WASHINGTON GALAXY 3, ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 1
With one more game at home in the SHL Finals, the Washington Galaxy were eager to capture a victory and move to the brink of capturing the Vandy. They got what they wanted, snagging a 3-1 win and leaving the heavily favored Anchorage Igloos needing to claim back-to-back wins in order to avoid a stunning upset loss in the Finals.
“This is not the position we wanted to be in,” said Igloos C Jake Frost. “We established ourselves as the best team all season long, and for us to lose the Finals… that would be a real blow.”
Just as they did in game 4, the Galaxy struck first. When C Eddie Costello scored on a three-on-one a little more than four minutes into the game, the crowd at Constellation Center practically raised the roof with delight. “The place was really rocking,” said Washington RW Jefferson McNeely. “The fans were believing right from the start, and we were believing too.”
Igloos C Broni Zhlotkin dampened the crowd’s enthusiasm with less than two minutes left in the period, redirecting a blue-line shot by RW Remi Montrechere and beating Galaxy goaltender Roger Orion stick-side to even the score at 1.
“For us, getting it back even before the break was key,” said Montrechere. “We didn’t want them getting too confident. The momentum was shifting away from us, and we needed to snatch it back.”
In a repeat of Game 2, the 1-1 tie persisted through a scoreless second period, as both teams took turns making furious rushes to no effect. In the first half of the period, the Igloos dominated the action, stepping up the pace of action with their patented fast breaks and trying to overwhelm the depleted Washington skaters. Orion did a valiant job turning them aside, although on two separate occasions Anchorage rang shots off the post.
In the latter half of the period, Washington took its turn in the driver’s seat, scarcely letting the Igloos get the puck out of their own end and bombarding Worthington with shots. But the Anchorage netminder held firm, keeping the Galaxy from breaking the tie. The home fans remained excited, but their cheers took on a nervous edge.
“When [the Igloos] were trying to race past us and we were able to stop them, that got everybody fired up,” said Galaxy LW Casey Thurman. “But then we threw everything we had at them and we couldn’t get it done either. And we all felt like this was a must-win game for us. It was getting intense.”
The Galaxy got a much-needed break 2:47 into the third period. Although the referees had been calling a fairly loose game to that point, head linesman Scott Pritchard whistled Anchorage D Hans Mortensen for a controversial interference call, sending the Igloos bench into hysterics. Igloos coach Sam Castor remained miffed about the penalty even after the game.
“We got burned by inconsistent officiating,” said the Anchorage coach. “If they’d been calling it tight all game, fine. But they’d already made it clear they were going to let the teams play, at least up until that point. There were easily a half-dozen things [the Galaxy] did that were worse than what Hans did, with no call. All I ask for is consistency. If something’s not a penalty in the first, it shouldn’t be in the third.”
Castor and the Igloos only became more furious when Galaxy LW Todd Douglas beat Worthington top-shelf 32 seconds into the power play to put Washington ahead. “That one really burns,” said Castor. “It was a knife in the gut at the worst possible time.”
Less than three minutes later, an Anchorage defensive breakdown sprung Douglas on a breakaway; he fed C Drustan Zarkovich, who slid the puck under Worthington’s right pad for a 3-1 lead.
“You’ve really got to look in the mirror if Drustan beats you on a breakaway,” Galaxy coach Rodney Reagle quipped after the game. “He’s a great guy and a good player, but he’s not exactly a racehorse out there.”
After securing the two-goal edge, the Galaxy spent the rest of the game in a defensive mode. With Orion (30 saves) continuing to provide stout netminding, Washington preserved their win and took a 3-2 lead in the series.
“All we’ve got to do now is win one in Anchorage, and we’ve already done that,” said Thurman. “We’re ready for this.”
The Igloos headed home fueled by anger at the late call against Mortensen. “A lot of guys in here feel like the refs won this one, not the other team,” said Frost. “We’re not looking for the refs to decide this series. We want to take care of business ourselves.”
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