2020 SHL Playoff – Game 4

Eastern Division Playoff (Hamilton wins series, 3-1)

HAMILTON PISTOLS 6, HERSHEY BLISS 5 (OT)

There’s nothing quite like playoff overtime hockey.  The exquisite agony flows through the arena, players and fans alike, every time there’s a breakaway, a loose puck, or a shot on goal.  During the overtime of today’s Game 4 of the Eastern finals, there were two instances when a player had the game on his stuck, with the puck and a clear shot at the net.

The first time, Hershey Bliss LW Lance Sweet fired the puck just a hair too high, missing a yawning net by inches and missing his chance to force a winner-take-all Game 5.  The second time, Hamilton Pistols C Calvin Frye dented the twine just inside the left post, giving his team a 6-5 win and earning a trip to the SHL Finals and a shot at becoming the first team ever to win back-to-back Vandys.

“With everything that Calvin’s done for us this season,” said Pistols coach Keith Shields, “it’s only fitting that he got the goal to get us to the Finals.”

Frye’s tally brought and end to a rousing, back-and-forth game that was dominated not by the stars, but rather by the less prominent players on both sides.  The first period ended as a 2-2 deadlock, with both of Hershey’s goals by third-liners (LW Russell Nahorniak and RW Noah Daniels) and Hamilton’s were by third-line LW Jamie Campbell and second-pairing D Albie Glasco.

“It was nice to remind everybody that there’s more to our team than the Love Line,” said Nahorniak.

In the second period, the Bliss seized control of the game with a pair of goals by LW Gabriel Swindonburg and D Steve Cargill.  The crowd at Chocolate Center was delighted, and it looked like a fifth game was a near-certainly.  Unfortunately for the Bliss and their supporters, there were more momentum shifts to come.

The Pistols wiped out Hershey’s lead in the opening minutes of the third period.  First, after Bliss D Wayne Snelling was penalized for tripping, Glasco cashed in on the power play with his second marker of the game.  Just over a minute later, C J.C. Marais corralled a rebound in front of the net and jammed it home to tie the game up.  The defending champs had tilted the ice in their favor, and when Marais scored again with less than eight minute remaining, it looked like they were set to cruise into the Finals.

But the Bliss weren’t giving up.  They kept the pressure on the Pistols.  And with less than two minutes to go, the third line struck again.  The Pistols had the puck in the offensive zone, but Daniels stripped it from Campbell with a perfectly-timed poke check.  He then found Nahorniak, who moved through the neutral zone and fed it back to Daniels.  The winger faked a slapper, then passed back to D Jean-Luc Aubin, who found the back of the net to tie it up and bring the crowd to its feet.  Aubin jumped into the end boards as Daniels and Nahorniak rushed to embrace him.  Suddenly, the Bliss had new life, and the momentum shifted yet again.

That brought us to overtime, and about two and a half minutes in, Pistols goalie Lasse Koskinen made a tremendous save but left a juicy rebound.  The puck squirted over to Sweet, who had a wide-open net and no defenders in his way.  Sweet wound up, cracked a booming slapshot… and it sailed just above the net.

“I think I was pressing a bit,” said Sweet after the game.  “We [on the top line] hadn’t done much all game, and this was my chance to redeem myself.  And I just put too much mustard on it.”

And when, a couple minutes later, Swindonburg was penalized for holding the stick.  Frye promptly won the faceoff, and after the Pistols whipped a few crisp passes around, it came back to Frye, who buried the game-winning goal, plunging the Bliss and their fans into despair and sending his Hamilton teammates to the heights of ecstasy.

“Games like this give you a chance to measure yourself,” said Shields.  “Can you survive the pressure, the screaming fans, the weight of the moment?  Our character has been revealed with fire, and the fire has tested the quality of our work.  What we have built survives, and the Finals are our reward.”

“In the playoffs, every game is a test of our camaraderie and bravery,” said Frye.  “And we passed with flying colors.”

Meanwhile, the Bliss dealt with the bitter disappointment of being eliminated by Hamilton for the second year in a row.  “Not the ending we were hoping for, definitely,” said coach Chip Barber.  “Our guys played their hearts out, and with a couple different bounces of the puck, this could have been a different series.  But credit where it’s due.  Those guys in the other locker room are really good and they don’t make it easy on you.  They earned this.”

E Final - Gm 4, Hamilton @ Hershey, Chocolate Center

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hamilton           2   0   3    1   6
Hershey            2   2   1    0   5

Hamilton              SH   G   A PTS BLK PIM +/-   Hershey               SH   G   A PTS BLK PIM +/-

