2021 SHL Finals – Game 3

HAMILTON PISTOLS 2, ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 1

(Hamilton leads series, 2-1)

Lasse Koskinen told us this was coming.  In Game 2, the Hamilton Pistols goalie returned from an injury he suffered during the divisional playoff against Boston but struggled badly after the first period, surrendering five goals.

After the game, reporters asked him if he was still dealing with lingering effects from the injury.  Koskinen denied it, saying that he’d just had a bad game.  “If I play better next game, perhaps then you will believe it,” he said.

In tonight’s Game 3, the Finnish-born netminder played one of the best games of his career.  He showed no signs of injury, moving comfortably all around the crease and making 39 saves, including several acrobatic stops.  Thanks to Koskinen’s brilliance in net, the Pistols stole a game on the road, 2-1, against an Anchorage Igloos team that clearly outplayed them for most of the contest.

“Seeing the game happen live, I couldn’t understand how we lost,” said Igloos coach Sam Castor.  “Then I looked at the stat sheet, and I still couldn’t understand it.  But when you’ve got a hot goalie, anything is possible.  And Koskinen was on fire tonight.  I have to tip my hat to him.”

Anchorage looked like a team possessed throughout this contest.  They were buzzing on offense, outshooting Hamilton 40 to 27.  They were just as engaged on defense, blocking an amazing 21 shots compared to just 9 for the Pistols.  But in spite of their dominance, they kept running into a roadblock in the form of Koskinen.

“The way [Koskinen] was stretching out his arms and legs to makes saves, he looked like Inspector Gadget,” said Igloos C Jake Frost, who was held scoreless despite taking 10 shots in the game.  “I couldn’t get it under, over, around, or through him.  It was one of the best performances I’d ever seen.”

The home team came out of the locker room ready to tilt the ice.  They absolutely blitzed the Pistols in the first period, outshooting them 14-5.  And yet somehow when the period was over, Anchorage trailed 1-0 thanks to a fluky goal by Pistols RW Brad Stevens that redirected a couple times before going in.

“After the way we played in the first, we should have had 2 or 3 goals for sure,” said LW Jerry Koons.  “But we just couldn’t solve Koskinen.”

Koskinen made several impressive saves during that first-period barrage, but two in particular stood out.  One came about the midway point of the period, when Igloos C Tom Hoffman got loose on a breakaway and fired a shot ticketed for the upper-right corner of the net, only to be foiled by a great glove save from Koskinen.  A few minutes later, during an extended offensive zone shift, Frost got the puck on his stick with a wide-open net.  But Koskinen managed to flick his right pad out just in time to smother Frost’s bid.

“I already had my arms halfway in the air because I was sure it was in,” said Frost.  “When I realized it wasn’t, I couldn’t believe it.”

In the second period, the Igloos’ frustration mounted as Koskinen continued to stonewall them.  Meanwhile, at the 4:15 mark of the period, LW Magnus Gunnarson scored on a nifty curl and drag to make it a 2-0 game.  Gunnarson’s shot was just the second for Hamilton in the period and their seventh for the game.

Later in the period, the Igloos went on the power play when Pistols D Elvis Bodett was whistled for interference.  In the opening seconds of the man advantage, Frost saw an opening on the short side and whistled a shot toward it.  But Koskinen launched himself over to seal the post and stop the shot, leaving the Anchorage center shaking his head in frustration.

The Igloos finally got on the board with 1:11 left in the second, after Hamilton LW Kelvin Starkey committed a hooking penalty in the neutral zone.  Koons launched a rocket of a shot the Koskinen got a piece of, but couldn’t keep out of the net.

“That was a hallelujah moment for us,” said Koons.  “It was like, ‘Okay, we can actually get it past him!’”  But that was the only puck they would put behind him.

The game took a turn for the physical in the latter stages.  Pistols D Hercules Mulligan and Igloos LW Veikko Sikanen fought late in the second after Mulligan objected to a rough hit that Sikanen put on Stevens in the corner.  In the third, a scrum in front of the Anchorage net turned violent, as poking and jostling turned into face washes and flying fists.  Igloos D Tony Citrone and Pistols C Hilliard Macy received fighting majors as a result of that fracas.

