The Anchorage Igloos entered the Vandenberg Cup Finals as heavy favorites. The “favorite” label can come with considerable pressure in the playoffs, as anything can happen in a short series. In Game 1, at least, the Igloos didn’t let the pressure get to them, as they scored three goals in the first period and cruised to a 5-1 win over the Hershey Bliss.
“If all the games are this easy, it’ll be a short series,” said Anchorage RW Nicklas Ericsson, who had a goal and two assists. “But we know they won’t all be this easy.”
The Bliss put themselves in trouble in the first period, committing four penalties. The Igloos took advantage, scoring a pair of power-play goals. Four minutes into the game, Hershey D Nikolai Kulkarov was whistled for hooking when he brought down Anchorage C Derek Humplik in order to prevent a breakaway. Igloos C Jake Frost buried a slapshot from the top of the faceoff circle to make it 1-0. Late in the period, Bliss C Henry Constantine flipped the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty. Before they could kill it off, D Joel Baldwin tried to draw a tripping call, but was called for embellishment. Igloos RW Remi Montrechere cashed in during the waning seconds of the period, putting a rebound home past a sprawled Brandon Colt. In between, LW Les Collins scored during 5-on-5 play, and the Igloos went to the locker room with a 3-0 edge, depsite being outshot 19-8. The crowd at Arctic Circle Arena razzed the visiting Bliss on their way into the locker room.
“We were a little shell-shocked,” said Bliss C Justin Valentine of the first 20 minutes. “We’d dominated long stretches of play, but look at the scoreboard and they were wiping the floor with us.”
In the second period, Baldwin tried to fire up his struggling team by starting a pair of fights. In mid-period, he responded to a rough check by RW Tony Citrone by throwing hands with him. Late in the period, he scrapped with Collins after the two traded jabs during a faceoff.
“I felt like we needed to shake things up,” said Baldwin. “And I thought a good fight or two might change the momentum.”
Baldwin’s fisticuffs failed to spark Hershey, however, as Anchorage LW Jerry Koons scored the only goal of the period, yet another power-play tally.
Bliss LW Noah Daniels salvaged some dignity for his team, scoring four and a half minutes into the third period to foil Anchorage netminder Ty Worthington‘s shutout bid. But Ericsson put one more home for the Igloos to restore their four-goal advantage, and that’s how the game ended.
Hershey coach Chip Barber was crestfallen after the game. “Not the way that we wanted to start this series,” Barber told reporters. “This loss was as bitter as biting into a chunk of backer’s chocolate. But it only counts as one loss, thank goodness.”
Barber highlighted a couple of areas for his team to improve on in Game 2. “Obviously, we’ve got to cut down on the penalties,” the Bliss coach said. “Against a team this good, you can’t give them extra chances. And we’ve got to find ways to get some more pucks past Worthington.” The Igloos goalie made 38 saves in the game.