Lafayette       RW     5   0   0   0   2   0   0   Milton          D      4   0   0   0   3   0   0
Frye            C     11   1   0   1   0   0   0   Sweet           LW     3   0   0   0   3   0   0
Alexander       LW     4   0   0   0   0   0   0   Hart            RW     2   0   0   0   1   0   0
Mulligan        D      2   0   1   1   1   5   0   Aubin           D      2   1   0   1   1   0   0
Risch           D      1   0   2   2   2   2   0   Valentine       C      3   0   0   0   1   0   0
Smyth           D      1   0   2   2   0   0  -1   Kirkpatrick     C      0   0   2   2   1   0  +1
Summers         RW     2   0   2   2   0   0  -1   Cargill         D      4   1   0   1   0   0  +1
Venezio         C      1   0   1   1   0   0  -1   Meloche         D      1   0   0   0   2   0  +1
Campbell        LW     2   1   1   2   1   0  -1   Swindonburg     LW     3   1   1   2   0   0  +1
Hampton         D      1   0   0   0   0   5   0   Montrechere     RW     4   0   1   1   1   0  +1
Marais          C      7   2   0   2   0   0   0   Ketterman       C      0   0   0   0   0   2   0
Glasco          D      7   2   0   2   2   0  -1   Daniels         RW     4   1   2   3   1   2   0
Patterson       RW     3   0   1   1   0   0   0   Nahorniak       LW     5   1   2   3   0   2   0
Jennings        F      2   0   1   1   0   0   0   Minnik          D      0   0   1   1   0  10   0
Klemmer         D      0   0   1   1   2   0   0   Snelling        D      0   0   0   0   0   2   0
------------------------------------------------   ------------------------------------------------
TOTALS                49   6  12  15  10  12  -1   TOTALS                35   5   9  14  14  18   1

Coach: Keith Shields                               Coach: Chip Barber                              

Scratches:
HAM:  Bodett (INJ), Pedersen, Winston (INJ), Gunnarson (DL)
HSY:  Kulkarov, Kilborn, Lapointe

Hamilton            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Koskinen            35    30    5  0.857

Hershey             SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Adamsson            49    43    6  0.878


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

GOALS:
00:05  HAM  Campbell (Risch, Summers)
02:22  HSY  Daniels PP (Nahorniak, Kirkpatrick)
03:06  HAM  Glasco PP (Venezio, Campbell)
05:28  HSY  Nahorniak (Daniels)

PENALTIES:
01:01  HAM  Risch 2:00 (Tripping)
03:01  HSY  Daniels 2:00 (Roughing)
15:24  HSY  Ketterman 2:00 (Hooking)

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

GOALS:
02:12  HSY  Swindonburg (Minnik, Kirkpatrick)
04:49  HSY  Cargill (Montrechere, Swindonburg)

PENALTIES:
03:56  HSY  Minnik 5:00 (Fighting)
03:56  HAM  Hampton 5:00 (Fighting)

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

GOALS:
02:33  HAM  Glasco PP (Risch, Summers)
03:47  HAM  Marais (Jennings, Smyth)
12:10  HAM  Marais (Patterson, Klemmer)
18:05  HSY  Aubin (Daniels, Nahorniak)

PENALTIES:
00:55  HSY  Snelling 2:00 (Tripping)
03:52  HSY  Nahorniak 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)
04:10  HSY  Minnik 5:00 (Fighting)
04:10  HAM  Mulligan 5:00 (Fighting)

Overtime
--------

GOALS:
05:22  HAM  Frye PP (Smyth, Mulligan)

PENALTIES:
05:07  HSY  Swindonburg 2:00 (Holding the Stick)


SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hamilton          22  11  11    5  49
Hershey           13   9  10    3  35

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

Hamilton         3 for 5
Hershey          1 for 1

INJURIES
--------

None

 

Western Division Playoff (Anchorage wins series, 3-1)

ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 4, PORTLAND BLUEBACKS 1

Yesterday’s game didn’t sit right with the Anchorage Igloos.  It wasn’t just the fact that the Portland Bluebacks routed them 8-4 and denied them a shot at a sweep.  It was the way the Bluebacks spent much of the third period, with the outcome of the game certain, chirping and taunting the Igloos.  Sure, Portland must have enjoyed dominating in a must-win game.  But it was the first time in six postseason tried that the Bluebacks had managed to beat Anchorage.  The Igloos are four-time SHL Finalists and two-time champions; the Bluebacks have never won a playoff series.  Where did they get off talking trash as though they’d just won the Vandy?

Several of the Anchorage players made clear in their postgame interviews that they weren’t pleased with Portland’s display.  But surprisingly, the most upset Igloos player of all was reportedly LW Les Collins, the famously quiet and self-contained star.

“Man, you should have seen Les after that game!” said C Jake Frost, laughing at the memory.  “We were all pretty pissed off, but Les was spitting fire!  He was like, ‘We need to go shove it up their [behinds]!  Let’s go stomp them and grind their faces into the ice!’  And we were kind of like, ‘Dude, you need to reel it in!’  I’ve never seen him spun up like that before.  It was awesome!”

Asked about Frost’s account of his remarks, Collins smiled smightly and said, “That’s not what I remember.”  So how did he really feel about Portland’s taunting?  “I didn’t appreciate it.”

Whether or not Collins really raged in the locker room, he registered his displeasure with his play, scoring twice to lift the Igloos to a 4-1 victory and a Finals rematch with Hamilton.

“Les doesn’t do a lot of talking, but he definitely knows how to lead by example,” said Anchorage coach Sam Castor.  “Today, he carried the team through in a big way.”

Collins got Anchorage on the board first during a first-period power play.  When Igloos D Tony Citrone pinched along the board to thwart an attempted Bluebacks clear, Collins broke hard to the net.  Citrone fired a perfect pass to him, but as he pivoted toward the net, Bleubacks D Benny Lambert closed in for a brutal open-ice check.  Collins didn’t flinch, firing the puck into the upper right corner of the net and absorbing Lambert’s hit.  The Igloos winger popped to his feet, pumped his fists and screamed, then pointed at the Portland bench – a rare display of on-ice emotion.

“We kind of had the sense at that point that we were in for a long night,” said Bluebacks RW Vince Mango.