The Igloos and Pistols have gotten in four fights in the last two games, and Hamilton coach Keith Shields indicated that he would ask his team to tone it down.  “We know this is a heavyweight series, but there’s a difference between being physical and being reckless,” said Shields.  “Our guys have stayed on the right side of that line so far, but the last thing I want is for us to see someone important get hurt or suspended because something boils over.  Let’s win this with goals, not fists.”

But even when the game got chippy, Koskinen’s excellence remained the major story.  Anchorage valiantly killed off some third-period penalties, including a 5-on-3 situation that lasted a minute and a half, but they couldn’t come up with the tying goal.  Koskinen wasn’t called upon to make many acrobatic saves down the stretch; instead, he stood tall in net, calmly turning the Anchorage pucks aside.

Game 4 is essentially a must-win for Anchorage.  But they can’t help but ask themselves: given how well they played in this game only to come up short, what do they need to do to get a win?

“If we play tomorrow the way we played today, we should get the win,” said Castor.  “Koskinen can’t stop them all, can he?”

Continue reading “2021 SHL Finals – Game 3”

2021 SHL Finals – Game 1

HAMILTON PISTOLS 6, ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 3

(Hamilton leads series, 1-0)

The Anchorage Igloos came into this series knowing that they’d need to win at least one game on the road in order to have a shot at the Vandy.  Game 1 seemed like perhaps Anchorage’s best opportunity to steal a win: The favored Hamilton Pistols were missing their starting netminder, Lasse Koskinen, and relying on inconsistent backup Shawn Stickel between the pipes.  A win here would upset Hamilton’s momentum, establish the Igloos as a dangerous opponent, and potentially set them up to clinch the series at home.

The first period unfolded according to Anchorage’s game plan.  Things took a turn for the worse in the second, however, as the Pistols scored four unanswered goals on the way to a surprisingly easy 6-3 win.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better start to this series,” said Hamilton coach Keith Shields.  “We got a nice statement win that should set the tone for us the rest of the way.”

At the start of the second period, Anchorage led 2-1 on goals by RW Jean Pierre Fleury and LW Jerry Koons.  They’d outshot the Pistols 13-11, and generally looked like the superior team.  But things started to shift when Hamilton D Hercules Mulligan scored on a shot from the top of the faceoff circle that took a fluky bounce off an Igloos defender before going in.  Mulligan’s goal tied the score and got the famously loud fans at Gunpowder Armory back into the game, which seemed to disrupt the Igloos’ communication.

“When that arena gets loud, you can barely hear yourself think,” said Anchorage C Tom Hoffman.  “I definitely think it had an effect.”

The roar subsided a bit when Pistols C Marco Venezio was sent off for a holding-the-stick call 3:06 into the period.  But it cranked up again when Stickel made a tremendous stick save to deny Igloos D Brian Coldivar a power-play goal.  Once the home team successfully killed off the Venezio penalty, the fans were cheering and stomping to such a degree that the ice literally seemed to shake.  The ruckus rattled both teams a bit, but the Igloos in particular.

Just past the midpoint of the period, the Pistols took charge of the game with a stunningly quick pair of goals.  C Calvin Frye gave Hamilton it first lead of the game with a slapshot so hard that Anchorage goalie Ty Worthington had no time to react before it was in the net.  Frye then won the following faceoff and the Pistols got it up the ice to LW Steven Alexander, who banged it home just 2 seconds after the Frye goal.  Alexander tossed his stick in the air and leaped into the glass as the fans roared.  The Igloos, meanwhile, were left stunned.

“One minute it was tied, then all of a sudden it got away from us,” said C Jake Frost.  “It was a whiplash moment for us.”

The fans stayed on their feet for the rest of the period, clapping and screaming and taunting the visiting Igloos.  Anchorage, meanwhile, clearly seemed disconcerted and out of sync, misfiring on passes and taking ill-timed penalties.  Ds Laszlo Cierny and Thor Dalmgaard took penalties almost back-to-back, stretching Anchorage’s penalty kill to its breaking point.  During the second power play, Coldivar whiffed on an attempted clear, allowing D Raymond Smyth to scoop up the puck and feed LW Magnus Gunnarson, who fired a shot that hit Worthington in the chest before trickling between his legs and over the goal line, giving Hamilton a 5-2 lead.

