Zarkovich’s “Happy Dance” Injury Dampens Tigres’ Victory

The playoff battle in the east is still a four-team race, but the Quebec Tigres have fallen behind the pack in recent weeks.  The defending division champs struggled with injuries throughout the season.  They made a bold move to acquire D Matt Cherner from Dakota at the deadline; he has produced, but has not single-handedly lifted Quebec back to contention.

On Sunday, the Tigres got a much-needed decisive win, pounding the Saskatchewan Shockers by a 6-0 score.  The win completed a sweep of a home-and-home series with the Shockers, and helped Quebec keep pace with the Hershey Bliss and Hamilton Pistols, both of whom also won that night.

Drustan Zarkovich

But in keeping with the Tigres’ luck this season, the win came at a price, as C Drustan Zarkovich went down with an injury.  Worse yet, his injury didn’t come from a hard check or any part of the game; rather, it stemmed from an overenthusiastic postgame celebration.

Naturally, the mood was jubilant in the Quebec locker room after the game.  D Laurie Workman got the party started by blasting Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” on the speaker in his locker.  The song is one of Zarkovich’s favorites, and he jumped up and began to dance with the music.

“We win big time and I score a goal, so I feel happy,” said Zarkovich.  “And I feel like I want to do my happy dance.”

According to reports from inside the locker room, Zarkovich’s dance wasn’t a model of physical grace, but it was enthusiastic, and his teammates began clapping and cheering along (at least those who weren’t diving for cover).  Egged on by the reaction, the center’s dance moves became wilder and he began making wider circles around the room.

In the midst of the jubilation, however, Zarkovich reportedly stepped on a stool and went down in a heap.  He was later diagnosed with a sprained ankle.

“I cannot believe it,” said Zarkovich.  “I sprain my ankle doing my happy dance?  This is the worst luck.  The world must hate me.”

When asked about Zarkovich’s injury, Tigres coach Martin Delorme pinched the bridge of his nose and paused for several moments before responding.  “This was not what we needed right now,” said Delorme.  “Zarko is a very… colorful person.  There are other words I am trying not to use.  I wish I could say that this could happen to anyone, but really, it could happen only to him.”

The center missed the rest of Quebec’s games this week and will reportedly miss next week’s as well, but the team hopes he will be ready to return to action after that.  “Unless he steps in a hole or falls off of his pogo stick or something similar,” Delorme said.  “I think perhaps we should cover him in bubble wrap when he is off the ice.”

Continue reading “Zarkovich’s “Happy Dance” Injury Dampens Tigres’ Victory”

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.

2018 SHL Finals – Game 7

ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 4, QUEBEC TIGRES 3

There were several points this season when it appeared that the Anchorage Igloos would fail in their quest for their second Vandy.  The team hovered around the .500 mark for much of the season.  Coach Sam Castor called his club out for a lack of effort at one point.  Even as late as the trading deadline, it wasn’t clear whether the Igloos would be able to hold on to a playoff spot.

Anchorage finished the season strong, however, and seemed prepared to rampage through the postseason.  They swept the Michigan Gray Wolves in the division playoff, then won three straight in the Finals to push the Quebec Tigres to the brink.  But in one final, cruel twist of fate, they proceeded to lose three straight to Quebec to even the series, leaving it up to a winner-take-all Game 7 at Centre Citadelle.

“I suppose we could have made it harder on ourselves,” said C Jake Frost, “but I’m not sure how.”

Fortunately, Anchorage was up to the challenge.  In a game for the ages, the Igloos rallied from behind twice with the help of some unlikely faces and squeezed out a 4-3 victory, becoming the first two-time SHL champion.

“We really went through hell to get here,” said Castor, “but that makes the victory so much sweeter.”

After being manhandled by the Tigres in Game 6, the Igloos needed to get their offense back on track in this contest.  They got off to a decent start in the first period, outshooting Quebec 11-8, but they couldn’t get one past goalie Riki Tiktuunen.  Worse yet, Castor sensed that some of his stars – particularly Frost and RW Nicklas Ericsson – were pressing a bit.

“We were definitely playing tight out there early,” said the Anchorage coach.  “I knew we needed to do something to shake things up.”

To top it all off, D Tony Citrone was penalized in the first couple minutes of the game for a slashing call that the Igloos considered highly questionable.  On the ensuing power play, Tigres RW Stephane Mirac deflected a knuckling puck just inside the post to give the home team a 1-0 lead that stood up through period’s end.

Heading into the second, Castor decided to take a gamble.  The Igloos coach decided to give more ice time to their bottom line of LW Waldo Miranda, C Harvey Bellmore, and RW Broni Zhlotkin.  That group earned themselves the nickname “The Circus Squad” both because of their penchant for practical jokes and their tendency to make on-ice mistakes.  Castor tends to limit their shifts for that reason, but he gambled that their goofy nature might be an advantage in a high-pressure game like this.