Ninety seconds after Collins’ inspirational goal, Citrone banged one home to double the home team’s lead.  Was it a coincidence that the Igloos would up celebrating directly in front of the visiting bench?

“Let’s just say that we didn’t mind,” said Citrone.

When LW Jerry Koons banged home a power-play score in the latter half of the second period to make it a 3-0 game, the party began at Arctic Circle.  Feeling confident of victory, the fans rose to their feet and remained standing for the rest of the game.

The Bluebacks finally broke Ty Worthington‘s shutout bid five minutes into the third period, when C Napoleon Beasley went five-hole for a power play goal.  If that raised a flicker of hope for Portland, though, Collins came along to slam the door and put an exclamation point on the Igloos’ victory.  D Olaf Martinsson fired a head-man pass to Collins, and the winger sailed down the ice, slicing past the Portland defenders and bearing down on the net, where he went bar-down to make it 4-1.

This time, Collins dropped to his knees and spun around, then jumped back up and raced up the ice.  As he past the Portland bench, he waved goodbye to the team he had just vanquished.  Mango bent his head back and stared at the rafters in silent frustration.

“I’ll say this,” said Mango.  “When [the Igloos] decided they wanted to stick it to us, they sure knew how to do it.  I won’t forget this anytime soon.”

As soon as the clock hit zero, Koons and Frost grabbed Collins, lifted him on their shoulders, and took him for a victory lap.  The winger thrust his arms in the air and soaked in the adulation.

“I know everybody thinks we’re over the hill,” said Frost.  “But we’ve been in the trenches and earned a lot of valuable experience, and that really pays off this time of year.”

Bluebacks coach Harold Engellund was disappointed in the outcome, but praised his team’s effort.  “I really thought this was going to be our year,” Engellund told reporters.  “But that’s a really tough team over there, and we just couldn’t just past them.  I’m proud of what we accomplished this season.  Just wish it hadn’t ended so soon.”

W Final - Gm 4, Portland @ Anchorage, Arctic Circle Arena

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Portland           0   0   1        1
Anchorage          2   1   1        4

 
Portland              SH   G   A PTS BLK PIM +/-   Anchorage             SH   G   A PTS BLK PIM +/-

Costello        C      3   0   0   0   0   0   0   Keefe           D      2   0   1   1   2   0   0
Mango           RW     5   0   0   0   0   0   0   Ericsson        RW     1   0   1   1   1   0   0
Fairwood        D      3   0   0   0   0   2   0   Koons           LW     2   1   0   1   0   0   0
Lidjya          D      0   0   1   1   2   0   0   Frost           C      4   0   0   0   0   0   0
Gaspard         LW     3   0   0   0   0   2   0   Pomfret         D      5   0   0   0   0   4   0
Argent          LW     2   0   0   0   0   2  -1   Kerasov         D      0   0   1   1   1   0  +1
Lambert         D      2   0   1   1   2   0  -1   Hoffman         C      1   0   0   0   0   0  +1
Beasley         C      5   1   0   1   0   0  -1   Collins         LW     2   2   0   2   1   0  +1
Pepper          RW     2   0   0   0   1   0  -1   Citrone         D      4   1   1   2   1   0  +1
Gallagher       D      3   0   0   0   1   2  -1   Zhlotkin        F      1   0   0   0   0   0  +1
Gatecliff       D      2   0   0   0   1   0  -1   Martinsson      D      1   0   1   1   5   2  +1
Durien          RW     2   0   0   0   2   0  -1   Adamczyk        LW     0   0   1   1   0   0  +1
Mortensen       D      2   0   0   0   2   0  -1   Calligan        D      0   0   1   1   0   0  +1
Derringer       C      2   0   0   0   0   0  -1   Bunyakin        C      3   0   0   0   0   0  +1
Bannon          LW     1   0   0   0   0   2  -1   Fleury          RW     5   0   0   0   0   0  +1
------------------------------------------------   ------------------------------------------------
TOTALS                37   1   2   3  11  10  -2   TOTALS                31   4   7  11  11   6   2

Coach: Harold Engellund                            Coach: Sam Castor                               

Scratches:
POR:  McElvern, Hexton, Gauss
ANC:  Kennedy, Dyomin, LaNeige, Miranda (DL)

 
Portland            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Clarkson            31    27    4  0.871

Anchorage           SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Worthington         37    36    1  0.973

 

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

GOALS:
08:12  ANC  Collins PP (Citrone)
09:42  ANC  Citrone (Kerasov, Adamczyk)

PENALTIES:
07:35  POR  Gallagher 2:00 (Tripping)

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

GOALS:
13:03  ANC  Koons PP (Keefe, Ericsson)

PENALTIES:
00:06  POR  Fairwood 2:00 (Elbowing)
08:37  POR  Argent 2:00 (High-sticking)
11:10  POR  Bannon 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)

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

GOALS:
05:13  POR  Beasley PP (Lambert, Lidjya)
06:14  ANC  Collins (Martinsson, Calligan)

PENALTIES:
03:23  ANC  Martinsson 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)
11:08  ANC  Pomfret 4:00 (Spearing)
19:04  POR  Gaspard 2:00 (Roughing)


 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Portland          11  12  14       37
Anchorage         11   8  12       31

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

Portland         1 for 2
Anchorage        2 for 5

 
INJURIES
--------

None

2020 SHL Playoff – Game 3

Western Division Playoff (Anchorage leads, 2-1)

PORTLAND BLUEBACKS 8, ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 4

After suffering two embarrassing losses at home to open this Western final, the Portland Bluebacks had one goal for Game 3.  As RW Vince Mango put it succinctly: “We damn well better win.  We can’t get swept again.”