“We just had a complete breakdown at every level in the second,” said Igloos coach Sam Castor.  “We can’t let that happen and expect to win this series.  This should be a wake-up call for us.”

Anchorage got themselves back on track in the third period, but it was too late.  The teams traded goals around the midpoint of the period, with Mulligan and Koons each picking up their second goals of the evening.

Alexander credited the Pistols’ Game 1 win to the fans.  “They showed up loud and rowdy, just the way we like it!” the winger said.  “I want our fans to know that we loved how they came through for us today.  Keep it up the rest of the series!”

For the Igloos, things don’t get any better in Game 2, as it sounds like Koskinen will be ready to go.  “He’ll be on the ice for morning skate,” said Shields of his starting netminder.  “If all goes well, I expect Koski will be in net tomorrow night.”  For the Igloos, that news makes an already uphill climb that much steeper.”]’

Continue reading “2021 SHL Finals – Game 1”

2021 SHL Division Playoffs – Game 3

Eastern Division Series (Hamilton leads, 2-1)

BOSTON BADGERS 5, HAMILTON PISTOLS 1

Facing a win-or-go-home situation in Game 3, the Boston Badgers rose to the occasion.  They seized control of the contest with a three-goal second period, and pulled off a 5-1 rout of the Hamilton Pistols to stave off elimination for another day.

“Our backs were against the wall, and we came through and got the W we needed,” said Badgers D Ted Keefe.

After the ugly end of Game 2, when a questionable check by Hamilton D Hercules Mulligan led to a frightening collision that injured two star players, there was some talk that Boston might seek to retaliate in this game.  But the contest was free of fisticuffs and rough play, as the Badgers remained focused on the task at hand.

“Don’t get me wrong, we’re still pissed at what happened,” said Keefe.  “But in an elimination game, you can’t take a chance on doing something crazy and getting kicked out.  So we decided to get even on the scoreboard instead.”

The Badgers got off to an early lead, as RW Gordon Lunsford tipped it in at the goal mouth just two and a half minutes into the game.

“God bless Lunner,” said Badgers coach Kyle Barrow.  “He’s not afraid to go to the dirty areas, park his big old body there and make things happen.”

LW Casey Thurman added a power-play tally in the early part of the second to give Boston a 2-0 lead.  Pistols D Clayton Risch broke the shutout just before the game’s midpoint and gave the champs some life, but the Badgers quickly moved to retake momentum, as C Warren Marlow and LW Lix Darnholm scored a bit over a minute apart to put Boston in the driver’s seat.

On the other end, veteran goalie Roger Orion was in vintage form, flashing back to the play that led Washington to back-to-back Finals in 2015 and 2016.  He made 34 saves in all, including 16 in the third period, when the desperate Pistols flung puck after puck at the net in hopes of getting back in it.  Instead, the final frame’s only goal came off the stick of Keefe, who iced it with a bouncing shot through traffic that snuck under the crossbar.

The Pistols still have the upper hand in the series, but Game 3 felt like a momentum shift.  With starting netminder Lasse Koskinen injured, Hamilton had to turn to backup Shawn Stickel.  Stickel got off to a solid start but fell apart in the second period, yielding five tallies on just 28 shots.

Pistols coach Keith Shields confirmed that Shields would start again in Game 4.  “Koski’s still banged up, so Shawn’s our man,” Shields told reporters.  The Pistols have minor-leaguer Hector Orinoco available as their black ace, but it’s assumed he will play only if Stickel gets hurt.

“I know I’ve got to be sharper tomorrow,” said Stickel.  “The team is counting on me.”  Indeed, Hamilton’s hopes of a third straight Vandy may rest on his broad shoulders.

