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

 

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Wolves Sink Sailors in Record-Breaking Fashion

After the Seattle Sailors made a couple of major acquisitions at the trading deadline, they considered themselves ready to grab a playoff spot.  And they didn’t hesitate to let the world know it.  “Michigan and Anchorage better be on notice,” said RW Vince Mango after the deal were announced last Thursday.  “Their time is almost up; we’re coming for them.  We’re building a new dynasty in the Pacific Northwest.”

The Sailors had their first chance to back up those bold words on Saturday, when they traveled to Cadillac Place to face the Michigan Gray WolvesRon Wright’s club was well aware of Mango’s boasts, and were prepared to teach the upstarts a lesson.  “Believe me, [Mango’s quotes are] up on our bulletin board,” said Wolves C Hunter Bailes.

Come Saturday night, Michigan had indeed taught the Sailors a lesson in particularly brutal fashion.  The Wolves came away with a 13-0 victory, the most lopsided game in SHL history.

“Maybe next time [Seattle] wants to call themselves a dynasty,” said Wright, “they might hold off until they finish over .500 for once.”

The game was a front-to-back thumping.  Nine different Michigan players scored goals, and everyone except D Brooks Zabielski recorded at least one point.  “We pride ourselves on having the kind of depth that most teams can’t touch,” said Wright.  “As I’m sure Seattle is learning, it takes more than a couple of big stars to win championships.”

Things went sideways for the Sailors early on, as they ended the first period down 3-0.  Bailes and RW Oskar Denison scored 21 seconds apart less than three minutes into the game, and C Warren Marlow added another tally with 6:45 remaining

Marlow scored twice in the second period to complete the hat trick.  “Marlie’s not the type to get his name in the papers all the time,” said Bailes, “but he just goes out there and gets the job done.  We like that.” Marlow completed his hat trick just over 11 minutes into the period.  The game was delayed for ten minutes while fans flung their hats to the ice and the arena crew cleaned them up.  The Sailors huddled on their bench and tried to regroup.  “We knew we needed to do something to change the momentum if we were going to get back in it,” said Seattle coach Harold Engellund.

Unfortunately for Engellund and his team, that momentum shift never came.  The wheels really came off after Marlow’s hat trick, as Michigan scored three more times before the period ended.  Wolves fans taunted Seattle goalie Rocky Goldmire with razzing repetition of his name and a running tally of the score every time the puck found the back of the net.

Engellund finally yanked his goalie after the second period was over.  “Rocky was looking a little shell-shocked out there,” said the Sailors coach.  “I knew he just needed to go get a shower and a beer.”

Ordinarily, with a virtually insurmountable lead and a whole period left to go, Wright would have ordered his team to take their foot off the gas.  But instead they kept the hammer down, putting five more goals past backup netminder “Jersey Mike” Ross.

“Were we sending a message?  You bet we were,” said Wright after the game.  “[The Sailors] said they were ready to play with the big boys.  We wanted to show them what that was really like.”

In the visiting locker room, the Sailors struggled to absorb their shellacking.  “Man, I really pissed them off, didn’t I?” said Mango.  “It’s just like when we were in school; stand up to the bully and he beats you to a pulp to teach you a lesson. Lesson learned, I guess.  But I can’t wait until we turn the tables and beat them up next time.”

For the Wolves, Mango’s boasts lit their competitive fires at a critical juncture of the season.  “Honestly, I should be thankful to Mango,” said Wright.  “It can be a struggle to find motivation when you’re as far ahead as we are.  But he ran his mouth and gave us all the motivation we needed.  I might have to hire him to come get us fired up again before the playoffs.  His calendar should be wide open then.”

Continue reading “Wolves Sink Sailors in Record-Breaking Fashion”

2016 SHL Finals – Game 6

Michigan SmallWashington SmallMICHIGAN GRAY WOLVES 3, WASHINGTON GALAXY 2

A lot of things had to happen for Ron Wright to become the coach of the Michigan Gray Wolves.  The Wolves had to come up short to Anchorage in the Western race.  The SHL had to decide to expand to Quebec, and incumbent Wolves coach Martin Delorme had to decide to leave and coach his hometown team.   Wright had to have a falling-out with Hamilton, the team he coached last season, and decide to leave.

