2020 SHL Finals – Game 3

HAMILTON PISTOLS 3, ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 2

(Hamilton leads series, 3-0)

Facing a must-win Game 3, the Anchorage Igloos improved in a number of critical ways over the first two games.  With the home crowd at Arctic Circle Arena behind them, they managed to slow down the Hamilton Pistols at least a bit, and prevented them from shooting at will.  Goalie Ty Worthington upped his game after a couple of rocky starts.  The Igloos power play, which had come up dry in the first two games, finally struck pay dirt – twice, even.  But even with all those improvements, the Igloos still came up short, as the Pistols came from behind to claim a 3-2 win and move to the brink of claiming their second straight title.

“We felt like we did everything we needed to do in order to win,” said Igloos C Jake Frost.  “But we didn’t win.  That’s pretty frustrating.”

Today’s game didn’t unfold at the same full-tilt pace at the last two, but the Igloos didn’t take long to take the lead.  Pistols C Marco Venezio wound up in the penalty box for elbowing just 28 seconds into the game, and RW Jean Pierre Fleury scored on the ensuing power play.  Better still, the Igloos were able to make that goal stand up – and keep Hamilton off the board for the rest of the first period and much of the second.  Unfortunately, they were unable to add to their lead despite numerous opportunities.

“The first half of the game, we were getting the better end of the play,” said Anchorage coach Sam Castor.  “But we really should have been up 2-0 or 3-0 at that point, not 1-0.  We were taking the first shot instead of the best shot on too many occasions.”

As a result, when Pistols C Calvin Frye redirected a shot into the upper right corner of the net, that wound up tying the score and deflating the crowd.  Hamilton coach Keith Shields felt that Frye’s goal was critical to Hamilton’s eventual victory.

“Before that point, we’d had some great shots, but it seemed like we weren’t ever going to get anything through,” said Shields.  “But then Cal scored, and that got things going for us.”

In the first minute of the third period, the Igloos got the fans back into the game, as D Tony Citrone fired it home to give Anchorage the lead back.  But a few short minutes later, Hamilton was able to shift the game’s momentum in their favor, this time for good.

Unsurprisingly, it was team leader Steven Alexander who was responsible for the Pistols’ tying goal.  It came on an extended shift in the offensive zone, one that Alexander himself helped to extend by chasing down a loose puck just before it crossed the blue line.  After several tic-tac-toe passes, the puck wound back up on Alexander’s stick, and he ripped a slapshot so powerful that it seemed to go through Worthington and into the net.

“That was a textbook shift for us, and for Alex to end it with a goal was perfect,” said Shields.  “If you want to know what Pistols hockey at its best is all about, just watch that shift.”

It was not Alexander, however, who scored the winning goal.  Instead, it was LW Jamie Campbell, the young winger who struggled through a mediocre season but has come to life in the postseason skating on the second line.  On this play, Campbell parked himself in front of the Anchorage net and would not allow himself to be dislodged, despite vigorous hacking and whacking from a couple of Igloos.  He took Worthington’s eyes away on a shot from the point by D Burt Hampton, and so the netminder was helpless when Campbell tipped the shot just inside the post.

“I’m finally contributing the way I feel like I should,” said Campbell.  “It’s about time.”

The Igloos tried desperately to find the tying goal, firing 19 shots in the third period (and 45 for the game).  But they couldn’t get another one past Hamilton’s Lasse Koskinen.  Shields lavished praise on his goalie after the game.

“Koski’s definitely been under fire in this series,” said the coach, “and he’s come through clean every time.  He’s been Johnny on the spot for us every time.  Heck of a goalie!”

Meanwhile, Worthington and the Igloos sat at a quiet locker room and pondered the uncomfortable truth.  They’d played their best game of the series, and it still hadn’t been enough.  One more loss and their season will come to an end.

In spite of that, Anchorage remains confident of a comeback.  “We’ve got to win four in a row,” said Frost.  “We’ve done that plenty of times this year.  We can do it again.”

Castor, though, doesn’t want his team looking that far ahead.  “We just need to take it one game at a time,” the coach said.  “Let’s win tomorrow and go from there.”

