worth-less, Worth-less.”  In the locker room between periods, the normally even-keeled Frost told his mates, “Let’s go out there and shut those bastards up.”

In Game 1, the Pistols swung the game with a pair of goals scored just seconds apart.  This time, it was the Igloos who struck quickly, with goals just 38 seconds apart in the second period that tied the game.  First, D Laszlo Cierny picked off a pass in the neutral zone and started an odd-man Anchorage rush, which Frost finished by going top shelf on Hamilton goalie Lasse Koskinen.  Shortly thereafter, Frost gathered a puck in his own end and threaded a pass to D Brian Coldivar around center ice.  Coldivar, in turn, tapped it ahead to LW Jerry Koons, who fired a shot past a sprawling Pistols D Elvis Bodett and into the net.

Koons then cupped his hand over his ear and listened for the crowd, responding with mock confusion at their sudden silence.  “Sure was quiet all of a sudden,” said Koons after the game.  “I couldn’t help wondering what happened to all the shouting and taunting,”

The second period ended with the teams still deadlocked at two apiece.  But the visiting team took charge in the final period.  Coldivar struck first, finishing a 3-on-1 rush by beating Koskinen on the short side.  Shortly after that goal, Igloos D Rudolf Kerasov dropped the gloves with Pistols D Clayton Risch, avenging Risch’s first-period donnybrook with D Sebastian Pomfret.  The fight wound up a drew, but it succeeded in firing up the Anchorage bench.

“I usually tell our guys not to throw hands in the playoffs, but Rudi picked a good spot to do it,” said Igloos coach Sam Castor.  “I think that was a turning point in the game for us.”

It took a few minutes for Anchorage to convert that momentum into goals.  But then Koons struck again after getting Koskinen to bite on a beautiful deke before tucking it under the crossbar, for his second goal of the game and his fourth of the series.  RW Jean Pierre Fleury gave the Igloos some insurance with a goal during 4-on-4 play with 5:31 left in the game.

For Koskinen, it was an awkward return after missing Game 1 with a lingering injury.  The Pistols netminder looked sharp in the first period, but seemed to struggle more as the game went on, seeming a bit slow to react on some of the later Anchorage shots.  Koskinen denied that the injury was still hampering him.

“I was 100% for this game, no ill effects,” said Koskinen.  “I just didn’t play very well.  Not a very interesting story, but it’s true.”

Castor hopes his team can capitalize on the momentum from this game as the action shifts to the Great White North for the next three games.  “This is the kind of game we need to play going forward,” said the Igloos coach.  “With a team as strong as [the Pistols], you know they’re going to push back.  But if we can keep playing complete games like this on our home ice, we’ve got an excellent chance.”

Hamilton coach Keith Shields, meanwhile, believes his team can shake off this loss.  “This one was a disappointment for us, definitely,” Shields told reporters.  “But we weren’t expecting to win this one in a sweep.  Now we need to go up to Anchorage and win one there just like they did here.  I have no doubt our guys can do that.”

Continue reading “2021 SHL Finals – Game 2”

2019 CHL All-Star Rosters

The day after the SHL’s All-Star Game, their minor league will be holding its second annual All-Star contest.  The game will take place at Wasatch Arena, home of the Utah Owls. The rosters for the game, along with each player’s current stats, are below.

WEST ALL-STARS

Coach: Patrick Chillingham (Minnesota)

 

First Line

LW: Veikko Sikanen, Omaha (16 G, 19 A, 35 Pts, 42 PIM, +16)

D: Rodney Black, Idaho (19 G, 10 A, 29 Pts, 10 PIM, +6)

C: Dale Wilcox, Idaho (13 G, 25 A, 38 Pts, 16 PIM, +16)

D: Brady Prussian, Idaho (15 G, 13 A, 28 Pts, 16 PIM, +6)

RW: Adriaen van der Veen, Omaha (16 G, 23 A, 39 Pts, 6 PIM, +16)

 

Second Line

LW: Terry Cresson, Idaho (11 G, 22 A, 33 Pts, 16 PIM, +16)

D: Laszlo Cierny, Minnesota (6 G, 19 A, 25 Pts, 46 PIM, +2)

C: Foster Culp, Colorado Springs (16 G, 16 A, 32 Pts, 12 PIM, Even)

D: Lowell Sharkey, Omaha (4 G, 19 A, 23 Pts, 12 PIM, +8)

RW: Harris Wondolowski, Utah (15 G, 24 A, 39 Pts, 18 PIM, +2)

 

Third Line

LW: Gabriel Swindonburg, Milwaukee (19 G, 10 A, 29 Pts, 34 PIM, -4)

D: Trevor Lockwood, Omaha (12G, 14 A, 26 Pts, 29 PIM, +11)

C: Lloyd “Goofy” Banjax, Utah (13 G, 19 A, 32 Pts, 10 PIM, -6)

D: Craig Werner, Utah (7 G, 17 A, 24 Pts, 12 PIM, +2)

RW: Joel Hagendosh, Colorado Springs (13 G, 20 A, 33 Pts, 63 PIM, -13)

 

Goalies

Hobie Sanford, Milwaukee (7-8-3, 2.02 GAA, .931 save %)

Curt Freeze, Minnesota (12-8-1, 2.07 GAA, .924 save %)

 

EAST ALL-STARS

Coach: Jeffrey “Swampy” Marsh (Virginia)

 

First Line

LW: Alan Youngman, Baltimore (18 G, 22 A, 40 Pts, 22 PIM, +17)

D: Ambroz Melicar, Baltimore (11 G, 25 A, 36 Pts, 10 PIM, +2)

C: Tucker Barnhill, Baltimore (17 G, 30 A, 47 Pts, 24 PIM, +17)

