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

Bluebacks Meet Fans, Unveil Unis

The first relocation in SHL history is official, as the Seattle Sailors are now the Portland Bluebacks.  The Bluebacks have already rolled out their logo; this week, they revealed their uniforms for the first time in a meet-the-team event.

The Bluebacks hosted fans and local dignitaries at Portland’s Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, which is the current home of the USS Blueback submarine, for which the team is named.

“I’ve been like a kid on Christmas Eve waiting for this moment,” said owner Jared Carmichael.  “And now, the moment is finally here!”

Home Uniforms

The team’s uniforms, unsurprisingly, adopt the same color scheme as the logo: blue, green, and gray.  According to Carmichael, the colors are tied to Portland and the Pacific Northwest.  The blue represents the Willamette River, which runs through the middle of Portland and is where the Blueback currently rests.  The green represents the forests that are central to the region’s identity.  The gray represents the submarine itself.

Both the home and road uniforms feature a central element of the team’s logo: a blueback salmon jumping out of a submarine.  The salmon has already been dubbed “Charlie Tuna” on social media, because its coloring resembles the famed StarKist mascot.

The uniforms contains an old-school touch: a lace-up collar.  Thus far, the Bluebacks are the only team in the SHL with this collar; Carmichael had to negotiate with the league’s uniform supplier in order to make it happen.  “Personally, I’m a fan of the throwback look,” Carmichael said.  “And the fact that we’re the only ones doing it… that makes it even cooler.  I bet some of the other teams will be copying us soon, though!”

Road Uniforms

The Bluebacks’ unis were a hit with the players.  “I think we’re going to be the sharpest-looking team in the league!” exclaimed RW Vince Mango, who modeled the home uniform.  “And when you look good, you feel good, and that helps you play good.  I can’t wait to see these jerseys all over Portland!”

“I like that it’s a balance between old-school and new school,” said C Napoleon Beasley, who showed off the team’s road uniform.  “It’s a crisp, clean, classic look, but it has a couple of more modern elements.  And the green really pops!”

Bluebacks GM Taylor Teichman noted that the team was entering a new era by coming to Portland, but promised that their upward trajectory – the team made the postseason for the first time in 2019 – would continue.

“Today, obviously, we’re focused on the new – new city, new unis,” Teichman said.  “But we’ve got continuity in the areas where it counts: out front office, behind the bench, and with our top players.  And our commitment to being a Vandy-winning organization hasn’t changed one bit, either.  And we’re going to prove it to you on the ice very soon!”

For fans who want to see the new uniforms on ice, the Bluebacks have open their season at Willamette River Arena against the Dakota Jackalopes.

Sailors Outlast Smoke in Crazy 8-7 Win

As the regular season winds to a close, it’s looking increasingly likely that the Seattle Sailors will make the postseason for the first time in their existence (and, ironically, in their last season in Seattle).  It also looks increasingly likely that the Kansas City Smoke will finish with the league’s worst record, which means that they’ll get the top pick in the draft.

On paper, Sunday’s game was a mismatch.  But anything can happen in a single game, and the contest turned out to be a wild see-saw affair, culminating in a frenzied third period in which the teams combined to score seven goals.  In the end, Seattle emerged with a razor-thin 8-7 victory that allowed them to hold onto first place in the West for another day.

“This was like playing shinny as a kid,” said Sailors LW Rod “Money” Argent.  “Just firewagon action back and forth, all offense.  It was crazy.”

The game started with a bang, as Argent fired a shot that beat Kansas City netminder Gus Parrish just 26 seconds into the contest.  Smoke RW Tyler Cloude answered a couple minutes with a low shot that went five-hole on Sailors goalie Rocky Goldmire.  Just over five minutes after that, Seattle RW Vince Mango tucked a slapper just under the crossbar to give his team a 2-1 edge, which it maintained for the rest of the period.

In the first minute of the second period, C Darien Picard got Kansas City back even by beating Goldmire on a breakaway.  After that, though, Seattle went on a run, aided by some bad Smoke penalties.  First, C Mike Rivera went to the box for elbowing.  Kansas City killed off the penalty, but couldn’t get the puck out of their own end, allowing RW Rodney McElvern to tip a shot home and put the Sailors back in front.  A minute after McElvern’s goal, D T.K. O’Neill hit Argent in the mouth with his stick, drawing blood and earning a double minor.  Mango made the Smoke pay, hitting pay dirt on a shot from the right faceoff circle.  A couple minutes later, RW Zachary Merula took a cheap slashing penalty in the offensive zone.  This time, it took only 36 seconds for Mango to overwhelm the exhausted KC penalty kill, scoring again to complete his hat trick.  It was now a 5-2 Seattle lead, and it seemed like the rout was on.

The plucky Smoke refused to give up, however.  With 49 seconds left in the second stanza, LW Veikko Sikanen gathered up a rebound and stuffed it home, closing the gap to two.  Then in the first couple of minutes of the third, Rivera and Merula made up for their penalties by scoring just 14 seconds apart, tying the game and stunning the crowd at Century 21 Arena.

“We couldn’t believe that it was a game again,” said Mango.  “We were sure we’d put them away, but they came back on us.”