“I figured they were too dumb to get scared,” said the Igloos coach.

Castor’s hunch paid off in a big way.  Two and a half minutes into the second period, during an extended offensive shift, Bellmore drifted close to the net and redirected a shot from D Olaf Martinsson over Tiktuunen’s right pad to tie the score at 1.

The deadlock lasted less than a minute, however, as D Laurie Workman fired a slapshot that beat a screened Ty Worthington to put Quebec back in front.

Castor’s solution?  Put the Circus Squad right back out there.  And just 16 seconds after Workman’s tally, Bellmore went top-shelf on Tiktuunen to tie the score back up.  To celebrate his offensive explosion, Bellmore beat his chest and let out a Tarzan scream.

“Sometimes, you just need to send the nutcases out there,” said Castor.

Later on in the period, LW Jerry Koons got the top line on the board, finishing a breakaway by beating Tiktuunen on the glove side and giving the Igloos their first lead of the game.

“We couldn’t let the bottom line do all the work,” quipped Koons.

The Igloos weren’t quite out of the woods yet.  A minute and a half into the third period, Mirac fired a laser past Worthington for his second goal of the game, tying the score.  Once again, the Circus Squad came to the rescue.  Bellmore, trying for a hat trick, fired a shot that wound up in a scrum in front of the net.  The puck wound up bouncing to Miranda, who fed it over to Zhltokin.  The rugged winger wrestled free of his defender and slapped it home to put the Igloos ahead for good.

“If anyone predicted that Broni Zhlotkin was going to get the goal that won the Finals, I want to meet that guy,” said Castor.  “He and I are going down to the racetrack.”

Anchorage still had to weather a couple of late Quebec rushes, but Worthington was on duty and kept the Tigres from tying the score.  With about two minutes left in the game, Mirac skated behind the net and tried a wraparound shot, but Worthington got over in the nick of time and deflected it with his skate blade.

The postgame handshake line was far from the usual perfunctory routine.  Players on both side squeezed each other’s arms, thumped chests, and even hugged.  It was a gesture of mutual respect between a pair of worthy adversaries who expect to see each other again in a situation like this.

“Quebec gave us everything we could handle,” said Castor.  “Stephane and his team deserve a ton of credit.  We got the Vandy this time, but I’m sure they’ve got one ahead of them.”

For his part, Tigres coach Martin Delorme kept his focus on the future.  “We learned a lot of lessons here that will serve us well,” Delorme told reporters.  “We faced a great team and nearly beat them.  I cannot wait for next season.”

Continue reading “2018 SHL Finals – Game 7”

2018 SHL Finals – Game 6

QUEBEC TIGRES 3, ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 0

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.”

Continue reading “2018 SHL Finals – Game 6”

2018 SHL Division Playoff – Game 3

Western Division Series

ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 5, MICHIGAN GRAY WOLVES 1

Even though the Anchorage Igloos won the first two games of their best-of-five series against the Michigan Gray Wolves on the road and were all but certain to advance to the SHL Finals, C Jake Frost had one message for his teammates before today’s Game 3.  “I want us to go out and take care of business tonight,” Frost said.  “There’s a damn good team over in the other locker room, and we shouldn’t give them a chance to get back in it.  Let’s end it now.”

End it the Igloos did, and in blowout fashion.  They shelled Wolves goalie Dirk Lundquist – Frost, who scored twice, led the way – and came away with a 5-1 win, completing a stunning sweep that few would have predicted before the series began.

“They were geared up for a fight, and we weren’t,” said Michigan RW Oskar Denison.  “They ran us right off the ice.”

Throughout the series, Anchorage thrived by playing at a faster pace than Michigan could handle.
In Game 3, the Wolves were determined to prevent the first-period ambush that they’d suffered in the first two contests.  They succeeded in limiting the Igloos to 12 shots in the period, and emerged with a scoreless tie – the first time all series that they didn’t trail after the opening stanza.

“We hadn’t let them tilt the ice on us,” Wolves C Warren Marlow said of the first period.  “But we knew we needed to go out and score a couple, and seize the momentum.”

Unfortunately for Michigan, the Igloos quickly turned the tide in their favor in the second period.  About three minutes in, LW Les Collins won the race for a loose puck at center ice, and he and RW Remi Montrechere sped up the ice on a breakaway.  Montrechere finished the rush with a beautiful shot in the upper right corner of the net to make it 1-0.

“That goal was huge,” said Igloos coach Sam Castor.  “It lit up the crowd, lit up our bench, got everybody going.”

A few minutes later, the Anchorage third line – which tormented the Wolves all series – struck again.  They set up an extended shift in the offensive zone and ran Michigan ragged.  After almost two full minutes of zone time, LW Waldo Miranda buried a slapper for a two-goal lead.