Mango and the Bluebacks made good on that goal.  They walked into Arctic Circle Arena and not only defeated the Anchorage Igloos, they did it convincingly, by a score of 8-4.  It was a statement win for a team that desperately needed to make a statement, to prove that they could match up with the Igloos in the postseason.

“That was the game we’ve been looking for the last two years,” said Mango.  “That was the dominating performance I knew we had in us.”

The win itself was enough of a statement, but the Bluebacks also flexed their roster depth: Each of their goals was scored by a different player. “That was a really nice touch, I thought,” said coach Harold Engellund.  “People tend to think our team is all about Vince and Eddie [Costello], but there’s so much more to us.”

In fairness, the Igloos put up more of a fight than the final score would indicate.  In spite of the fact that Portland built a 3-0 lead in the first half of the opening period, Anchorage declined to give in.  When Bluebacks D Benny Lambert was penalized for holding the stick, Igloos D Sebastian Pomfret scored on the ensuing power play to break the shutout.  Portland regained their three-goal edge just 20 seconds later on a tip-in by LW Rod “Money” Argent, but then Anchorage struck back again when LW Les Collins caught Portland goalie Jesse Clarkson out of position and buried it in the upper-left corner of the net.  And when C Jens Bunyakin scored 11 seconds into the second period, Anchorage pulled within one goal and the crowd started coming to life.

At that point, Mango called his teammates together to deliver a brief but pointed message.  “Hey, we need this,” Mango shouted.  “Let’s go out and break them.”

And that’s exactly what Portland did.  First, they broke loose on an odd-man rush, which Costello finished by going five-hole on Ty Worthington.  Next, less than a minute later D Woody Fairwood pinched along the board to thwart an attempted Anchorage clear, then passed to fellow blueliner Doron Lidjya, who banked it in off the right post.  Then just over a minute later, RW Philippe Durien stuffed home a wraparound before Worthington could seal off the post.  Suddenly it was 7-3, the crowd was silenced, and Worthington was off to the bench having stopped just 8 of 15 shots, replaced by backup Curt Freeze.

The rest of the game was a formality, with the teams trading goals, but the Igloos weren’t happy with a couple of Portland’s third-period actions.  Durien earned an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taunting the Igloos bench, a performance that involved several obscenities as well as the grabbing of his groin.  Later in the period, in response to some chirping from Anchorage directed at Mango, LW Alphonse Gaspard fired a water bottle in the direction of the home bench, also earning an unsportsmanlike penalty.

“It’s really interesting to me that they hadn’t even won one game yet, and they were already running their mouths,” said LW Jerry Koons.  “Apparently they didn’t think they could let their play do the talking.  You’d better believe that we’re going to make a mental note of that.”

Coach Sam Castor echoed Koons’ sentiments.  “I don’t think we have to worry about finding any motivation for the next game,” he said.  “The Bluebacks were nice enough to take care of that for us.  I really appreciate that.”

W Final - Gm 3, Portland @ Anchorage, Arctic Circle Arena

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Portland           4   3   1        8
Anchorage          2   1   1        4

 
Portland              SH   G   A PTS BLK PIM +/-   Anchorage             SH   G   A PTS BLK PIM +/-

Costello        C      5   1   0   1   1   0  +2   Keefe           D      0   0   1   1   2   2  -4
Mango           RW     3   1   1   2   0   0  +2   Ericsson        RW     2   1   0   1   0   0  -2
Fairwood        D      1   0   3   3   3   0  +4   Koons           LW     2   0   1   1   0   0  -2
Lidjya          D      1   1   2   3   1   0  +4   Frost           C      5   0   1   1   0   0  -2
Gaspard         LW     1   0   1   1   2   2  +2   Pomfret         D      3   1   0   1   2   0  -4
Argent          LW     1   1   0   1   0   0  +2   Kerasov         D      0   0   1   1   2   0   0
Lambert         D      1   0   3   3   3   2   0   Hoffman         C      1   0   1   1   0   0  -2
Beasley         C      5   1   1   2   1   0  +2   Collins         LW     2   1   0   1   1   0  -2
Pepper          RW     3   1   2   3   0   0  +2   Citrone         D      2   0   0   0   0   2   0
Gallagher       D      1   0   0   0   1   0   0   Zhlotkin        F      5   0   0   0   1   0  -2
Gatecliff       D      2   0   0   0   2   0  +1   Martinsson      D      1   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Durien          RW     3   1   1   2   0   2  +1   Adamczyk        LW     2   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Mortensen       D      0   0   0   0   2   4  +1   Calligan        D      4   0   0   0   1   2  -1
Derringer       C      1   1   1   2   0   2  +1   Bunyakin        C      3   1   0   1   0   0  -1
Bannon          LW     1   0   0   0   2   0  +1   Fleury          RW     3   0   1   1   2   2  -1
------------------------------------------------   ------------------------------------------------
TOTALS                29   8  15  23  18  12   5   TOTALS                35   4   6  10  11   8  -5

Coach: Harold Engellund                            Coach: Sam Castor                               

Scratches:
POR:  McElvern, Hexton, Gauss
ANC:  Kennedy, Dyomin, LaNeige, Miranda (DL)

 
Portland            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Clarkson            35    31    4  0.886