Seattle answered back just 24 seconds after Merula’s score, as C Napoleon Beasley beat Parrish on the short side to give the Sailors the lead again.  But KC wasn’t ready to give up.  LW Tadeusz Adamczyk scored to tie it yet again, and exactly a minute later, Cloude found the back of the net to give Kansas City its first lead of the game.

“[The Smoke] were like the Black Knight in Monty Python; we cut their limbs off and they just kept coming,” said Mango.  “’It’s just a flesh wound!’”

Fortunately for the Sailors, they had one more good push left, which they deployed in the final five minutes of the game.  C Marco Venezio got behind the defense and scored on a breakway to tie it up one more time.  A mere twelve seconds later, RW Elliott Pepper stormed down the ice on an odd-man rush and scored what provide to be the winning goal.  A pair of late penalties erased whatever chance Kansas City had for a comeback.

Harold Engellund

Sailors coach Harold Engellund praised his team for its resilience.  “One of the things I appreciate about this team is the way they can take a punch and keep going,” said Engellund.  “[The Smoke] didn’t make this one easy on us, but we hung in there and got the W.  That says something about the competitive character around here.”

Critics of the Sailors often argue that their lackluster defense will prevent them from succeeding in the playoffs, and giving up seven goals to the league’s worst team certainly argues in that direction.  Engellund, however, brushed off those concerns: “The bottom line is that we did what it took to win.  Maybe it wasn’t pretty, but so what?  You don’t get points for style, just for winning.”

Sailors Surrender Six in Third, Miss Sole Division Lead

The Seattle Sailors had a golden opportunity to seize the lead in the tumultuous Western division on Saturday.  With the Michigan Gray Wolves and Anchorage Igloos both suffering losses, the Sailors only needed a win over the struggling Washington Galaxy to claim sole possession of first place.

Through the game’s first two periods, Seattle appeared to be on a glide path to victory, claiming a 6-1 lead.  But then came a nightmarish third period in which the Sailors collapsed, lost their lead, and had to settle for a tie and a share of the lead with Michigan.  It felt like a golden opportunity wasted for the team in green.

“A game like this, it’s just a total shot in the gut,” said Sailors LW Rod Argent.  “It’s just devastating.”

When the puck dropped for the start of the third period, the Sailors were appropriately confident.  They’d rocked Galaxy netminder Darrell Bondurant for a half-dozen goals already.  The primary question seemed to be whether they’d keep pushing to run up a signature win, or if they’d ease up and focus on grinding the clock.

Just 30 seconds into the period, Seattle RW Elliott Pepper was sent to the penalty box for elbowing.  Eight seconds into the ensuing power play, Galaxy winger Jefferson McNeely fired home a slapper on the short side.  No big deal; it was still a 6-2 game.

Three minutes later, though, Galaxy LW Casey Thurman scored on an odd-man rush to make it 6-3.  A bit of a nervous rumble passed through the crowd; was Washington going to make this a game?  Sailors star Vince Mango quickly calmed the fans’ nerves, marching down the ice from the following faceoff and beat Bondurant top shelf to make it 7-3.  Back to cruising time again.

But the plucky Galaxy refused to give up, and they slowly chipped away at Seattle’s lead.  At just past the seven-minute mark, C Harvey Bellmore deflected a shot over the blocker of Sailors goalie “Jersey Mike” Ross to cut the deficit back to three.  Then just before the mid-point of the period, Sailors D Woody Fairwood coughed up the puck in the neutral zone.  Washington stormed down the ice, and C Tucker Barnhill – centering a line of SHL rookies – tucked it home between Ross’s legs.  Suddenly it was a 7-5 game, and the crowd became deeply uneasy.  So did the Sailors bench.

“We’d already taken the W in our heads, and suddenly it was a game again,” said Sailors C Napoleon Beasley.  “We knew we had to respond.”

Sailors coach Harold Engellund called time out to calm his anxious team, but he appeared not to make any major strategic changes.  He did not remove Ross from the game, and he largely appeared to settle on playing defensive hockey and grinding the clock.

However, defensive hockey has never been Seattle’s strong suit.  And a couple minutes later, a failed clear by Mango turned into another Washington opportunity, and McNeely snuck one just inside the right post to make it a 7-6 contest.

The Sailors then made a belated bid to turn it back on and add to their lead, but couldn’t find the switch.  And with three minutes left in the game, the Galaxy’s rookie third line struck again.  Newly acquired RW Mickey Simpson went bar-down to tie it up and sink Century 21 Arena into a shell-shocked funk.

After the game, Engellund took a somewhat philosophical tack.  “Is this an embarrassing one?  Heck yes,” the coach said in his postgame press conference.  “If we miss the playoffs by a point, are we going to look back and regret this?  You bet.  But we can’t let ourselves dwell on this.  We’ve got to keep moving forward and play like we know how.”

Mango, meanwhile, seemed to shrug it off.  “This was one of those crazy fluke games, you know?” the Sailors star said.  “Like an asteroid strike.  It’s one in a million.  But it doesn’t wipe out all the great wins we’ve had this year.  Just forget it and go to the next one.”

Can the Sailors forget this loss, or will the memory haunt them?  Whether they can make their first-ever playoff trip in their last season in Seattle may depend on the answer.

Continue reading “Sailors Surrender Six in Third, Miss Sole Division Lead”