The frustrated Wolves took a couple penalties in quick succession.  They killed off the ensuing 5-on-3 situation, but struggled to get the puck out of their own end.  Finally, Frost fired a bullet that deflected off of Lundquist’s glove and into the net, giving Anchorage a 3-0 advantage.  The fans at Arctic Circle Arena began serenading Lundquist’s name as a sing-song taunt.

“You could just see [the Wolves’] heads sagging on the bench after that,” said Frost.  “I think we broke them right there.”

It was bad enough that Michigan coach Ron Wright considered pulling his elite netminder.  “I wanted to spare him,” said the coach.  “But I knew that yanking him would basically be waving the white flag, and I wasn’t going to do that.”

Lundquist stayed in the game, and three minutes into the third, Frost beat him again on a deflection that went under his blocker.

“I failed my teammates, in this game and in this series,” said the Wolves goaltender.  “My team needed me to be at my best, and I wasn’t.”

The Wolves finally played with speed and desperation after that, but it was far too late.  RW Benoit Poulin finally broke the shutout midway through the third, pushing the puck over the goal line after a scrum in front of the crease.  But Igloos RW Nicklas Ericsson struck back on the power play a minute and a half later to restore Anchorage’s four-goal edge.

During the postgame celebration, the Igloos seemed a bit shocked at their conquest.  “We told ourselves all along that we matched up great with [the Wolves],” said D Sebastian Pomfret.  “But we weren’t expecting it to be… this easy.”

Castor lauded his team for a heroic effort.  “I told my boys that if we were going to win this, we’d have to give them hell,” Castor told reporters.  “And we did just that.  We gave them hell for three straight games.  I couldn’t be prouder.”

He did note that the Igloos would be moving on to the the Finals without Montechere, who exited in the third period with an upper-body injury and is expected to miss the rest of the season.  “Now we’ve got to go win the Vandy for Remi,” Castor said.

Wright, meanwhile, was somber as he contemplated his team’s loss.  “Congratulations to Anchorage for playing a terrific series,” the Michigan coach said.  “They really took it to us.  We failed in every aspect of the game, and I take responsibility for that.  We seemed to think we were bulletproof because we had a good regular season.  Well, now we’ll have all offseason to think about how we came up short, and how we can come back stronger next year.”

W Final - Game 3, Michigan @ Anchorage, Arctic Circle Arena

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Michigan           0   0   1        1
Anchorage          0   3   2        5

 
Michigan               G   A PTS PIM +/-   Anchorage              G   A PTS PIM +/-

Douglas         LW     0   0   0   0  -1   Koons           LW     0   2   2   4   1
Kronstein       D      0   0   0   2  -3   Keefe           D      0   2   2   2   3
Madison         D      0   0   0   0  -3   Frost           C      2   0   2   0   1
Lunsford        RW     0   0   0   0  -1   Martinsson      D      0   1   1   0   0
Beruschko       LW     0   0   0   2  -1   Ericsson        RW     1   2   3   0   1
Mudrick         D      0   1   1   2   0   Collins         LW     0   1   1   2   1
Marlow          C      0   1   1   0  -1   Pomfret         D      0   1   1   0   3
Zabielski       D      0   0   0   2   0   Bernard         C      0   0   0   4   1
Poulin          RW     1   0   1   0  -1   Frederick       D      0   0   0   2   0
Davenport       LW     0   0   0   0  -1   Montrechere     RW     1   0   1   0   1
Bergdorf        D      0   0   0   0   0   Miranda         LW     1   0   1   0   1
Knight          C      0   0   0   0  -1   Citrone         D      0   0   0   0   0
Tollefson       D      0   0   0   2   0   Calligan        D      0   0   0   2   0
Denison         RW     0   0   0   2  -1   Summers         RW     0   0   0   0   1
Cage            C      0   0   0   0  -1   Bellmore        C      0   1   1   0   1
----------------------------------------   ----------------------------------------
TOTALS                 1   2   3  12  -3   TOTALS                 5  10  15  16   3

Scratches:
MIC:  Bailes (inj), Berlinger, Bullock, Eberlein
ANC:  Zhlotkin, Druzek, Trammell

 
Michigan            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Lundquist           38    33    5  0.868

Anchorage           SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Worthington         32    31    1  0.969

 

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

GOALS:
None


PENALTIES:
03:33  MIC  Mudrick 2:00 (Elbowing)
04:51  ANC  Koons 4:00 (Elbowing)
15:03  ANC  Bernard 4:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)
16:45  ANC  Collins 2:00 (Slashing)
17:55  MIC  Denison 2:00 (Interference)

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

GOALS:
02:51  ANC  Montrechere (Collins, Keefe)
07:09  ANC  Miranda (Bellmore, Martinsson)
11:00  ANC  Frost (Ericsson, Koons)

PENALTIES:
03:22  ANC  Keefe 2:00 (Hooking)
07:43  MIC  Tollefson 2:00 (Cross-checking)
07:54  MIC  Kronstein 2:00 (Interference)
13:56  ANC  Calligan 2:00 (Roughing)
16:02  ANC  Frederick 2:00 (Cross-checking)

