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

 

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SHL Offseason Trade Summary

The following trades took place in the offseason before Season 3:

The Quebec Tigres made a huge deal at the top of the draft after their planned choice went awry.  The Tigres had planned to take scoring winger Rod “Money” Argent with the #2 pick, addressing their major shortcomings on offense.  But after the Seattle Sailors surprisingly drafted Argent with the first pick, Quebec found themselves with no obvious choice.  So they traded down, dealing the #2 pick to the Hamilton Pistols in exchange for the #5 pick, a second-round pick, and D Dmitri Kalashnikov. Hamilton sought the #2 pick in order to grab G Lasse Koskinen, who immediately became the team’s top netminder.  While Quebec did not wind up with an impact player of Argent’s caliber, they traded quality for quantity.  With the #5 pick, they plucked RW Rupert MacDiarmid, who put up 15 goals and 39 points in juniors last year.  In Kalashnikov, the Tigres added an elite and ferocious defender, whose 109 penalty minutes were the second-most in the SHL last season.  The Tigres used the second-round selection to nab D Hal Pugliese, who took Penn Tech to the NCAA tournament three times in his collegiate career.

The Dakota Jackalopes also dealt a first-round pick, sending the #6 selection to the New York Night along with C Phil Miller in exchange for C Mike Rivera.  The trade represents a bold gamble for both teams.  For Dakota, adding Rivera augments their high-flying offense, as the Jackalopes attempt to catch up with their division rivals in Michigan and Anchorage.  Last season, Rivera banged home 23 goals and collected 39 points with New York. He is expected to anchor Dakota’s second line this year.  For New York, the trade reflects new coach Nick Foster’s desire to build a more balanced club.  Although Rivera was a strong contributor on offense, he is widely considered a defensive liability.  Miller, who put up 18 goals and 30 points between Saskatchewan and Dakota in ’16, is regarded as more of a two-way player.  With the sixth pick, the Night grabbed goaltending prospect Sherman Carter, who recorded a 2.27 GAA and a .930 save percentage in juniors last season.  In addition to drafting Carter, New York signed the top free-agent netminder, Jesse Clarkson, to complete an overhaul of one of their weakest positions.

After the draft, the Night made a pair of deals aimed at improving their third line.  First, they swapped G Oliver Richardson to the Saskatchewan Shockers for the rights to G Hector Orinoco, then sent Orinoco’s rights along with F Dill Howlter to Hamilton for winger Andrei Volodin.  Richardson, who posted a 6-10-0 mark with a 4.37 GAA for New York last season, became expendable after the Night drafted Carter and signed Clarkson.  He represents an upgrade for the Shockers, who have struggled to find a solid backup for Zeke Zagurski since the league’s inception.  Orinoco played last season in the German league, where he record a 17-11-2 record with a 3.06 GAA.  He will likely spend the season in the minors for Hamilton, barring an injury.  The 25-year-old Volodin should bring a little extra scoring punch to New York’s third line.  He scored 18 goals and 34 points for Hamilton in the 2016 season.  The 20-year-old Howlter failed to record a point in 9 games for New York last season.

The Washington Galaxy sent longtime backup goalie Gus Parrish to the Seattle Sailors in exchange for F Yann Eberlein.  The deal was a bit disappointing for the fans, as Parrish was a beloved figure in Washington, adored for his boyish enthusiasm and flair for colorful quotes.  Last season, Parrish went 7-6-0 with a 3.21 GAA as the Galaxy defended their Eastern Division title.  But after Washington signed free agent Ron Mason in the offseason, Parrish found himself without a job.  Eberlein struggled in limited action with the Sailors last year, recording 2 goals and 7 points in 34 games.  Washington hopes that the 25-year-old Swiss forward can provide a solid presence off the bench.  The Galaxy suffered from poor third-line and bench production last season, as rookies Henry Van Alpin, Barry Sullivan, and Oliver Wallington all turned in disappointing campaigns.

The Jackalopes and the Hershey Bliss made a minor deal just before the start of the season, swapping bottom-pairing defensemen.  Dakota sent Pierre Chappelle to Hershey in exchange for Scott Hexton.  The Jackalopes were looking to strengthen their blueline corps a bit, and Hexton (3 goals, 12 points last season) grades out as an above-average defender.  On the other hand, the Bliss were looking to enhance their offensive production beyond their loaded top line.  Chappelle (5 goals, 20 points last year) provides an upgraded scoring threat relative to Hexton.  The 28-year-old Montreal native is on his third team in as many seasons; Dakota picked him up from Hamilton during last offseason.