The hottest rivalry in the SHL right now is clearly the feud between the Hamilton Pistols and the New York Night. Night coach Nick Foster has spent multiple seasons adding fuel to the fire by slinging insults at the Pistols’ arena, their fans, and star Steven Alexander. Foster’s barbs have turned every game between the teams into a grudge match.
Last week, the Night and Pistols tangled for the first time this season at Hamilton’s Gunpowder Armory. It proved to be a wild match full of insults, physical play, and shots galore. In the end, the Night walked away with a 7-6 overtime win, with Foster making sure to twist the knife on his way out of town.
On Sunday, the teams held the rematch at New York’s Neon Sky Arena. It promised to be another feud-filled game. Most observers expected that the Night would have to answer for rookie C Norris Fletcher’s high stick to Alexander’s eye in last week’s game. The Pistols, however, chose not to seek revenge with their fists, but with their sticks, scoring six goals in a frenetic first period on the way to a 10-5 drubbing.
“The Lord reminds us that vengeance is His,” said Pistols coach Keith Shields, “but I have to admit this was pretty sweet.”
When the Pistols took the ice, they were greeted by the sounds of Craig Morgan’s “Redneck Yacht Club,” as well as the jeers of the New York faithful. The cheers and jeers only got louder when Night RW Ivan Trujwirnek scored just 17 seconds into the game. But Hamilton quickly flipped the script. Just 23 seconds after Trujwirnek’s tally, Pistols RW Claude Lafayette found the upper-leftt corner of the net to tie things up. Just over a minute late, LW Magnus Gunnarson drilled a slapper home past night netminder Sherman Carter to give Hamilton the lead.
The frantic firewagon pace of the game continued over the next several minutes, but the scoring hit a temporary lull, as Carter and the Pistols’ Lasse Koskinen both made acrobatic saves. Just over six minutes into the period, C Rod Remington jammed home a rebound to pull back even. That deadlock lasted a mere 11 seconds, though, before Pistols RW Ben Summers stuffed in a wraparound shot to put his team back in the lead.
Just before the midway point of the period, Pistols D Raymond Smyth forced a neutral-zone turnover and started an odd-man rush, which Alexander finished with a shot between Carter’s legs. In the last game, the Pistols star drew a fine for a goal celebration that included a mock round of gunshots at the New York bench. This time, Alexander dropped his stick and skated past the Night bench while taking a deep bow.
Less than a minute after Alexander’s goal, C Marco Venezio made it 5-2 by going top shelf from the slot. D Clayton Risch closed out the scoring for the period with a deflection that a helpless Carter failed to corral.
When the clock struck zero on the opening frame, the Pistols had fired 27 shots at the New York net and scored a half-dozen times. They’d driven Carter out of the game. They’d also rendered the arena utterly quiet.
“We headed down the tunnel and we heard total silence,” said Lafayette. “They were too shocked to even boo us. It was beautiful.”
When the game resumed, a healthy chunk of the crowd did not return. They correctly sensed that the Night were not going to rally. And the Pistols declined to take their foot off the gas, scoring four more times against relief goalie “Jersey Mike” Ross.
The Pistols’ scoring was impressively democratic: their 10 goals were scored by nine different players, with only C Calvin Frye recording more than one. (Frye had a chance at a hat trick during a third-period power play, but he instead passed to Smyth, who beat Ross on the short side.) Every Hamilton player recorded at least one point.
“I think it’s a testament to what a balanced team we are,” said Shields. “We don’t just rely on our stars.” This could be interpreted as a shot at the Night, whose offense revolves around their star-laden top line.
After a pause, Shields added an unambiguous shot: “It’s also a testament to how fired up our whole team was after the last game. Coach Foster is a great motivator, at least for our guys.”
For his part, Foster reacted to the shellacking with humor. “Man, somebody really stuck a bee in their jockstraps, huh? I guess it was mine. I’m honored that I mean so much to them, that they went to all that trouble to whip my [expletive]. Well, congrats, you bastards! We can’t wait to return the favor next time we’re in Tank Town, assuming their barn doesn’t collapse before then.”