In the wake of today’s Game 6, the Anchorage Igloos‘ locker room was completely silent. After being thoroughly outplayed by the Quebec Tigres and defeated 3-0, after seeing their 3-0 series lead slip away entirely, after seeing the momentum of these Finals shift away from them, the Igloos stared at the floor and tried to process what had happened. The team that was expecting to be hoisting its second Vandy by now, and the outcome of this game left them reeling.
“What we showed out there tonight isn’t us,” said C Jake Frost. “If we can’t put out a better effort than that, we should just go give [the Tigres] the trophy right now.”
“We have no one to blame but ourselves for letting it get this far,” said coach Sam Castor.
From the drop of the puck, Anchorage looked confused and ill at ease. The orange-clad crowd at Centre Citadelle generated a tremendous roar, and it clearly fueled the hometown Tigres. Quebec completely dominated the first period, outshooting the Igloos 15-5. “It felt like we were just stuck in quicksand out there,” said LW Jerry Koons.
Given how thoroughly Quebec controlled play in the period, it’s a bit remarkable that they ended the period with only a one-goal lead. RW Sindri Pentti, who started the game on a hunch by coach Martin Delorme, put the puck in the next only 13 seconds in. But Anchorage goalie Ty Worthington made a number of acrobatic saves to keep the game from getting out of hand.
Unfortunately, Worthington couldn’t hold the fort forever. Less than two minutes into the second period, Quebec D Dmitri Kalashnikov blasted a shot from the blue line that bounced off the crossbar. The Igloos goalie couldn’t corral the rebound, and RW Flint Robinson stuffed it home for a 2-0 lead.
“Steel is great at parking himself in front of the net and cleaning up the garbage,” said Tigres D Ward Jones. “That’s the kind of rugged, hard-working game that we play.”
Although Quebec didn’t dominate play to quite the same extent in the second, they did manage to control the pace of the game with their suffocating defense. Once again, they held Anchorage to a mere five shots in the period.
“Ten shots is a slow period for us typically,” said Frost. “To get only ten shots in two periods? That’s unheard of for us. They just completely bottled us up.”
Continuing their pattern of early-period strikes, Tigres C Phil Miller beat Worthington high on the glove side with two minutes gone in the third to give the home team a three-goal lead and send the home crowd into orbit. “I thought they maybe would cheer enough for the roof to fall down,” said C Drustan Zarkovich.
The desperate Igloos were finally able to generate some offensive momentum in the third; they ripped off 11 shots in the period. But Quebec goalie Riki Tiktuunen stood firm in the crease, calmly turning aside every blast; when all was said and done, he had stopped 21 shots to complete his second shutout of the series. Even when Tigres D Laurie Workman committed a pair of late penalties to give unwitting aid to the visitors, the Igloos were unable to convert.
“We didn’t really find our game until the third, and by then it was too late,” said Koons.
Now, if the Igloos are going to claim the Vandy they’d assumed was theirs, they will need to erase the memory of the Tigres’ three-goal third period in Game 5 to secure a come-from-behind win, and they’ll need to forget the way they were manhandled in this game. “We need to remember that we’re the better team, and we need to play like it,” said Frost.
For their part, the Tigres say they aren’t going to take a Game 7 victory for granted, either. “Momentum disappears the minute the puck is dropped,” said Delorme. “Tomorrow is a one-game series, and we must treat it that way. What came before is only the prologue to the story.”