Continue reading “2020 SHL Finals – Game 3”

2020 SHL Finals – Game 2

HAMILTON PISTOLS 5, ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 3

(Hamilton leads series, 2-0)

After dropping the opener of the SHL Finals, the Anchorage Igloos came into today’s Game 2 looking to start strong, cruise to victory, and even the series.  They got the strong start down pat; five minutes into the game, they led 3-1.  But then the spent the remaining 55 minutes watching the Hamilton Pistols slowly but surely tilt the ice in their direction, coming from behind to claim a 5-3 win and a 2-0 series lead.

“This was a tough one for us to take,” said Igloos LW Jerry Koons.  “We felt like we should have had this one, and we let it get away.”

The beginning of this game, just like Game 1, was wide open and full of scoring.  D Olaf Martinsson got Anchorage on the board just seven seconds in, with an awkward knuckling shot that eluded Pistols goalie Lasse Koskinen.  At the 42-second mark, C Calvin Frye banked one in off the crossbar to tie it.  And at 1:15, Igloos D Ted Keefe intercepted a pass and found RW Broni Zlotkin, who fired it above Koskinen’s catching glove to take a 2-1 lead.

“I don’t know what it is about these games,” said Frye.  “It’s like no one’s allowed to play D until a couple minutes into it.”

Three and a half minutes after Zhlotkin’s tally, RW Nicklas Ericsson finished an odd-man rush with a beautiful deke that got Koskinen to bite, then deposited the puck in the vacant upper-right corner of the net to give Anchorage a two-goal lead.  With the game getting out of control, Pistols LW Steven Alexander called his team out and urged them to turn the tide.

“Alex was basically screaming at us that we needed to wake up,” said Frye.  “He said, ‘We can just back in this, turn things around and bury these guys.’  And that got us going.”

Fittingly, Alexander got the rally started himself.  D Raymond Smyth hit him with a perfect pass in the neutral zone, and Alexander barreled up the ice at top speed.  He pulled off a gorgeous toe drag to shake D Tony Citrone, crashed in toward the net, and went high for the score.  Alexander then jumped into the boards and signaled to his teammates.

“He pointed and kind of waved us on like, ‘Okay, I got us started, now it’s your turn,'” said Frye.  “Alex did what he needed to light the fire under us.”

After Alexander’s goal, the game shifted in Hamilton’s favor.  For one thing, they tightened up their shoddy defense.  Anchorage had 17 shots in the first period; they had 21 in the next two periods combined.  And as the Igloos found their game stalling, the Pistols found theirs warming up.

In the second period, D Hercules Mulligan tied the game with a blast from the top of the offensive zone.  The goal was originally credited to RW Ben Summers, who was believed to have tipped it, but replays showed that the puck just took a strange bounce off the ice on its way into the net.

In the first minute of the third period, RW Claude Lafayette gave Hamilton its first lead of the game on a slapshot that leaked through Anchorage goalie Ty Worthington‘s pads and trickled over the goal line before he could stop it.  And in the middle of the third period, Alexander put a capper on the night.  He received the puck in the left faceoff circle, his favorite spot, and wound up for his trademark slapper.  Worthington readied himself to block it.  But instead of shooting, Alexander slapped a pass to Lafayette, who put it into the yawning net for an insurance tally.

Igloos coach Sam Castor swatted down a question about whether he would go to backup Curt Freeze in net after Worthington struggled in each of the first two games.  “Not even a consideration; this is Ty’s series unless he gets hurt,” said Castor.  “Has he had a couple of rough games?  Yes.  But is that on him?  No. it’s not.  Our defense has left him out to dry far too often, and that needs to change in a hurry.”

Castor also criticized his team’s power play, which is 0-for-7 so far in the series.  “We had four today, and didn’t do a thing with them,” the coach noted.  “If we convert on even one of those, it’s a different game.”

As the series shifts to Anchorage for the next three games, the Igloos know they need to raise their game if they’re going to get back into it.  “We need to control the flow of the game,” said Koons.  “We did that against Portland, but so far this series, Hamilton has dictated the game.  If we keep playing back on our heels, this is going to be a short series.  We need to be on our toes instead.”