Both Wright and the Wolves couldn’t be happier that everything worked out the way it did.  The fit between the gritty, hard-working, serious-minded team and the driven, fanatically prepared, and hard-nosed coach was perfect.  The Wolves thrived under Wright’s leadership, and they completed their mission today, defeating the Washington Galaxy 3-2 to win the SHL Finals and claim their first Vandy.

“No way do we get this far without Coach Wright,” said Wolves C Hunter Bailes.  “When we got off to a strong start, he was on us to make sure we didn’t slack off or take our foot off the gas.  And when Warren [Marlow] went down, he made sure we kept our heads up and didn’t let it get to us.  He was our guiding light all the way.”

Wright, meanwhile, gave credit to the players.  “It’s a privilege to coach these guys,” said the Michigan boss.  “As a coach, you can give them a map and show them the way, but they’re the ones who have to take the journey.  These guys have never hesitated; they’ve been willing to pay the price to be great.  They’ve worked hard, practiced hard, kept their noses to the grindstone.  This is the payoff.  The champagne tastes pretty sweet.”

The Wolves looked set to run away with the Finals after they captured the first two games by a combined score of 6-0.  But after the series shifted to Washington, the competition became much tighter.  The Galaxy took two of the three games at Constellation Center, and each game was decided by a single goal.  The Wolves suffered a major blow when Marlow, their second-line center, went down with an apparent concussion in Game 4.

As the series came back to Cadillac Place for Game 6, the Wolves were eager to close out the series.  “We weren’t panicking, for sure,” said D Frank Mudrick.  But we definitely didn’t want it to go seven.”

The first period was an action-packed one, as the teams combined for 23 shots.  Michigan struck fairly quickly, as Bailes beat Galaxy goalie Roger Orion with a backhand to the glove side less than five minutes into the game.

“That helped settle us,” said Bailes.  “Definitely better to play from ahead.”

But Washington didn’t fold.  They held the Wolves to that 1-0 lead for the rest of the period.  And a couple minutes into the second period, Washington got the equalizer on a slapshot by LW Casey Thurman.

Midway through the second, a much slower period offensively, Galaxy RW Jefferson McNeely was hit with a double minor for spearing the Wolves’ Jorma Seppa.  On the ensuing power play, RW Oskar Denison buried a shot from the top of the faceoff circle to give Michigan the lead again, and they carried that 2-1 edge into the dressing room at the end of the period.

During the break, Wright urged his team to turn it up a notch.  “A one-goal lead isn’t safe,” Wright told his men.  “Get the next one, and we can break their back.”

Unfortunately for Michigan, the team didn’t heed Wright’s admonition.  Less than two minutes into the third period, McNeely tied it up again by firing a low slapper past a screened Dirk Lundquist.  As the third period wore on, the Wolves’ repeated attempts to reclaim the lead went frustratingly awry: they pushed several shots just wide, and Denison fired a head-hunter that got past Orion but banged off the crossbar.

In the final minute, with both teams seeming content to play for overtime, Wright called timeout and admonished his team.  “You look dead on your feet out there!” the coach barked.  “There’s no ties in the playoffs.  Let’s go out there and win this right now!  They can’t hold out much longer.  Go out there and knock ’em out!”

Wright’s pep talk paid off.  The Wolves came out of the timeout with more energy, winning the faceoff and storming down into the Washington end.  Wolves D Fritz Kronstein fed a beautiful pass to a streaking Seppa, who fired a hard, low shot.  Orion made a tremendous sprawling save, but couldn’t corral the rebound.  The puck bounced out to Bailes, who elevated it just out of Orion’s reach and dented the twine with 27 seconds left.

“We knew it was over then,” said McNeely.  “We knew we weren’t coming back from that.”

