ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 5, WASHINGTON GALAXY 3
The SHL Finals are going the distance. With their backs against the wall in a must-win Game 6, the Anchorage Igloos ran up the score early against the Washington Galaxy and went on to a 5-3 win, setting the stage for a winner-take-all Game 7 for tomorrow at Arctic Circle Arena.
“Today, we showed that we had the backbone of a champion,” said Igloos coach Sam Castor. “We were aggressive and hard-nosed, and we let our superior talent shine through. Washington’s played a great series, and they’ve pushed us to the limit. But today’s game shows that we’re ready to respond.”
The first period of this game was highly reminiscent of Game 3. Just as in that game, Anchorage dominated the action early on and built a 3-0 lead. LW Jerry Koons was a man possessed for the Igloos, scoring the first two goals and driving the pace of play.
“We haven’t come this far and worked this hard all season to come up short now,” said Koons. “I wasn’t about to let us roll over and die.”
About halfway through the first stanza, Anchorage D Olaf Martinsson forced a turnover in his own end and flipped the puck to Koons, who started a two-man breakaway with RW Nicklas Ericsson. Koons finished with a beautiful deke before poking it between the legs of Galaxy goalie Roger Orion.
Three minutes later, the Igloos were on the power play when Koons banged home a rebound at the goal mouth off a shot from C Jake Frost to make it 2-0. “Orion made a great save on that play,” said Castor, “but Jerry didn’t give up on the play and made sure we found the back of the net. That’s the kind of greasy goal you need in the playoffs.”
When LW Misha Petronov tipped in another rebound to make it 3-0, the arena was rocking and the crowd was taunting Orion, who had faced only 8 shots to that point. Galaxy coach Rodney Reagle called timeout and spoke to his netminder, but did not pull Orion from the game.
“Roger’s the guy who got us here,” said Reagle. “If you pull a guy in that situation, you’re telegraphing that you’ve got no confidence, and I’m not about to do that at this point of the season.”
Unlike in Game 3, though, the Galaxy didn’t wait until the second period to get back in the game. Immediately following Petronov’s goal, Washington C Drustan Zarkovich won the ensuing faceoff and started a march up the ice that led to a goal by RW Sindri Pentti, getting the Galaxy on the board. And in the waning seconds of the first, C J.C. Marais buried a shot from the right faceoff circle to make it 3-2.
“We were right back in it!” said Washington LW Casey Thurman. “We went into the locker room feeling great.”
The Igloos clearly learned their lesson from Game 3, however, and never let the Galaxy tie the game. Early in the second period, Anchorage C Nile Bernard flipped a puck over a sprawling Orion and into the upper right corner of the net to put the Igloos ahead 4-2.
“I hadn’t been planning to shoot,” said Bernard, “but [Orion] overcommitted to the left side and left me with a wide open net. I felt like I had to put it in.”
Washington did not go quietly, though. After Igloos D Ted Keefe was sent off for slashing with 6 minutes left in the second frame, Marais flicked a wrister in off the top crossbar to get the Galaxy back within one.
That 4-3 score held up through the rest of the second period and much of the third. Finally, with less than 5 minutes left in the game, the Igloos got an insurance goal in a most bizarre manner. Orion turned aside a shot from RW Sven Danielsen but failed to corral the rebound. The puck slid out to the blue line, and Keefe fired it back toward the goal. The puck ticked off fellow D Dave Frederick’s stick and popped high in the air. When it came down, the puck bounced off Orion’s back and into the net.
“That was just a strange play all the way around,” said Reagle. “I think everybody sort of lost it up in the air, and then the way it came down and got in before Roger could react… it’s almost like the puck had a mind of its own, you know?”
Reagle rebuffed calls for replacing Orion in net for Game 7. “That’s just silly,” said the Galaxy coach. “Roger’s gotten us this far, and he’s my guy all the way. He had a bit of a rough game today, but I’m confident he’ll be strong for us tomorrow.”
With the series tied and the deciding game at home, the Igloos are confident. “The Vandy is within our grasp now,” said Castor. “There’s been a lot of talk about momentum in this series, but you can forget about that now. It’s one game for all the marbles, let the best team win. I like our chances.”