Continue reading “2020 SHL Finals – Game 2”

2020 SHL Playoff – Game 4

Eastern Division Playoff (Hamilton wins series, 3-1)

HAMILTON PISTOLS 6, HERSHEY BLISS 5 (OT)

There’s nothing quite like playoff overtime hockey.  The exquisite agony flows through the arena, players and fans alike, every time there’s a breakaway, a loose puck, or a shot on goal.  During the overtime of today’s Game 4 of the Eastern finals, there were two instances when a player had the game on his stuck, with the puck and a clear shot at the net.

The first time, Hershey Bliss LW Lance Sweet fired the puck just a hair too high, missing a yawning net by inches and missing his chance to force a winner-take-all Game 5.  The second time, Hamilton Pistols C Calvin Frye dented the twine just inside the left post, giving his team a 6-5 win and earning a trip to the SHL Finals and a shot at becoming the first team ever to win back-to-back Vandys.

“With everything that Calvin’s done for us this season,” said Pistols coach Keith Shields, “it’s only fitting that he got the goal to get us to the Finals.”

Frye’s tally brought and end to a rousing, back-and-forth game that was dominated not by the stars, but rather by the less prominent players on both sides.  The first period ended as a 2-2 deadlock, with both of Hershey’s goals by third-liners (LW Russell Nahorniak and RW Noah Daniels) and Hamilton’s were by third-line LW Jamie Campbell and second-pairing D Albie Glasco.

“It was nice to remind everybody that there’s more to our team than the Love Line,” said Nahorniak.

In the second period, the Bliss seized control of the game with a pair of goals by LW Gabriel Swindonburg and D Steve Cargill.  The crowd at Chocolate Center was delighted, and it looked like a fifth game was a near-certainly.  Unfortunately for the Bliss and their supporters, there were more momentum shifts to come.

The Pistols wiped out Hershey’s lead in the opening minutes of the third period.  First, after Bliss D Wayne Snelling was penalized for tripping, Glasco cashed in on the power play with his second marker of the game.  Just over a minute later, C J.C. Marais corralled a rebound in front of the net and jammed it home to tie the game up.  The defending champs had tilted the ice in their favor, and when Marais scored again with less than eight minute remaining, it looked like they were set to cruise into the Finals.

But the Bliss weren’t giving up.  They kept the pressure on the Pistols.  And with less than two minutes to go, the third line struck again.  The Pistols had the puck in the offensive zone, but Daniels stripped it from Campbell with a perfectly-timed poke check.  He then found Nahorniak, who moved through the neutral zone and fed it back to Daniels.  The winger faked a slapper, then passed back to D Jean-Luc Aubin, who found the back of the net to tie it up and bring the crowd to its feet.  Aubin jumped into the end boards as Daniels and Nahorniak rushed to embrace him.  Suddenly, the Bliss had new life, and the momentum shifted yet again.

That brought us to overtime, and about two and a half minutes in, Pistols goalie Lasse Koskinen made a tremendous save but left a juicy rebound.  The puck squirted over to Sweet, who had a wide-open net and no defenders in his way.  Sweet wound up, cracked a booming slapshot… and it sailed just above the net.

“I think I was pressing a bit,” said Sweet after the game.  “We [on the top line] hadn’t done much all game, and this was my chance to redeem myself.  And I just put too much mustard on it.”

And when, a couple minutes later, Swindonburg was penalized for holding the stick.  Frye promptly won the faceoff, and after the Pistols whipped a few crisp passes around, it came back to Frye, who buried the game-winning goal, plunging the Bliss and their fans into despair and sending his Hamilton teammates to the heights of ecstasy.

“Games like this give you a chance to measure yourself,” said Shields.  “Can you survive the pressure, the screaming fans, the weight of the moment?  Our character has been revealed with fire, and the fire has tested the quality of our work.  What we have built survives, and the Finals are our reward.”

“In the playoffs, every game is a test of our camaraderie and bravery,” said Frye.  “And we passed with flying colors.”