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

GOALS:
03:06  ANC  Frost (Koons, Ericsson)
11:05  MIC  Poulin (Marlow, Mudrick)
12:30  ANC  Ericsson PP (Keefe, Pomfret)

PENALTIES:
07:09  MIC  Zabielski 2:00 (Slashing)
12:10  MIC  Beruschko 2:00 (Elbowing)


 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Michigan           9   8  15       32
Anchorage         12  12  14       38

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

Michigan         0 for 6
Anchorage        1 for 6

 
INJURIES
--------

Remi Montrechere (ANC) -- Upper-body  10 games
Max Madison (MIC) -- Lower-body  7 games

 

Eastern Division Series

HAMILTON PISTOLS 4, QUEBEC TIGRES 3 (DOUBLE OT)

The Hamilton Pistols certainly didn’t make things easy on themselves in a must-win Game 3.  They had to rally from behind twice, and then required more than a period and a half of extra time.  But when the end finally came after a long hard slog, the Pistols notched a 4-3 victory over the Quebec Tigres, staving off elimination in their series.

“You’ve got to give the boys credit,” said Hamilton coach Keith Shields.  “They got knocked to the canvas a couple times, but they got up and kept battling, by golly!”

The Tigres knocked the Pistols back on their heels early.  Hamilton D Albie Glasco took a tripping penalty 17 seconds into the game, and Quebec RW Rupert MacDiarmid made them pay with a blast from the top of the faceoff circle.  Even though the Pistols outshot the Tigres 13-9 in the first, they couldn’t pierce Tiktuunen.

“It seemed like that guy was eight feet tall out there,” said Pistols C Calvin Frye.  “We tried everything we could to get it by him, and he just shut us down.”

That finally changed in a crazy stretch at the beginning of the second period.  After Pistols D Craig Werner was sent off for slashing, MacDiarmid banged home another power-play goal to make it 2-0.  The lightly-regarded MacDiarmid has tormented Hamilton in this series, with three goals and an assist so far.

No sooner had Quebec built a two-goal edge than it vanished in a puff of smoke.  Pistols LW Steven Alexander went top-shelf on Tiktuunen 53 seconds after MacDiarmid’s tally to end the shutout.  Seconds later, Tigres LW Walt Camernitz was whistled for slashing, and Alexander beat Tiktuunen on the short side to tie the game.

The second period slowed down after that, although Camernitz added another power play tally with six minutes left in the period to put Quebec back on top.

“Even though we were behind going into the third, we felt confident,” said Alexander.  “We’d proven that Tiktuunen was human.”

The crowd at Gunpowder Armory was full-throated in support of their heroes, rattling the rafters with their cheers.  The Pistols opened the period on the power play and four seconds into the frame, Tigres D Dmitri Kalashnikov was sent off for interference, giving Hamilton a two-man advantage.  Frye wasted no time putting the puck between Tiktuunen’s legs to tie it up again.

“I honestly thought the building was going to come down, the fans went so crazy,” said Frye.

The rest of the period was a tense but scoreless affair.  The Pistols killed off a couple of late penalties to preserve the tie, and the fans roared their approval.

In overtime, Hamilton relied on the crowd’s raucous support to give them energy.  Camernitz nearly ended the game – and Hamilton’s season – three minutes in, when he fired a shot from the slot that got past Pistols netminder Lasse Koskinen.  But the shot pinged off the post and came to rest in the crease, when Koskinen covered it before the Tigres could poke it in.

“The way that shot somehow didn’t get over the line, that was an act of God,” said Shields.  “No other way around it.”

The game went to a second overtime, and the pace of the game slowed considerably, as both teams looked dead on their skates.  But again, the crowd’s energy fed the Pistols.  “The fans really picked us up there,” said Alexander.  “We couldn’t have done this without them.”

When Tigres D Laurie Workman was called for slashing twelve minutes into the second overtime, the fans somehow cranked the fury up to another level.  Amid the maelstrom, Pistols LW Magnus Gunnarson fired a shot that made it through a crowd and past a screened Tiktuunen for the game-winning goal.

Workman’s penalty was one of 10 called on the Tigres in the game, and coach Martin Delorme cautioned his team that they need to improve in this area.  “When we take this many penalties, we are doing [the Pistols’] work for them,” Delorme said.

Shields, meanwhile, wants the fans to bring the same enthusiasm for Game 4.  “I want to say to our fans, you guys did a great job tonight,” the Pistols coach said.  “I want you all to go home, rest up, and come back strong for the next one.  We need that kind of energy in the building again.”