 

EPlayoffGm3, Hamilton @ Boston, Shawmut Arena

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hamilton           0   1   0        1
Boston             1   3   1        5

 
Hamilton              SH   G   A PTS BLK PIM +/-   Boston                SH   G   A PTS BLK PIM +/-

Mulligan        D      2   0   1   1   2   0   0   Beauchesne      C      2   0   1   1   2   2  +2
Risch           D      4   1   0   1   1   2   0   Lunsford        RW     2   1   1   2   0   0  +2
Frye            C      4   0   0   0   1   0  -2   Darnholm        LW     2   1   0   1   0   0  +2
Alexander       LW     4   0   0   0   0   0  -2   Keefe           D      2   1   0   1   1   0   0
Miranda         RW     1   0   0   0   1   0  -2   Addison         D      2   0   0   0   0   0   0
Summers         RW     2   0   0   0   0   0  -2   Thurman         LW     4   1   1   2   0   0  +2
Gunnarson       LW     2   0   0   0   1   0  -2   Rudyard         RW     1   0   1   1   0   0  +2
Smyth           D      2   0   0   0   3   0  -1   Marlow          C      2   1   1   2   1   0  +2
Glasco          D      0   0   0   0   4   0  -1   Mortensen       D      0   0   0   0   3   0  +1
Venezio         C      2   0   0   0   0   0  -2   Moultrie        D      3   0   0   0   2   2  +1
Macy            C      2   0   1   1   0   0  +1   Yaughn          LW     2   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Hampton         D      1   0   0   0   2   0  -2   Ravenbloom      RW     2   0   0   0   2   0  -1
Bodett          D      1   0   0   0   0   0  -2   McCallan        D      0   0   2   2   3   0  +2
Starkey         F      2   0   0   0   0   0  +1   Humplik         C      0   0   0   0   1   0  -1
Stevens         RW     6   0   0   0   0   0  +1   Stolte          D      4   0   2   2   0   0  +2
------------------------------------------------   ------------------------------------------------
TOTALS                35   1   2   3  15   2  -3   TOTALS                28   5   9  14  15   4   3

Coach: Keith Shields                               Coach: Kyle Barrow                              

Scratches:
HAM:  Miller, Ashmont, Blackwood, Lafayette (DL)
BOS:  Jennings, Shivers, Mahoney, Cherner (INJ)

 
Hamilton            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Stickel             28    23    5  0.821

Boston              SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Orion               35    34    1  0.971

 

First Period
------------

GOALS:
02:30  BOS  Lunsford (Stolte, McCallan)

PENALTIES:
13:05  BOS  Beauchesne 2:00 (Hooking)

Second Period
-------------

GOALS:
04:26  BOS  Thurman PP (Rudyard)
09:33  HAM  Risch (Mulligan, Macy)
11:51  BOS  Marlow (McCallan, Stolte)
13:10  BOS  Darnholm (Beauchesne, Lunsford)

PENALTIES:
03:23  HAM  Risch 2:00 (High-sticking)
15:33  BOS  Moultrie 2:00 (Roughing)

Third Period
------------

GOALS:
08:05  BOS  Keefe (Marlow, Thurman)

PENALTIES:
None



 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hamilton           9  10  16       35
Boston            11   7  10       28

SHOT ATTEMPTS: Hamilton 63, Boston 55

 
POWER PLAYS
-----------

Hamilton         0 for 2
Boston           1 for 1

 
INJURIES
--------

None

 

Western Division Series (Anchorage leads, 2-1)

ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 4, MILWAUKEE GROWLERS 2

Sam Castor had seen enough.  There were 12 minutes left to play in a pivotal Game 3, and the Anchorage Igloos coach had watched his team get thoroughly outplayed by the underdog Milwaukee Growlers all game long.  The Igloos trailed 2-1 on the scoreboard, and they were lucky it wasn’t worse: They’d been outshot 28-17 and out-attempted 56-35.  Anchorage had taking an astounding seven penalties; fortunately for them, Milwaukee scored on only one of the power plays.

Castor called a timeout, which he really does.  Once his players had assembled at the bench, the coach let them have it. “What the hell are you doing out there?” he shouted.  “Do you want to win this series or not?”

The Igloos indicated that they did, and Castor responded, “You could have fooled me, because you’re playing like [crap].  Pick your [butts] up and get going!  If you want to get another Vandy, this is your chance to prove it.”