Anchorage           SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Worthington         15     8    7  0.533
Freeze              14    13    1  0.929

 

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

GOALS:
05:16  POR  Derringer (Fairwood, Durien)
08:21  POR  Pepper (Lidjya, Fairwood)
10:41  POR  Beasley (Pepper, Lambert)
15:02  ANC  Pomfret PP (Koons, Keefe)
15:22  POR  Argent (Beasley, Pepper)
16:25  ANC  Collins (Hoffman)

PENALTIES:
00:11  POR  Mortensen 2:00 (Tripping)
01:06  ANC  Fleury 2:00 (Slashing)
13:43  POR  Lambert 2:00 (Holding the Stick)

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

GOALS:
00:11  ANC  Bunyakin (Kerasov, Fleury)
01:56  POR  Costello (Mango, Gaspard)
02:54  POR  Lidjya (Fairwood)
04:09  POR  Durien (Derringer, Lambert)

PENALTIES:
04:39  ANC  Calligan 2:00 (Holding the Stick)
12:47  POR  Mortensen 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)

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

GOALS:
00:12  POR  Mango PP (Lambert, Lidjya)
09:58  ANC  Ericsson PP (Frost)

PENALTIES:
00:10  ANC  Citrone 2:00 (High-sticking)
03:32  POR  Durien 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)
08:48  POR  Derringer 2:00 (Roughing)
12:21  POR  Gaspard 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)
17:47  ANC  Keefe 2:00 (Delay of Game)


 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Portland          11   9   9       29
Anchorage         17   8  10       35

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

Portland         1 for 4
Anchorage        2 for 6

 
INJURIES
--------

None

 

Eastern Division Playoff (Hamilton leads, 2-1)

HERSHEY BLISS 4, HAMILTON PISTOLS 3

Justin Valentine is a natural-born leader.  The Hershey Bliss center has that combination of movie-star good looks, natural eloquence, and strong play that makes teammates naturally want to follow him.  And when his team faced a win-or-go-home Game 3 against the defending champion Hamilton Pistols, Valentine came up big, potting a pair of goals – including the game-winner – and contributing an assist to lead his team to a 4-3 win to stave off elimination in the Eastern final.

“Great players want the puck in big moments,” said Bliss coach Chip Barber.  “And Justin always wants the puck in those spots.  Like a good premium chocolate, he’s perfect for every occasion.”

Valentine’s first heroic moment came early in the second period.  Hershey found themselves trailing after the first, despite once again scoring the game’s first goal, a power-play tally by D Steve Cargill.  Tallies by Pistols D Raymond Smyth and LW Steven Alexander quickly put the Bliss behind, and neither the Bliss bench nor the crowd at Chocolate Center wanted to risk a multi-goal deficit.  So when D Jean-Luc Aubin found Valentine in the slot, the center wasted no time going top shelf to tie things up.

“[The Igloos] were beating me up pretty good in front of the crease,” Valentine said, “but I was determined to strike pay dirt there.”

A couple minutes into the third, Valentine threw an impressive check on Pistols C Calvin Frye to relieve him of the puck.  After corraling the biscuit, Valentine through a head-man pass to D Cedric Meloche, who found LW Lance Sweet cutting to the net.  Sweet went glove-side to out Hershey back on top.

“Everybody thinks of Justin as a scorer, but he doesn’t get enough credit for his D,” said Sweet.  “Frye’s a pretty big rig, and that was a big-boy check that Justin put on him.”

Hershey’s bliss was short-lived, as Pistols D Clayton Risch tied things up less than two minutes later.  But Valentine bided his time, waiting for an opportunity to strike again.  When Hamilton RW Claude Lafayette was sent off from cross-checking with less than nine minutes remaining, the captain had his chance.  Hershey was in its standard umbrella formation, with Valentine stationed low near the left post.  Sensing a seam in the Hamilton penalty kill, Valentine signaled Sweet to switch just as Cargill unloaded from the point.  Crossing in front of the net, Valentine was able to redirect into the top left corner of the net as Sweet screened Pistols goalie Lasse Koskinen.  That tip proved to be the winning goal.

“I knew the team needed me to deliver today,” said Valentine.  “Now we just need two more like that.”

Hamilton coach Keith Shields graciously acknowledged Hershey’s strong play, while maintaining confidence in the outcome of the series.  “We figured [the Bliss] would have a game like this in them,” Shields noted.  “They’re too good a team to go down quietly.  But we’ve got two more shots to close this out, and we’re going to do it.”

E Final - Gm 3, Hamilton @ Hershey, Chocolate Center

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hamilton           2   0   1        3
Hershey            1   1   2        4

 
Hamilton              SH   G   A PTS BLK PIM +/-   Hershey               SH   G   A PTS BLK PIM +/-