E Final - Game 3, Quebec @ Hamilton, Gunpowder Armory

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

Quebec                 G   A PTS PIM +/-   Hamilton               G   A PTS PIM +/-

Camernitz       LW     1   0   1   4  -1   Alexander       LW     2   0   2   0   1
Workman         D      0   0   0   2   0   Smyth           D      0   1   1   2   0
Zarkovich       C      0   0   0   0   0   Frye            C      1   0   1   0   1
McKinley        D      0   0   0   0   0   Risch           D      0   2   2   0   0
Mirac           RW     0   1   1   2  -1   Lafayette       RW     0   2   2   0   1
Fisker          LW     0   1   1   0   0   Gunnarson       LW     1   0   1   0   0
Ilyushin        C      0   1   1   0  -1   Mulligan        D      0   0   0   4   0
Jones           D      0   1   1   0   0   Constantine     C      0   1   1   0   0
Robinson        RW     0   0   0   0   0   Werner          D      0   0   0   4   0
MacDiarmid      LW     2   0   2   2   0   Patterson       RW     0   1   1   0   0
Pugliese        D      0   0   0   0  -1   Campbell        LW     0   0   0   0   0
Kalashnikov     D      0   0   0   6  -1   Glasco          D      0   0   0   2   1
Pentti          RW     0   0   0   0   0   Zalmanis        C      0   0   0   0   0
Miller          C      0   1   1   2   0   Soforenko       LW     0   0   0   0   0
Wesson          D      0   0   0   2   0   Dyomin          D      0   1   1   0   1
----------------------------------------   ----------------------------------------
TOTALS                 3   5   8  20  -1   TOTALS                 4   8  12  12   1

Scratches:
QUE:  Shovshenkov, Zhzhynov, Kane
HAM:  Kratz, Jennings, Rodney

Quebec              SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Tiktuunen           41    37    4  0.902

Hamilton            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Koskinen            41    38    3  0.927


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

GOALS:
00:27  QUE  MacDiarmid PP (Fisker)

PENALTIES:
00:17  HAM  Glasco 2:00 (Tripping)
07:34  QUE  Kalashnikov 2:00 (Tripping)
07:45  QUE  Mirac 2:00 (Interference)
17:25  QUE  Kalashnikov 2:00 (Cross-checking)
18:27  HAM  Mulligan 2:00 (Hooking)

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

GOALS:
00:56  QUE  MacDiarmid PP (Jones, Miller)
01:49  HAM  Alexander (Dyomin, Lafayette)
02:54  HAM  Alexander PP (Smyth, Risch)
14:06  QUE  Camernitz PP (Ilyushin, Mirac)

PENALTIES:
00:29  HAM  Werner 2:00 (Slashing)
02:10  QUE  Camernitz 2:00 (Slashing)
06:06  QUE  MacDiarmid 2:00 (Roughing)
09:28  QUE  Miller 2:00 (Elbowing)
14:04  HAM  Werner 2:00 (Clipping)
18:53  QUE  Wesson 2:00 (Tripping)

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

GOALS:
00:10  HAM  Frye PP (Lafayette, Risch)

PENALTIES:
00:04  QUE  Kalashnikov 2:00 (Interference)
11:04  HAM  Smyth 2:00 (Slashing)
19:09  HAM  Mulligan 2:00 (Tripping)

First Overtime
--------------

GOALS:
None

PENALTIES:
10:14  QUE  Camernitz 2:00 (Interference)

First Overtime
--------------

GOALS:
12:49  HAM  Gunnarson PP (Constantine, Patterson)

PENALTIES:
12:00  QUE  Workman 2:00 (Slashing)

SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3  1OT  2OT   F
Quebec             9   9   9   10    4  41
Hamilton          13   8   8    8    4  41

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

Quebec           3 for 6
Hamilton         3 for 10

INJURIES
--------

None

 

2018 SHL Division Playoff – Game 2

Eastern Division Series

QUEBEC TIGRES 2, HAMILTON PISTOLS 1

The Quebec Tigres are taking an unconventional route to success.  In Game 1, the Hamilton Pistols outshot them by a 2-to-1 margin, but Quebec still pulled out a 2-1 win in overtime thanks to the heroics of goalie Riki Tiktuunen.  In Game 2, the Tigres managed to reduce the Pistols’ volume of shots, although Quebec was still outshot.  With Tiktuunen turning in another strong game, the Tigres were able to come from behind and claim a 2-1 win that gives them a 2-0 lead in the series.

“I think all of our postseason paychecks should go to Riki,” said Quebec C Mikhail Ilyushin.  “He has been our star in this series.”

Of the 27 shots Hamilton aimed at Tiktuunen in this game, the Finnish netminder turned aside 26 of them.  The only one that eluded him occurred in the first minute of the game, when the Tigres failed to clear Pistols D Clayton “Crusher” Risch from in front of the net, and he redirected a shot from C Edz Zalmanis underneath the crossbar.

“Riki never had a shot at that one,” said Tigres coach Martin Delorme.  “Even Superman cannot stop what he cannot see.”