After the final horn sounded, the victorious Wolves celebrated with boisterous elan.  A jubilant Lundquist hopped on top of his net and waved his stick to lead the crowd in cheers and chants, then clambered down and did a pair of cartwheels on the ice.  Bailes, Seppa, and RW Gordon Lunsford fired their helmets and gloves into the crowd, giving several fans priceless souvenirs of an unforgettable night.  Backup goalie Art Cowan raced onto the ice with as many bottles of bubbly as he could hold in his jersey, and the players sprayed each other and the fans.

A little later, SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell emerged with the Vandy and handed it to Wolves owner Luke Faltura, saying, “If ever there was a team that balanced style and grace with blood and guts, it’s got to be the Michigan Gray Wolves.  Enjoy a trophy well-earned!”  There was a brief awkward pause, as the team sorted out who would have the honor of taking the trophy on its first ceremonial lap around the ice.

Finally, Bailes and Lundquist grabbed Wright, hoisted him on their shoulders, and handed him the Vandy.  As Wright circled the ice, supported by his players, he waved to the crowd and blinked back tears.

“That was a metaphor for our whole season,” said Wright.  “From the first day of practice to our ultimate moment of glory, we did it together.  That’s what makes this team so special.”

Continue reading “2016 SHL Finals – Game 6”

2016 SHL Finals – Game 5

Washington SmallMichigan SmallWASHINGTON GALAXY 3, MICHIGAN GRAY WOLVES 2

The Washington Galaxy aren’t going quietly.  Facing elimination in the SHL Finals, the Galaxy withstood an onslaught of shots from the Michigan Gray Wolves and struck in the final minute to steal a 3-2 win, living to fight another game.

“Not dead yet, boys!” crowed Washington coach Rodney Reagle after the game.  “Just like the Bee Gees, we’re stayin’ alive!”  The coach then proceeded to demonstrate his best disco moves.

The Wolves did their best to send the Galaxy packing.  They came out firing from the start of the game, and wound up outshooting Washington 33-22.  But Galaxy netminder Roger Orion stood tall amid the barrage, turning aside 31 shots and outdueling Michigan’s Dirk Lundquist.

“All series, we’ve been hearing about how, oh,Lundquist is so great, Lundquist is God,” said Washington RW Jefferson McNeely.  “But you know what?  Roger’s a damn good goalie too.  He doesn’t get the headlines Lundquist does, but he can be just as clutch.”

Michigan actually drew first blood in this game, with RW Oskar Denison drilling one home just inside the left pipe late in the first period.  “I was not expecting it to go in,” admitted Denison.  “I was hoping to have a big rebound that someone could put in.  I got lucky.”

Washington was able to get even early in the second.  After Wolves D Bjorn Tollefson was penalized for high-sticking, Galaxy RW Sindri Pentti cashed in on the power play, going five-hole on Lundquist.  Washington went into the locker room after two periods tied at 1, despite getting outshot 23-14.  “We were pretty anxious between periods there,” said McNeely.  “Yeah, it was tied, but [the Wolves] were really in the driver’s seat as far as puck control and zone time.  We knew we needed to slow them down and break their rhythm.”

The Galaxy succeeded in disrupting Michigan’s offensive flow, narrowing the shot gap to 10-8 in the third period.  A little more than five minutes into the third, Washington C Eddie Costello and LW Casey Thurman broke away on a two-on-one, with Thurman going top shelf to give the Galaxy their first lead of the game.  The lead was fairly short-lived, as Wolves C Hunter Bailes deflected a shot past Orion a little more than four minutes later.

The latter half of the third period was frustrating for both teams, as neither side was able to generate much offensive action.  “It kind of felt like we were both playing not to lose,” admitted Tollefson.

But with less than a minute left in the game, Thurman shoveled a sharp-angle shot past Lundquist, and the sellout crowd at Constellation Center exploded as Thurman did a celebratory belly-flop on the ice and his teammates banged their sticks against the boards.

“It was a tight game, and you knew the game-winner wouldn’t come easy,” said Thurman.  “But I think the fact that it was do-or-die, that gave us that little extra edge we needed to get over the top.”

The good news for the Wolves is that they still have a 3-2 series lead, and the action shifts back to Cadillac Place, where they drubbed Washington twice by a combined 6-0 margin.  But there’s also cause for Michigan to be anxious, as they’re missing a pair of key forwards, Vladimir Beruscko and Warren Marlow.  In this game, the Wolves were forced to give ice time to Kimmo Eliasson, a street free agent who signed an emergency contract with the team at the start of the Finals.