Lafayette       RW     2   0   0   0   1   2  -1   Milton          D      3   0   1   1   1   2   0
Frye            C      4   0   1   1   2   0  -1   Sweet           LW     5   1   2   3   0   0  +1
Alexander       LW     5   1   0   1   2   0  -1   Hart            RW     2   0   1   1   1   0  +1
Mulligan        D      0   0   1   1   2   0   0   Aubin           D      2   0   1   1   3   0   0
Risch           D      5   1   0   1   1   0   0   Valentine       C      8   2   1   3   0   0  +1
Smyth           D      2   1   1   2   0   2  +1   Kirkpatrick     C      4   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Summers         RW     1   0   0   0   0   0  +1   Cargill         D      2   1   1   2   0   0  -1
Venezio         C      5   0   1   1   0   0  +1   Meloche         D      3   0   1   1   1   0  -1
Campbell        LW     3   0   1   1   0   2  +1   Swindonburg     LW     2   0   0   0   1   0  -1
Hampton         D      3   0   0   0   0   2   0   Montrechere     RW     1   0   0   0   1   0  -1
Marais          C      4   0   0   0   0   0  +1   Ketterman       C      1   0   0   0   1   0  -1
Glasco          D      2   0   0   0   2   0  +1   Daniels         RW     5   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Patterson       RW     1   0   0   0   0   0  +1   Nahorniak       LW     5   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Jennings        F      1   0   1   1   0   0  +1   Minnik          D      2   0   0   0   1   0   0
Klemmer         D      0   0   0   0   0   0   0   Snelling        D      1   0   0   0   5   2   0
------------------------------------------------   ------------------------------------------------
TOTALS                38   3   6   9  10   8   1   TOTALS                46   4   8  12  15   4  -1

Coach: Keith Shields                               Coach: Chip Barber                              

Scratches:
HAM:  Bodett (INJ), Pedersen, Winston (INJ), Gunnarson (DL)
HSY:  Kulkarov, Kilborn, Lapointe

 
Hamilton            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Koskinen            46    42    4  0.913

Hershey             SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Adamsson            38    35    3  0.921

 

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

GOALS:
01:35  HSY  Cargill PP (Sweet, Milton)
02:16  HAM  Smyth (Venezio, Campbell)
05:15  HAM  Alexander (Frye, Smyth)

PENALTIES:
00:57  HAM  Smyth 2:00 (Hooking)

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

GOALS:
01:03  HSY  Valentine (Aubin, Sweet)

PENALTIES:
02:44  HSY  Milton 2:00 (Slashing)

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

GOALS:
02:21  HSY  Sweet (Meloche, Valentine)
03:45  HAM  Risch (Mulligan, Jennings)
11:25  HSY  Valentine PP (Cargill, Hart)

PENALTIES:
05:07  HSY  Snelling 2:00 (Diving)
11:06  HAM  Lafayette 2:00 (Cross-checking)
11:40  HAM  Hampton 2:00 (Tripping)
19:33  HAM  Campbell 2:00 (High-sticking)


 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hamilton          15  11  12       38
Hershey           12  15  19       46

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

Hamilton         0 for 2
Hershey          2 for 4

 
INJURIES
--------

None

Pistols, Bliss Get Goal-Happy in Roller Coaster Third Period

The Hamilton Pistols and Hershey Bliss are battling for supremacy in the East, and they both possess an offensive explosiveness that makes them dangerous.  Hamilton is one of the highest-scoring teams in the league; Hershey doesn’t typically generate quite the same volume of scoring, but their “Love Line” of LW Lance Sweet, C Justin Valentine, and RW Christopher Hart is as potent as any line in the league.

When the Pistols and Bliss squared off on Tuesday at Chocolate Center, they showed just how explosive they can be, combining for seven goals in a dynamite third period that turned a seemingly sleepy game into a roller coaster of an evening.

“I don’t know just what happened there in the third,” said Valentine.  “But it seemed like somebody flipped the fun switch.”

After the first forty minutes, there were no signs of the frenzy to come.  Hamilton led 1-0, with an early second-period tally by RW Ben Summers the lone goal to that point.  Pistols netminder Lasse Koskinen had looked fairly sharp, turning aside all 27 Bliss shots, but he was unaware of what awaited him in the third.

The Bliss went a man to the good in the opening seconds of the third, as Summers went to the sin bin for interference.  Hershey’s power play made the Pistols pay, as Sweet converted on a shot from the slot that sailed over Koskinen’s right shoulder and under the crossbar.  The tally brought the home crowd back to life as Sweet hip-checked the glass before bounding into the arms of his teammates.

“Up to that point, it had felt impossible to get one past Lasse,” said Valentine.  “So Lance’s goal definitely opened the dam for what came later.”

First, though, the home team had to endure a stiff pushback from the visiting Pistols.  Hamilton grabbed control of the game over the next several minutes, and they made that control count.  Their little-heralded bottom line got things going in a big way over the next few minutes.

LW Jamie Campbell, C J.C. Marais, and RW Kenny Patterson worked an extended shift in the Hershey zone, pinching off the boards and thwarting the Bliss attempted to flip the puck back to center ice.  They’d been in the zone for over a minute when Patterson crashed the net, then fired it back to D Clayton Risch at the blue line.  Risch threaded a perfect pass to Marais, who was streaking toward the net and beat Hershey goalie Christien Adamsson on the short side to retake the lead.

Less than a minute later, Marais returned the favor, putting the puck right on the blade of Risch in the high slot.  Risch fired the puck over the glove of a screened Adamsson and into the upper-right corner of the net to take a two-goal advantage.

“One of the things I love about our team is that we can roll all three lines and feel totally comfortable,” said Pistols coach Keith Shields.  “We don’t burn out our top-line guys, and everybody stays sharp and engaged.”

The Pistols’ pressure eased a bit after that, but the Bliss couldn’t mount a sustained counterattack.  And when LW Steven Alexander buried a slapshot from the faceoff circle to make it 4-1, the arena fell into a despondent silence.