Over the next eight and a half minutes, the Igloos proceeded to prove that they do in fact want to win the series.  Less than a minute after Castor’s chewout/pep talk, C Jake Frost pounced on a juicy rebound got it to LW Jerry Koons, who scored the tying goal.  A bit over three minutes later, D Rudolf Kerasov finished an odd-man rush by going top shelf to give Anchorage its first lead of the evening.  Finally, with just under three and a half minutes left in the game, C Tom Hoffman redirected a slap-pass from a severe angle and put it home to give the Igloos an insurance goal in their 4-2 win.

“Honestly, starting the series with a blowout was the worst thing that could have happened to us,” said Castor, referring to Anchorage’s 9-0 rout in Game 1.  “I think it made us a little overconfident, made us think we had it in a bag.  The last couple games, we’d played a little sloppy, a little lazy.  So I felt it was time to remind the team that if we kept screwing around, we might just lose this series.  Fortunately, they got the message.”

Frost said that the coach’s message was well-timed.  “We definitely needed that wake-up call,” said the star center, who looked much better in his second game back from injury.  “We’ve got the talent to beat anybody, but we weren’t playing like it.  That message came through loud and clear.”

The Igloos’ rally stunned the Growlers, who were less than a period away from taking control of a series few expected them to win.  They had hoped that their lead on first-period goals from RW Arkady Golynin and D Brady Prussian would stand up, but it didn’t.

LW Zachary Merula noted that Milwaukee had numerous opportunities to put the game away but couldn’t do it.  “Look at the second period,” said Merula.  “We had three power plays.  One of them was four minutes.  And we couldn’t score.  We should have gotten at least one there, maybe two.”

Growlers coach Rodney Reagle acknowledged that his team’s late collapse was a rough blow, but that they were ready to move past it just as they did with the Game 1 blowout.  “This one’s going down the memory hole,” said Reagle.  “I’ve almost forgotten it already.  Seriously, I’m a human goldfish.  Ask my wife.”

Speaking of Reagle: With Milwaukee on the verge of elimination, the SHL world waits to see whether the coach will pull out one of his costumes as a motivational tactic for his team.  Asked directly if a costume was in the works for Game 4, Reagle smiled mysteriously and said, “Tune in tomorrow and find out.”

Continue reading “2021 SHL Division Playoffs – Game 3”

2021 SHL Division Playoffs – Game 1

Eastern Division Series (Hamilton leads, 1-0)

HAMILTON PISTOLS 2, BOSTON BADGERS 1

There was good news for both teams in the opener to this year’s Eastern playoff.  The Boston Badgers managed to dictate the pace of the game, and they battled the two-time defending SHL champions to a draw for the majority of Game 1.  The Hamilton Pistols, however, got the win thanks to a late power-play goal off the stick of RW Waldo Miranda.

“If this game is any indication, this is going to be one heck of a series,” said Pistols coach Keith Shields.

Both teams came out in top form in the first period.  It was the underdog Badgers who struck first, with D Geoff Moultrie firing a shot from just below the blue line that beat a screened Hamilton netminder Lasse Koskinen.

“That was a great way for us to start off,” said Badgers C Alain Beauchesne.  “It gave us that confidence like, ‘Yes, we belong here.’”

The lead lasted about half of the opening frame, with the teams trading fruitless power plays.  With just under eight and a half minutes to go in the period, Pistols D Raymond Smyth forced a turnover at center ice and fed C Marco Venezio, who got behind the Boston defense and beat goalie Roger Orion on the blocker side to even it up.

The second period was a defensive clinic for the Badgers, as they held the Pistols to a single shot in the period.  “For us to be able to shut down an offense like Hamilton’s for a whole period like that, that was a strong statement,” said Badgers coach Kyle Barrow.  “We really put on a clinic there.”

With Hamilton’s offense held in check, the champs relied on Koskinen to hold the fort, and he did, bailing the Pistols out with a couple of brilliant saves.  Early in the period, he denied Badgers LW Dave Yaughn from the with a tremendous glove save.  In the middle of the period, D Matt Cherner fired a laser from below the right faceoff circle; Koskinen slid across the crease and deflected the puck with his left skate.