Wolves coach Ron Wright said it’s no time to panic.  “We’ve got to remember what got us here,” Wright told reporters.  “We’re not a team that relies on any one star to succeed.  We rise and fall as a team, and that’s how we’re going to win this.”

Continue reading “2016 SHL Finals – Game 5”

2016 SHL Finals – Game 1

Michigan SmallWashington SmallMICHIGAN GRAY WOLVES 4, WASHINGTON GALAXY 0

Despite his team coming into the SHL Finals as a strong favorite, Michigan Gray Wolves coach Ron Wright stressed the importance of starting the series strong.  “In a short series, it’s all about momentum,” said Wright.  “Fall into a hole, no matter how strong you are, and it can be impossible to get out.  I want to see us make a statement right away.”

In Game 1, the Wolves did exactly what their coach wanted.  They made about as strong a statement as possible, seizing control of the game in the first period and cruising from there.  Behind the brilliant play of G Dirk “The Bear” Lundquist (31 saves), Michigan put up a 4-0 shutout that left the visiting Washington Galaxy dazed and confused.

“Man, they really came to play,” said Washington LW Casey Thurman.  “We’re really going to have to step it up in the next game, or we’re just going to get run over.”

The Galaxy came into the game determined not to let Michigan push them around.  “We know the Wolves play a physical game,” said Galaxy D Bruce “Boom Boom” Hogaboom.  “We wanted to show them that we’re not scared.”

As a result, Washington started the game in a feisty mood, throwing elbows and hips at the Wolves.  Less than eight minutes into the game, Galaxy LW Walt Camernitz took exception to a hard check into the boards by Wolves D Bjorn Tollefson and came up swinging.  Both players wound up getting majors.

Washington’s aggressive play wound up getting them into trouble later in the period.  Rookie D Grant Warriner was whistled for high-sticking with about six minutes left in the first period.  The Galaxy managed to kill off that penalty, but no sooner had they done so than D Kevin Buchanan was hit with a double minor for spearing Michigan C Hunter Bailes.  The crowd at Cadillac Place booed Buchanan lustily, but the boos turned to cheers a couple minutes later when Michigan D Fritz Kronstein went top-shelf on Washington netminder Roger Orion to put the home team on the board.

“I saw a little daylight and I took advantage,” said Kronstein, who was Michigan’s first-round pick in this year’s draft.

Less than a minute later, the Wolves doubled their advantage as LW Jorma Seppa, filling in on the top line due to Vladimir Beruschko‘s injury, scored on a wraparound.

“That second goal really threw us off,” said Hogaboom.  “We’d been holding our own all period, then boom-boom, we’re in a hole.”

The Galaxy hoped just to survive the rest of the first and head into the locker room down 2-0, but Michigan RW Oskar Denison scored on a slapper in the waning seconds of the period for a three-goal advantage.

“At that point, we knew we were basically done for,” said Camernitz.

The rest of the game was somewhat anticlimactic, highlighted by one more goal (by Wolves C Warren Marlow in the third period) and one more fight (between Hogaboom and Michigan D “Mad Max” Madison).  The real star of the day, though, was Lundquist.  The goalie flashed his athletic prowess making some brilliant saves to keep the shutout intact.  In the second, Lundquist made several brilliant saves to help Michigan kill off back-to-back penalties.  In the third, he made a tremendous glove save to stone Washington C Eddie Costello on a breakaway attempt.

“The Bear’s motor is really incredible,” said Wright.  “Even after the outcome of the game wasn’t in doubt, he was still in top form, still hustling.  If he keeps up this level of play, it’s going to be a real short series.”

After the game, Galaxy coach Rodney Reagle sought to put the game behind him.  “I’m not going to watch the film of this game,” said Reagle.  “I think I’m going to burn the film, in fact.  If I want to watch something, I’ll watch Die Hard instead.  At least that one has a happy ending.”

Continue reading “2016 SHL Finals – Game 1”