D: Elvis Bodett, Oshawa (14 G, 8 A, 22 Pts, 19 PIM, +12)

RW: Steve Brandon, Cleveland (19 G, 12 A, 31 Pts, 24 PIM, +2)

 

Second Line

LW: Yuri Laronov, Virginia (16 G, 15 A, 31 Pts, 16 PIM, -5)

D: Teddy Morrison, Maine (8 G, 13 A, 21 Pts, 14 PIM, Even)

C: Hilliard Macy, Oshawa (15 G, 18 A, 33 Pts, 12 PIM, +15)

D: Casimir Druzek, Virginia (2 G, 20 A, 22 Pts, 27 PIM, -4)

RW: Sidney Archer, Baltimore (15 G, 16 A, 31 Pts, 2 PIM, +17)

 

Third Line

LW: Marty “Fish” Pescatelli, Hartford (12 G, 16 A, 28 Pts, 39 PIM, -9)

D: Roscoe “Ruckus” Corbetta, Virginia (6 G, 12 A, 18 Pts, 70 PIM, -5)

C: Tanner Brooks, Virginia (19 G, 12 A, 31 Pts, 10 PIM, -5)

D: Burton Cullidge, Cleveland (1 G, 15 A, 15 Pts, 42 PIM, -4)

RW: Felix Delorme, Hartford (15 G, 13 A, 28 Pts, 14 PIM, -9)

 

Goalies

Eugene Looney, Cleveland (8-7-0, 1.79 GAA, .925 save %)

Jonathan Crane, Maine (9-9-2, 2.06 GAA, .917 save %)

CHL Update: Wild Third Period Leads to OT Thriller in Oshawa

Fans who showed up at Oshawa’s General Motors Arena on Sunday for a CHL interdivision clash between the Oshawa Drive and the Idaho Spuds probably weren’t expecting anything noteworthy.  The Drive and Spuds have no rivalry to speak of, and on paper, the matchup between Western-division-leading Idaho (14-7-3 coming into the game) and third-place Oshawa (9-12-3 coming in) seemed like mismatch.

Surprisingly, the fans were treated to a thrilling contest, highlighted by a crazy third period in which the home town built a three-goal lead, lost it, and had to head to overtime before finally claiming a 4-3 win.

“That game was just plain bat-[guano] insane,” said Oshawa coach Harvey Williams.  “No other way to put it.’”

Going into the third, it looked like things were going to end well for the home team, despite being outplayed.  Although Idaho outshot Oshawa 23-14 through two, Drive goalie Hector Orinoco was in top form, turning aside every shot and staking his team to a 2-0 lead.

When LW Troy Blackwood went top-shelf on Spuds goalie Guy Laroche to put Oshawa up 3-0 a mere 96 seconds into the third, the crowd was ready to start celebrating its victory.  They began chanting “Start the bus!  Start the bus!” at the dejected Idaho bench.

Spuds coach Gilbert McCoyne saw the crowd’s taunting chant as an opportunity.  “You hear that?  Hear it?” McCoyne barked at his players.  “The folks up in the stands seem to think the game’s over already.  Are you gonna let ‘em get away with that?”

“Hell no!” responded Spuds F Trace Walker.  “Time for us to turn the bus around!”  His teammates thumped their sticks on the ground in approval.

Just over three minutes later, Walker found D Gray Torian with a laser-beam pass in the slot.  Torian tipped the puck past Orinoco’s catching glove to break the shutout.

Unfortunately for the Spuds, they struggled to generate another goal as the minutes ticked off the clock.  With just under six minutes to go and the Drive still up 3-1, the fans began the “Start the bus!” chant again.

“They’re really trying that again?” hollered Walker.  “Time to really make ‘em pay.”

A few seconds later, Walker ripped a shot over Orinoco’s left shoulder to make it 3-2.  Walker skated around with his hand cupped over his ear, but the crowd had fallen quiet.

Just over a minute later, Drive C Albert North tried to draw a penalty, snapping his head back as though Torian had hit him with a high stick.  But eagle-eyed referee Alan Cole wasn’t fooled, and he sent North to the box for embellishment.  Oshawa managed to kill off the penalty, barely, but were unable to get the puck out of their own end.  Idaho kept up the pressure after the penalty expired, as the exhausted Drive desperately tried to hold off the vistors.

Finally, with 15 seconds left, the puck got lost in a scrum in front of the Oshawa net.  It seemed to bounce off a forest of sticks and bodies before winding up on the blade of Spuds D Rodney Black, who jammed it home to tie the game and stun the crowd.

Orinoco slumped on the ice and several Oshawa players slammed down their sticks and looked at the ceiling in frustration.  Williams argued vigorously for a goaltender interference call, to no avail.

The Spuds turned the heckling back on the fans, chanting “Stop the bus!  Stop the bus!” before launching into a round of the nursery rhyme “The Wheels on the Bus” as the fans sat in disconsolate silence.

“I was really proud of the way the boys didn’t give up when it looked bad,” said McCoyne.  “Especially on a long road trip like this, it can be hard to find the energy.  But they found it – thanks to the fans.  Appreciate it!”

At the end of regulation, the Drive filed quietly into their locker room, unsure what had happened.  “It’s like [the Spuds] drove the bus right over us,” said C Pat Collistone.

But with a pep talk from Williams and a crucial opportunity to catch their breath, Oshawa pulled themselves together, and D Elvis Bodett banged home the winning goal 24 seconds into overtime.

“I don’t know if they were trying to give me another heart attack or what,” quipped Williams, who only recently returned to the bench after collapsing on the bench due to cardiac trouble.  “I told ‘em after the game, ‘Don’t do that to an old fart with a bad ticker like me!’”