“Koski was our MVP today,” said Pistols C Calvin Frye.  “He saved our bacon a bunch of times.”

Early in the third period, Badgers C Warren Marlow found the puck on his stick right in front of a wide-open net.  He wound up and shot, only to ping it off the crossbar.

“I really wish I could have that one back,” said Marlow.  “I got overexcited and put too much in the shot.”

The game seemed destined to go into overtime.  But at the tail end of a futile Badgers power play, a frustrated RW Levi Rudyard hauled down Pistols LW Kelvin Starkey in the neutral zone, putting the Pistols a man to the good with just under eight minutes remaining.  In the final thirty seconds of the power play, Smyth found Miranda just above the goal line, and Miranda’s severe-angle shot banked off Orion’s shoulder and into the net.

“I thought I’d sealed off the post, but I hadn’t quite,” said Orion, “and it cost me.”

The Pistols needed one more great Koskinen save off of Cherner in the waning minutes to preserve the win.

“The way we played today, we got a little lucky to get the W,” said Shields.  “If we want to take this series and get back to the Finals, we’ll need to bring it up a notch the rest of the way.”

 

EPlayoffGm1, Boston @ Hamilton, Gunpowder Armory

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Boston             1   0   0        1
Hamilton           1   0   1        2

 
Boston                SH   G   A PTS BLK PIM +/-   Hamilton              SH   G   A PTS BLK PIM +/-

Beauchesne      C      1   0   0   0   0   2   0   Mulligan        D      0   0   0   0   4   4   0
Cherner         D      3   0   0   0   1   0   0   Risch           D      3   0   0   0   1   0   0
Lunsford        RW     0   0   0   0   2   0   0   Frye            C      2   0   0   0   0   0   0
Darnholm        LW     3   0   0   0   2   0   0   Alexander       LW     1   0   0   0   1   0   0
Keefe           D      3   0   0   0   5   0   0   Miranda         RW     3   1   0   1   0   2   0
Addison         D      1   0   0   0   0   2  -1   Summers         RW     1   0   0   0   0   0  +1
Thurman         LW     1   0   0   0   0   0  -1   Gunnarson       LW     1   0   0   0   2   0  +1
Rudyard         RW     1   0   0   0   0   2  -1   Smyth           D      5   0   2   2   3   0  +1
Marlow          C      5   0   0   0   0   0  -1   Glasco          D      0   0   0   0   3   2  +1
Mortensen       D      0   0   0   0   0   0  -1   Venezio         C      1   1   0   1   1   0  +1
Moultrie        D      1   1   0   1   2   0  +1   Macy            C      1   0   0   0   0   2  -1
Yaughn          LW     3   0   1   1   1   0  +1   Hampton         D      2   0   0   0   1   0  -1
Ravenbloom      RW     1   0   0   0   1   0  +1   Bodett          D      0   0   1   1   0   0  -1
McCallan        D      0   0   1   1   2   2  +1   Starkey         F      0   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Humplik         C      1   0   0   0   1   0  +1   Stevens         RW     1   0   0   0   2   0  -1
------------------------------------------------   ------------------------------------------------
TOTALS                24   1   2   3  17   8   0   TOTALS                21   2   3   5  18  10   0

Coach: Kyle Barrow                                 Coach: Keith Shields                            

Scratches:
BOS:  Stolte, Jennings, Shivers
HAM:  Miller, Ashmont, Blackwood, Lafayette (DL)

 
Boston              SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Orion               21    19    2  0.905

Hamilton            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Koskinen            24    23    1  0.958

 

First Period
------------

GOALS:
02:02  BOS  Moultrie (Yaughn, McCallan)
11:41  HAM  Venezio (Smyth)

PENALTIES:
02:47  BOS  Beauchesne 2:00 (Clipping)
07:34  HAM  Glasco 2:00 (Hooking)
14:19  HAM  Macy 2:00 (Interference)
15:49  BOS  Addison 2:00 (Slashing)

Second Period
-------------

GOALS:
None


PENALTIES:
07:46  BOS  McCallan 2:00 (Hooking)
15:42  HAM  Mulligan 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)

Third Period
------------

GOALS:
13:44  HAM  Miranda PP (Smyth, Bodett)