Meanwhile, the Bliss dealt with the bitter disappointment of being eliminated by Hamilton for the second year in a row.  “Not the ending we were hoping for, definitely,” said coach Chip Barber.  “Our guys played their hearts out, and with a couple different bounces of the puck, this could have been a different series.  But credit where it’s due.  Those guys in the other locker room are really good and they don’t make it easy on you.  They earned this.”

E Final - Gm 4, Hamilton @ Hershey, Chocolate Center

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hamilton           2   0   3    1   6
Hershey            2   2   1    0   5

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

Lafayette       RW     5   0   0   0   2   0   0   Milton          D      4   0   0   0   3   0   0
Frye            C     11   1   0   1   0   0   0   Sweet           LW     3   0   0   0   3   0   0
Alexander       LW     4   0   0   0   0   0   0   Hart            RW     2   0   0   0   1   0   0
Mulligan        D      2   0   1   1   1   5   0   Aubin           D      2   1   0   1   1   0   0
Risch           D      1   0   2   2   2   2   0   Valentine       C      3   0   0   0   1   0   0
Smyth           D      1   0   2   2   0   0  -1   Kirkpatrick     C      0   0   2   2   1   0  +1
Summers         RW     2   0   2   2   0   0  -1   Cargill         D      4   1   0   1   0   0  +1
Venezio         C      1   0   1   1   0   0  -1   Meloche         D      1   0   0   0   2   0  +1
Campbell        LW     2   1   1   2   1   0  -1   Swindonburg     LW     3   1   1   2   0   0  +1
Hampton         D      1   0   0   0   0   5   0   Montrechere     RW     4   0   1   1   1   0  +1
Marais          C      7   2   0   2   0   0   0   Ketterman       C      0   0   0   0   0   2   0
Glasco          D      7   2   0   2   2   0  -1   Daniels         RW     4   1   2   3   1   2   0
Patterson       RW     3   0   1   1   0   0   0   Nahorniak       LW     5   1   2   3   0   2   0
Jennings        F      2   0   1   1   0   0   0   Minnik          D      0   0   1   1   0  10   0
Klemmer         D      0   0   1   1   2   0   0   Snelling        D      0   0   0   0   0   2   0
------------------------------------------------   ------------------------------------------------
TOTALS                49   6  12  15  10  12  -1   TOTALS                35   5   9  14  14  18   1

Coach: Keith Shields                               Coach: Chip Barber                              

Scratches:
HAM:  Bodett (INJ), Pedersen, Winston (INJ), Gunnarson (DL)
HSY:  Kulkarov, Kilborn, Lapointe

Hamilton            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Koskinen            35    30    5  0.857

Hershey             SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Adamsson            49    43    6  0.878


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

GOALS:
00:05  HAM  Campbell (Risch, Summers)
02:22  HSY  Daniels PP (Nahorniak, Kirkpatrick)
03:06  HAM  Glasco PP (Venezio, Campbell)
05:28  HSY  Nahorniak (Daniels)

PENALTIES:
01:01  HAM  Risch 2:00 (Tripping)
03:01  HSY  Daniels 2:00 (Roughing)
15:24  HSY  Ketterman 2:00 (Hooking)

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

GOALS:
02:12  HSY  Swindonburg (Minnik, Kirkpatrick)
04:49  HSY  Cargill (Montrechere, Swindonburg)

PENALTIES:
03:56  HSY  Minnik 5:00 (Fighting)
03:56  HAM  Hampton 5:00 (Fighting)

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

GOALS:
02:33  HAM  Glasco PP (Risch, Summers)
03:47  HAM  Marais (Jennings, Smyth)
12:10  HAM  Marais (Patterson, Klemmer)
18:05  HSY  Aubin (Daniels, Nahorniak)

PENALTIES:
00:55  HSY  Snelling 2:00 (Tripping)
03:52  HSY  Nahorniak 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)
04:10  HSY  Minnik 5:00 (Fighting)
04:10  HAM  Mulligan 5:00 (Fighting)

Overtime
--------

GOALS:
05:22  HAM  Frye PP (Smyth, Mulligan)