Faced with their first deficit of the series, the Tigres went to work trying to even the score.  But Quebec’s attempts to rally were stymied by a rash of penalties.  They spent a significant chunk of the first period killing off penalties to LW Walt Camernitz and D Laurie Workman.  Then in the second period, Tigres C Drustan Zarkovich was sent to the penalty box three separate times.

“I spent so much time in the sin bin, I thought maybe I should bring my toothbrush,” said Zarkovich.

In between penalty kills, D Richard McKinley managed to tie the game for Quebec by going five-hole on Pistols netminder Lasse Koskinen.  It was one of only six shots for the Tigres in the second period.  “Between the penalties and all, it felt like we were trying to climb out of a pit of quicksand,” said Camernitz.

Just over three and a half minutes into the third period, Camernitz fired a laser that seemed to go through Koskinen and into the net, giving Quebec the lead.  “I thought I was going to look down and find a hole in my jersey,” said Koskinen.

After Camernitz’s tally, the Tigres turned up their defense for the rest of the period, holding the Pistols to eight shots, all of which Tiktuunen turned aside.

Delorme praised his team’s effort, although he criticized them for taking too many penalties.  “We looked much more like ourselves today,” the Quebec coach said.  “As long as we can avoid taking careless calls, we will be in good shape.”

Pistols coach Keith Shields remained upbeat, although his team is now only one loss away from elimination.  “The whole mojo of this series is going to shift when we’re back in our place,” Shields told reporters.  “We’ve got to solve Tiktuunen, but I’m confident we can do that when we’ve got our crowd behind us.”

 

E Final - Game 2, Hamilton @ Quebec, Centre Citadelle

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hamilton           1   0   0        1
Quebec             0   1   1        2

 
Hamilton               G   A PTS PIM +/-   Quebec                 G   A PTS PIM +/-

Alexander       LW     0   0   0   0  -1   Camernitz       LW     1   0   1   2   1
Smyth           D      0   1   1   0   0   Workman         D      0   0   0   2   0
Frye            C      0   0   0   0  -1   Zarkovich       C      0   0   0   6   0
Risch           D      1   0   1   0   0   McKinley        D      1   0   1   0   0
Lafayette       RW     0   0   0   0  -1   Mirac           RW     0   1   1   0   1
Gunnarson       LW     0   0   0   0   0   Fisker          LW     0   0   0   0   0
Mulligan        D      0   0   0   5  -1   Ilyushin        C      0   0   0   0   1
Constantine     C      0   0   0   0   0   Jones           D      0   1   1   0   1
Werner          D      0   0   0   0  -1   Robinson        RW     0   0   0   0   0
Patterson       RW     0   0   0   0   0   MacDiarmid      LW     0   1   1   0   0
Campbell        LW     0   0   0   2   0   Pugliese        D      0   0   0   0   0
Glasco          D      0   0   0   0   0   Kalashnikov     D      0   0   0   4   0
Zalmanis        C      0   1   1   0   0   Pentti          RW     0   0   0   5   0
Soforenko       LW     0   0   0   0   0   Miller          C      0   0   0   0   0
Dyomin          D      0   0   0   0   0   Wesson          D      0   0   0   0   1
----------------------------------------   ----------------------------------------
TOTALS                 1   2   3   7  -1   TOTALS                 2   3   5  19   1

Scratches:
HAM:  Kratz, Jennings, Rodney
QUE:  Shovshenkov, Zhzhynov, Kane

 
Hamilton            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Koskinen            21    19    2  0.905

Quebec              SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Tiktuunen           27    26    1  0.963

 

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

GOALS:
00:59  HAM  Risch (Zalmanis, Smyth)

PENALTIES:
04:34  QUE  Camernitz 2:00 (Diving)
08:10  QUE  Workman 2:00 (Tripping)

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

GOALS:
02:51  QUE  McKinley (MacDiarmid)

PENALTIES:
00:08  QUE  Zarkovich 2:00 (Delay of Game)
03:40  QUE  Zarkovich 2:00 (Roughing)
16:58  QUE  Zarkovich 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)

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

GOALS:
03:43  QUE  Camernitz (Jones, Mirac)

PENALTIES:
06:23  QUE  Pentti 5:00 (Fighting)
06:23  HAM  Mulligan 5:00 (Fighting)
12:32  HAM  Campbell 2:00 (Delay of Game)
13:02  QUE  Kalashnikov 2:00 (Roughing)
19:13  QUE  Kalashnikov 2:00 (Holding the Stick)


 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hamilton          12   7   8       27
Quebec             7   6   8       21

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

Hamilton         0 for 7
Quebec           0 for 1

 
INJURIES
--------

None

Western Division Series

ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 4, MICHIGAN GRAY WOLVES 2

Anchorage Igloos coach Sam Castor is always quick to point to his team’s depth as its greatest strength.  “Guys like Frosty and Koonsy and Ty [Worthington] get all the headlines,” Castor says, “but lots of teams have stars.  But even if your stars match up with ours, we’re still going to beat you because our second and third lines, and our bottom-pair D, is better than yours.  No other team can match up with us all the way down.”