PENALTIES:
03:11  HAM  Miranda 2:00 (Tripping)
10:16  HAM  Mulligan 2:00 (Tripping)
12:11  BOS  Rudyard 2:00 (Hooking)


 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Boston            10   8   6       24
Hamilton          13   1   7       21

SHOT ATTEMPTS: Boston 58, Hamilton 55

 
POWER PLAYS
-----------

Boston           0 for 5
Hamilton         1 for 4

 
INJURIES
--------

None

 

Western Division Series (Anchorage leads, 1-0)

ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 9, MILWAUKEE GROWLERS 0

When the Anchorage Igloos announced that star C Jake Frost would miss the opening game of their division series, the underdog Milwaukee Growlers saw an opportunity to get an edge in their postseason debut.

“Might be a chance for us to steal one here,” said Growlers coach Rodney Reagle.  “That could make all the difference in a series like this.”

The Igloos had other ideas, however.  Their offense didn’t miss a beat in Frost’s absence, breaking the game wide open with a four-goal second period and keeping the hammer down on the way to a 9-0 rout that included a hat trick by C Tom Hoffman.

“Yeah, I think you could say we made a statement in this game,” deadpanned Igloos coach Sam Castor.  “Good result, good effort.”

Despite the lopsided final score, the game started off in competitive fashion, with neither team scoring in the first half of the period.  But when Growlers LW Zachary Merula went off for high-sticking, the Igloos took advantage, with LW Les Collins scoring on the ensuing power play to put Anchorage on the board.  Hoffman scored with just over two minutes left to send the Igloos to the locker room with a 2-0 lead.

There were no further scores in the opening minutes of the second period, although Anchorage was starting to tilt the ice in their direction.

The turning point came about eight minutes into the period, when Growlers D Kirby Hanlon was whistled for elbowing; it was the third penalty on Milwaukee, while Anchorage had received none.  By game’s end, the penalty edge would be 5-0 in Anchorage’s favor.  The Growlers howled in protest, and they remained furious after the game.  But it was after the Hanlon penalty that the wheels came off for Milwaukee.

“We definitely felt like [the Hanlon penalty] was a really questionable call,” said Reagle after the game.  “And any time the calls all go against one team, that raises a couple eyebrows.  But it was on us to keep our heads and play the game, and we didn’t do that.  We took ourselves out of the game.”

Hoffman scored his second goal on the ensuing power play to give the Igloos a three-goal lead.  Less than two minutes later, Collins scored his second of the game to make it 4-0.  Even though Anchorage started giving more time to their third line after that, the goals kept flowing; C Broni Zhlotkin (filling in for the injured Frost) and D Rudolf Kerasov scored before the end of the period.

Milwaukee switched goalies after the second period, with Lorne Mollenkamp replacing Buzz Carson, but it did not slow the Anchorage scoring barrage.  Hoffman completed the hat trick in the first couple minutes of the third, and Ds Laszlo Cierny and Tony Citrone also scored in the final period.  On the other end, Igloos goalie Ty Worthington made the last of his 33 saves to complete the shutout.

The crowd at Arctic Circle Arena razzed the visiting Growlers through much of the third, chanting “Sweep!  Sweep!  Sweep!” and sarcastically applauding whenever Mollenkamp made an easy save.  Castor, though, cautioned that the series was far from over.

“This one only counts as one win, even though it might have felt like more,” the Igloos coach said.  “If [the Growlers] win tomorrow, it’s a tie series and the home-ice advantage shifts to them.  So we’ve got to keep focus, and not convince ourselves that this is going to be a walk.”

The Igloos will be helped in that pursuit by the return of Frost; Castor said that he expects the star center to play in Game 2.

As for the Growlers, they’ll try to forget about this disaster and move on.  Reagle made a nod in that direction in his postgame press conference; when asked about the game, he initially quipped, “There was a game today?”

The coach had an unorthodox theory about how Milwaukee might climb back into the series: “The Igloos might have used up all their goals in this game,” Reagle said.  “They might regret this later if they just ran out of goals.”

Continue reading “2021 SHL Division Playoffs – Game 1”