PENALTIES:
05:07  HSY  Swindonburg 2:00 (Holding the Stick)


SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hamilton          22  11  11    5  49
Hershey           13   9  10    3  35

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

Hamilton         3 for 5
Hershey          1 for 1

INJURIES
--------

None

 

Western Division Playoff (Anchorage wins series, 3-1)

ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 4, PORTLAND BLUEBACKS 1

Yesterday’s game didn’t sit right with the Anchorage Igloos.  It wasn’t just the fact that the Portland Bluebacks routed them 8-4 and denied them a shot at a sweep.  It was the way the Bluebacks spent much of the third period, with the outcome of the game certain, chirping and taunting the Igloos.  Sure, Portland must have enjoyed dominating in a must-win game.  But it was the first time in six postseason tried that the Bluebacks had managed to beat Anchorage.  The Igloos are four-time SHL Finalists and two-time champions; the Bluebacks have never won a playoff series.  Where did they get off talking trash as though they’d just won the Vandy?

Several of the Anchorage players made clear in their postgame interviews that they weren’t pleased with Portland’s display.  But surprisingly, the most upset Igloos player of all was reportedly LW Les Collins, the famously quiet and self-contained star.

“Man, you should have seen Les after that game!” said C Jake Frost, laughing at the memory.  “We were all pretty pissed off, but Les was spitting fire!  He was like, ‘We need to go shove it up their [behinds]!  Let’s go stomp them and grind their faces into the ice!’  And we were kind of like, ‘Dude, you need to reel it in!’  I’ve never seen him spun up like that before.  It was awesome!”

Asked about Frost’s account of his remarks, Collins smiled smightly and said, “That’s not what I remember.”  So how did he really feel about Portland’s taunting?  “I didn’t appreciate it.”

Whether or not Collins really raged in the locker room, he registered his displeasure with his play, scoring twice to lift the Igloos to a 4-1 victory and a Finals rematch with Hamilton.

“Les doesn’t do a lot of talking, but he definitely knows how to lead by example,” said Anchorage coach Sam Castor.  “Today, he carried the team through in a big way.”

Collins got Anchorage on the board first during a first-period power play.  When Igloos D Tony Citrone pinched along the board to thwart an attempted Bluebacks clear, Collins broke hard to the net.  Citrone fired a perfect pass to him, but as he pivoted toward the net, Bleubacks D Benny Lambert closed in for a brutal open-ice check.  Collins didn’t flinch, firing the puck into the upper right corner of the net and absorbing Lambert’s hit.  The Igloos winger popped to his feet, pumped his fists and screamed, then pointed at the Portland bench – a rare display of on-ice emotion.

“We kind of had the sense at that point that we were in for a long night,” said Bluebacks RW Vince Mango.

Ninety seconds after Collins’ inspirational goal, Citrone banged one home to double the home team’s lead.  Was it a coincidence that the Igloos would up celebrating directly in front of the visiting bench?

“Let’s just say that we didn’t mind,” said Citrone.

When LW Jerry Koons banged home a power-play score in the latter half of the second period to make it a 3-0 game, the party began at Arctic Circle.  Feeling confident of victory, the fans rose to their feet and remained standing for the rest of the game.

The Bluebacks finally broke Ty Worthington‘s shutout bid five minutes into the third period, when C Napoleon Beasley went five-hole for a power play goal.  If that raised a flicker of hope for Portland, though, Collins came along to slam the door and put an exclamation point on the Igloos’ victory.  D Olaf Martinsson fired a head-man pass to Collins, and the winger sailed down the ice, slicing past the Portland defenders and bearing down on the net, where he went bar-down to make it 4-1.

This time, Collins dropped to his knees and spun around, then jumped back up and raced up the ice.  As he past the Portland bench, he waved goodbye to the team he had just vanquished.  Mango bent his head back and stared at the rafters in silent frustration.

“I’ll say this,” said Mango.  “When [the Igloos] decided they wanted to stick it to us, they sure knew how to do it.  I won’t forget this anytime soon.”