In Game 2, the Igloos showed the truth of Castor’s statement.  Thanks to the exceptional performance of their third line and the ability to push the pace of the game, Anchorage once again stunned the Michigan Gray Wolves in their building, winning 4-2 to take a 2-0 lead in this best-of-five series.

“It’s the triumph of the scrubs,” said Igloos C Harvey Bellmore.  “We may not get a ton of ice time, but we’re making the most of it.”

Anchorage’s third line – which consists of Bellmore, LW Waldo Miranda, and RW Ben Summers – has been the difference maker so far in this series.  They’ve put up a +5 rating, and they’ve forced Wolves coach Ron Wright to use his top lines heavily in an effort to stop the bleeding.

Michigan got the early edge in this game, as Igloos LW Jerry Koons was whistled for diving within the first minute, and Wolves LW Todd Douglas cashed in on the ensuing power play for a 1-0 Michigan lead.  With the crowd at Cadillac Place in full roar, Castor decided to take a page from his Game 1 playbook and turn the contest into a track meet.  In order to do that, he turned to heavy minutes for his speedy bottom line.

“They can’t trap us if they can’t catch us,” Castor said.

Michigan initially withstood the onslaught – with the help of several Anchorage penalties – but the Igloos broke through before the end of the first period.  Just after killing off a 5-on-3 situation, D Olaf Martinsson blasted home the game-tying shot with the third line on the ice.  Six minutes later, Summers finished off an odd-man rush by slipping one between Dirk Lundquist’s pads for his third goal of the series.  After Wolves D Brooks Zabielski was called for holding the stick late in the first, Koons tipped on in on the power play to make it 3-1.  At period’s end, the arena was as silent as a library.

“They ambushed us and took us right out of the game,” admitted Wolves C Warren Marlow.  “We let the game get away from us.”

In the second period, D Fritz Kronstein scored on another power play to get the Wolves within a goal and stir up the crowd a bit.  But that was as close as they would get, and Bellmore fired one home just inside the post early in the third period to all but seal the game.  Whatever hope Michigan had of rallying in the closing minutes died after D “Mad Max” Madison and C Phoenix Cage both took penalties that Wright said were “just out of frustration.”

The Wolves, who finished with the SHL’s best record by a comfortable margin, find themselves in a most unexpected position.  If they’re going to avoid a humiliating sweep, they’ll need to win Game 3 on enemy ice.  If they’re going to advance to the Finals, they’ll need to reel off three straight wins, including two in Anchorage.

“We’ve dug ourselves into a deep hole,” said Wright.  “Obviously, it’s hurt us that [C Hunter] Bailes is out, but that’s an excuse.  We’ve let Anchorage dictate the game to us, and it’s burned us twice.  Now we need to go win the next three.  We’re capable of doing that, but we’re going to have to get control of the game if we’re going to do it.”

W Final - Game 2, Anchorage @ Michigan, Cadillac Place

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

 
Anchorage              G   A PTS PIM +/-   Michigan               G   A PTS PIM +/-

Koons           LW     1   0   1   4   0   Douglas         LW     1   1   2   0   0
Keefe           D      0   1   1   0   1   Kronstein       D      1   1   2   2  -1
Frost           C      0   1   1   0   0   Madison         D      0   1   1   4  -1
Martinsson      D      1   0   1   4   2   Lunsford        RW     0   0   0   0   0
Ericsson        RW     0   0   0   0   0   Beruschko       LW     0   0   0   0   0
Collins         LW     0   0   0   0   0   Mudrick         D      0   0   0   0  -2
Pomfret         D      0   0   0   0   1   Marlow          C      0   1   1   0   0
Bernard         C      0   0   0   0   0   Zabielski       D      0   0   0   2  -2
Frederick       D      0   1   1   0   2   Poulin          RW     0   0   0   0   0
Montrechere     RW     0   0   0   0   0   Davenport       LW     0   0   0   0  -3
Miranda         LW     0   3   3   0   3   Bergdorf        D      0   0   0   0   0
Citrone         D      0   0   0   0   0   Knight          C      0   0   0   0   0
Calligan        D      0   0   0   6   0   Tollefson       D      0   0   0   0   0
Summers         RW     1   1   2   0   3   Denison         RW     0   0   0   0  -3
Bellmore        C      1   1   2   0   3   Cage            C      0   0   0   2  -3
----------------------------------------   ----------------------------------------
TOTALS                 4   8  12  14   3   TOTALS                 2   4   6  10  -3

Scratches:
ANC:  Zhlotkin, Druzek, Trammell
MIC:  Bailes (inj), Berlinger, Bullock, Eberlein

 
Anchorage           SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Worthington         23    21    2  0.913