Hershey, though, wasn’t about to concede anything.  After they killed off an interference penalty to Hart at mid-period, they tilted the ice in a big way and bombarded Koskinen with shots.  They launched 16 shots over the final eight minutes of regulation, and even Koskinen couldn’t stop them all.

The Bliss began their comeback with seven minutes left in the game, as D Jean-Luc Aubin picked off a lazy Pistols pass and fed fellow blueliner Reese Milton, who fired a blast that deflected of a Hamilton stick and between Koskinen’s pads.  The fluky goal got the crowd back to life, and Milton amped up the energy by swinging his stick over his head like a helicopter.

“I just thought it would be a cool thing to try,” said Milton.

A couple minutes later, Valentine picked up a rebound and found Hart, who stuffed it just inside the right post to make it a 4-3 game.

The final five minutes of regulation were a thrill ride; the fans stood and screamed while Hershey maintained intense pressure and kept up the barrage on the Hamilton net.  Koskinen kept stopping the shots, though, and it looked as though the visitors would escape with a narrow win.

Finally, with 16 seconds remaining, Valentine skated behind the net and lifted a backhand shot over a sprawling Koskinen to tie the game.  Valentine’s teammates mobbed him in front of the crease as the fans somehow shouted even louder.

It seemed inevitable that the Bliss would complete the rally and win in overtime.  But the Pistols used the break between periods to take a breath and gather themselves, and then came out an won it in the extra session on another Summers goal.  The win moved Hamilton six points ahead of Hershey in the East.

“There were some wild swings in this one, but it was a nice statement win for us,” said Shields.  “I think we’re showing that we’re the team to beat, but there’s still plenty of season left.  We have to stay on our toes if we’re going to get back to the postseason.  Fortunately, no one in here is taking anything for granted.”

Continue reading “Pistols, Bliss Get Goal-Happy in Roller Coaster Third Period”

2019 SHL Eastern All-Star Roster

The roster for the Eastern Division in the 2018 SHL All-Star Game, which will be held on Wednesday at New York’s Neon Sky Center, was announced today by coach Martin Delorme.  The selections were as follows:

First Line

LW: Steven Alexander, Hamilton. This year’s Eastern Division voting was dominated by fans of the hosting Night and Alexander’s Pistols.  The teams are fierce rivals, and both fan bases reportedly engaged in ballot-stuffing efforts intended to get their heroes chosen to the starting lineup.  Hamilton’s fans won this one, voting their newly-married star to a starting slot in spite of what by Alexander’s lofty standards is a subpar first half.  He recorded only 30 points (14 goals, 16 assists), although his +10 rating speaks to the success the Pistols have had with him on the ice.  It’s Alexander’s third straight All-Star appearance and his second start.  “This is my chance to rise up,” said Alexander.

D: Dominic Sanchez, New York.  Sanchez has historically been among the SHL’s top offensive defenseman, which has earned him a starting spot each of the last two years.  Thanks to Night fans’ increase in voting, however, the 29-year-old became the top defensive vote-getter for the first time.  New York is having a strong season, and so is Sanchez: his 33 assists are fifth-best in the league, and his 41 points are good for fifth in the SHL.  He’s also sporting a +12 rating, one of the best among league blueliners.

C: Calvin Frye, Hamilton.  The Night-Pistols voting war was most intense at this position; Frye and New York’s Brock Manning were the two top vote-getters at any position.  Frye wound up winning the spot by less than 3,000 votes.  It’s his second straight start and third overall appearance.  As usual, he has the numbers to back it up: his 25 goals are second-most in the SHL, and his 43 points are the league’s third-highest total.  “The fans picked it right,” said Pistols coach Keith Shields.  “Calvin is the best center in this league, bar none.”

D: Reese Milton, Hershey. Milton is the only player not from the Pistols or Night to crack the starting lineup.  He has started every All-Star Game in SHL history, but this is the first time he has been outvoted by Sanchez.  Not only that, he only narrowly held off Hamilton’s Hercules Mulligan for second place.  Milton may have slipped a bit in the voting results, but he remains as strong as ever on the ice.  Only Sanchez has more points than Milton’s 40 among defensemen, and no blueliner in the SHL has more goals than Milton’s 15.

RW: Rick “The Stick” Nelson, New York. Hard as it may be to believe, this is Nelson’s first All-Star appearance.  Granted, his cocky personality has never made him a favorite among fans outside the Big Apple, and his reputation as a selfish one-way player has never endeared him to opposing coaches.  However, Night fans have always loved their star; to them, his arrogance reads as confidence, and his defensive disinterest reads as a laser focus on scoring.  And he’s the best pure scorer in the league so far this season; his 30 goals are tops in the SHL by a healthy margin, and his +10 rating shows that those goals aren’t just empty calories.  “At last, the fans have learned to appreciate my greatness,” said Nelson.

 

Second Line

LW: Chase Winchester, New York.  Winchester may have lost to Alexander in fan voting, but there was no way that the SHL’s leading point man wasn’t going to get a spot on the East roster.  It’s the first time Winchester has gotten an All-Star nod.  He has a reputation as one of the league’s slickest passers, and the stats back it up.  His 46 assists this season are ten ahead of his nearest competitor, and his 54 points are ten ahead of Night teammate Nelson atop the league leaderboard.

D: Jack “Hercules” Mulligan, Hamilton.  The Pistols’ rugged young defensive star has earned notice around the league both for his vicious checks and his surprising facility with the puck.  Among those who’ve noticed is Delorme, who chose Mulligan for his second All-Star trip.  “He is one I wish I had on my team,” the Quebec coach said.  “He is a wrecking ball on skates.”  The Pistols are great at controlling the puck when Mulligan is on the ice, as his +9 rating attests.  His 21 assists attest to the fact that he’s not at all lost on the offensive end.  And his 41 penalty minutes attest to the fact that he’s not a player to mess with.

C: Alain Beauchesne, BostonBeauchesne was the top pick in this year’s draft, and he’s been every bit as good as the Badgers had hoped.  Delorme recognized his sterling performance by making him Boston’s lone All-Star.  Beauchesne follows in the footsteps of teammate Lix Darnholm, who made the Eastern squad as a rookie last season.  Boston may be struggling to perform on offense, but Beauchesne ranks among the league’s best.  The 21-year-old Montreal native is in the top 10 in the SHL with 37 points (14 goals, 23 assists).

D: Clayton “Crusher” Risch, Hamilton.  The 23-year-old Risch makes his All-Star debut sharing a defensive pairing with his Pistols teammate.  Like Mulligan, Risch is known around the league for his hard hits; also like Mulligan, he is better offensively than his reputation would suggest, notching 14 assists and a +6 rating so far on the season.  Risch and Mulligsn anchor a stout Hamilton defense that is allowing the second-fewest shots per game.  “He has the body of a lumberjack,” said Delorme.

RW: Claude Lafayette, Hamilton.  It’s somewhat surprising that Lafayette, Alexander’s close friend and linemate, hasn’t made the All-Star team before this year.  Hamilton’s enthusiastic fanbase couldn’t lift him to a starting spot ahead of Nelson, but Delorme deemed him worthy of a spot.  Like Winchester, he is an elite passer and facilitator; his 29 assists are good for fourth in the SHL.  The normally-reserved Lafayette was thrilled to receive the honor, and vowed a win for the East.  “I’m never gonna stop until I make ‘em drop and burn ‘em up and scatter the remains,”said Lafayette.

 

Third Line

LW: Walt Camernitz, QuebecDelorme picked only two of his own players to the Eastern roster; Camernitz was one of them.  The rugged 31-year-old winger is a favorite of Delorme’s, but it was his strong play that earned him his first All-Star trip.  Camernitz is in the top ten in the league in both points (38) and assists (24).  “Walt is the ideal player in my eyes,” said the Tigres coach.  “He is hard to knock down, and he always gets up again.”

D: Jean-Luc Aubin, Hershey.  Aubin is another first-time All-Star.  The veteran blueliner was something of a surprise selection, as his offensive numbers aren’t eye-popping (4 goals, 11 assists) and he is not known as a particularly rugged defender.  However, he does lead the Bliss in plus-minus rating, with a +13 so far on the season.

C: Eddie Costello, WashingtonCostello, who is the Galaxy’s lone representative in the game, makes his first-ever appearance as an All-Star.  In a disappointing year in the nation’s capital, Costello is certainly a worthy representative, leading the team in points (34) and assists (24).  However, the selection provoked controversy in New York, as Night fans were incensed that Manning didn’t make the team in spite of strong numbers (19 goals, 17 assists, +10 rating).  Delorme responded to the outrage in Gotham with exasperation.  “The rules are that every team must be represented,” said the coach.  “I did not make the rule; I only follow it.”

D: Laurie Workman, Quebec.  Workman joins Camernitz as the Tigres’ only representatives, both chosen by their coach.  It’s the second straight All-Star honor for the sophomore standout.  He’s tracking almost exactly with his performance from his rookie season, recording 18 points (5 goals, 12 assists) and a +7 rating in the first half of the 2019 season.  Delorme said that he might have chosen fellow top-pairing defender Richard McKinley as well, had the rising young star not missed 15 games with an injury.

RW: Christopher Hart, Hershey.  Hart makes his third appearance in the midseason contest.  Unlike the last two years, Hart is the sole member of the Bliss’ “Love Line” to receive All-Star honors.  Hart’s 27 assists place him fifth in the league, and his 36 points are second-best on the Bliss, behind only fellow All-Star Milton.  “Being at the game without my brothers in arms is going to feel weird,” admitted Hart.  “But hey, it means I’ve got bragging rights over them.  Cool!”

 

Goalies

Jesse Clarkson, New York.  The fired-up voters in the host city managed to get one more of their own into the starting lineup, voting Clarkson into the starting slot ahead of Hamilton’s Lasse Koskinen and Quebec’s Riki Tiktuunen.  It’s the first time that Clarkson has been an All-Star, and he doesn’t only owe his spot to the fervor of New York fans.  He’s also having a career year, going 12-9-2 with a 2.62 GAA.  His .930 save percentage is tied for the SHL’s second-highest mark.  Thanks to Clarkson’s heroics in net, the Night are currently in line for a playoff position despite allowing a league-worst 38.75 shots per game.

Lasse Koskinen, Hamilton.  In a mild upset, Delorme passed over his own goalie, Tiktuunen, and instead gave Koskinen his second All-Star nod.  The two Finnish-born netminders have very similar statistics thus far in 2019.  By coincidence, Koskinen has the same 12-9-2 record that Clarkson does; however, he has a superior 2.21 GAA, third-lowest in the league.  His .925 save percentage ranks fourth in the SHL.  According to Delorme, Tiktuunen was not offended by the snub.  “He told me that he preferred the vacation,” the coach noted.