Michigan            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Lundquist           39    35    4  0.897

 

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

GOALS:
00:42  MIC  Douglas PP (Marlow, Kronstein)
10:45  ANC  Martinsson (Frederick, Miranda)
16:50  ANC  Summers (Bellmore, Miranda)
18:52  ANC  Koons PP (Frost, Keefe)

PENALTIES:
00:32  ANC  Koons 2:00 (Diving)
01:43  ANC  Calligan 2:00 (Roughing)
07:33  MIC  Kronstein 2:00 (Tripping)
08:09  ANC  Martinsson 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)
08:29  ANC  Koons 2:00 (Roughing)
17:19  MIC  Zabielski 2:00 (Holding the Stick)

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

GOALS:
13:24  MIC  Kronstein PP (Douglas, Madison)

PENALTIES:
09:57  ANC  Calligan 4:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)
19:54  ANC  Martinsson 2:00 (Diving)

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

GOALS:
01:59  ANC  Bellmore (Summers, Miranda)

PENALTIES:
17:01  MIC  Madison 4:00 (Elbowing)
19:50  MIC  Cage 2:00 (Interference)


 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Anchorage         18  10  11       39
Michigan          11   6   6       23

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

Anchorage        1 for 4
Michigan         2 for 6

 
INJURIES
--------

None

Pistols, Tigres Make Playoff Debut

There was a changing of the guard in the East this season.  The two previous division champions, the Washington Galaxy and the Hershey Bliss, finished fourth and fifth this season, respectively.  The teams that will be doing battle instead are both new to postseason play; in fact, neither of them had even finished with a winning record before.  Not only that, the Quebec Tigres and Hamilton Pistols are the first non-American teams to make the playoffs.

“I’ll bet if you’d asked a thousand people before the season started, not one of them would have picked the two of us to get this far,” said Tigres LW Walt Camernitz.

Quebec and Hamilton both finished the season with 81 points (the Tigres will have home-ice advantage in this series because they recorded more wins).  But in how they got there, and what strengths they bring to this matchup, the teams couldn’t be more different.

Steven Alexander

The Pistols thrived this season on a high-powered, fast-paced offense.  For the first half of the season, they led the league in goals (they wound up with 210, which was good for third).  They had two of the league’s top five goal scorers (LW Steven Alexander with 56 and C Calvin Frye with 40), while RW Claude Lafayette tied for the lead in assists with 73.  “We’re a team that thrives on speed, obviously,” said coach Keith Shields.  “I tell my guys, just put the puck on net and good things will happen.”

Martin Delorme

The Tigres, meanwhile, are happiest when they’re able to slow the game down and frustrate their opponents’ rhythm and momentum.  Coach Martin Delorme coached the Michigan Gray Wolves before returning to his home province, and he modeled his Quebec squad in the Wolves’ image.  “Our ideal game is a 1-0 victory,” said Delorme.  “If you can deny the opponent shots, you deny them the chance for goals.  And if you can deny entry to the zone, you deny the chance for shots.”

Quebec’s defense held opponents to just under 27 shots per game, second only to the Wolves.  The Tigres’ defense isn’t studded with big names (their top blueliner is arguably rookie Laurie Workman), but they bring a dogged determination and an all-for-one-and-one-for-all work ethic to every game.

One thing both teams have in common is a Finnish-born rising star between the pipes.  The Tigres are relying on 23-year-old Riki Tiktuunen, the stalwart who has established himself among the league’s elite in his third season in the SHL.  His .930 save percentage is second only to Michigan’s Dirk Lundquist, while his 2.03 GAA is the fourth-best mark in the league.  “The best think about Riki is that he doesn’t get rattled,” said Camernitz.  “We could be up by 10 or down by 10, and you couldn’t tell the difference by looking at him.  I don’t know if he’s a Zen guy or what, but he’s so calm it’s almost scary.”

The Pistols, meanwhile, have 21-year-old Lasse Koskinen.  Last season, Koskinen nearly won Rookie of the Year honors after a highly impressive debut campaign.  This year, he took his game up to the next level, going 28-20-4 with a 2.46 GAA and a .921 save percentage.  “I honestly think Koski’s going to be the best goalie in the league someday,” said Shields.  Unlike Tiktuunen, Koskinen is much more demonstrative with his emotion, freely showing his joy after big wins and his frustration after tough losses.  “We like having a goalie who’s a human being, not a robot,” said Alexander.

If momentum is a factor in this series, the advantage goes to Quebec.  Hamilton went 3-10-0 over their last 13 games of the season, while Quebec won three games in the last week of the season alone, including a 3-0 win over the Pistols on the last day of the regular season to claim the division title.  Shields doesn’t think that his team’s recent slump will be a factor, however.  “That’s the beautiful thing about the playoffs; the slate gets wiped clean,” the Pistols coach said.  “All that matters is the next five games.”