As soon as the clock hit zero, Koons and Frost grabbed Collins, lifted him on their shoulders, and took him for a victory lap.  The winger thrust his arms in the air and soaked in the adulation.

“I know everybody thinks we’re over the hill,” said Frost.  “But we’ve been in the trenches and earned a lot of valuable experience, and that really pays off this time of year.”

Bluebacks coach Harold Engellund was disappointed in the outcome, but praised his team’s effort.  “I really thought this was going to be our year,” Engellund told reporters.  “But that’s a really tough team over there, and we just couldn’t just past them.  I’m proud of what we accomplished this season.  Just wish it hadn’t ended so soon.”

W Final - Gm 4, Portland @ Anchorage, Arctic Circle Arena

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Portland           0   0   1        1
Anchorage          2   1   1        4

 
Portland              SH   G   A PTS BLK PIM +/-   Anchorage             SH   G   A PTS BLK PIM +/-

Costello        C      3   0   0   0   0   0   0   Keefe           D      2   0   1   1   2   0   0
Mango           RW     5   0   0   0   0   0   0   Ericsson        RW     1   0   1   1   1   0   0
Fairwood        D      3   0   0   0   0   2   0   Koons           LW     2   1   0   1   0   0   0
Lidjya          D      0   0   1   1   2   0   0   Frost           C      4   0   0   0   0   0   0
Gaspard         LW     3   0   0   0   0   2   0   Pomfret         D      5   0   0   0   0   4   0
Argent          LW     2   0   0   0   0   2  -1   Kerasov         D      0   0   1   1   1   0  +1
Lambert         D      2   0   1   1   2   0  -1   Hoffman         C      1   0   0   0   0   0  +1
Beasley         C      5   1   0   1   0   0  -1   Collins         LW     2   2   0   2   1   0  +1
Pepper          RW     2   0   0   0   1   0  -1   Citrone         D      4   1   1   2   1   0  +1
Gallagher       D      3   0   0   0   1   2  -1   Zhlotkin        F      1   0   0   0   0   0  +1
Gatecliff       D      2   0   0   0   1   0  -1   Martinsson      D      1   0   1   1   5   2  +1
Durien          RW     2   0   0   0   2   0  -1   Adamczyk        LW     0   0   1   1   0   0  +1
Mortensen       D      2   0   0   0   2   0  -1   Calligan        D      0   0   1   1   0   0  +1
Derringer       C      2   0   0   0   0   0  -1   Bunyakin        C      3   0   0   0   0   0  +1
Bannon          LW     1   0   0   0   0   2  -1   Fleury          RW     5   0   0   0   0   0  +1
------------------------------------------------   ------------------------------------------------
TOTALS                37   1   2   3  11  10  -2   TOTALS                31   4   7  11  11   6   2

Coach: Harold Engellund                            Coach: Sam Castor                               

Scratches:
POR:  McElvern, Hexton, Gauss
ANC:  Kennedy, Dyomin, LaNeige, Miranda (DL)

 
Portland            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Clarkson            31    27    4  0.871

Anchorage           SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Worthington         37    36    1  0.973

 

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

GOALS:
08:12  ANC  Collins PP (Citrone)
09:42  ANC  Citrone (Kerasov, Adamczyk)

PENALTIES:
07:35  POR  Gallagher 2:00 (Tripping)

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

GOALS:
13:03  ANC  Koons PP (Keefe, Ericsson)

PENALTIES:
00:06  POR  Fairwood 2:00 (Elbowing)
08:37  POR  Argent 2:00 (High-sticking)
11:10  POR  Bannon 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)

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

GOALS:
05:13  POR  Beasley PP (Lambert, Lidjya)
06:14  ANC  Collins (Martinsson, Calligan)

PENALTIES:
03:23  ANC  Martinsson 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)
11:08  ANC  Pomfret 4:00 (Spearing)
19:04  POR  Gaspard 2:00 (Roughing)


 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Portland          11  12  14       37
Anchorage         11   8  12       31

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

Portland         1 for 2
Anchorage        2 for 5

 
INJURIES
--------

None

Two Big Rallies Highlight Wild Saturday

The SHL season is reaching a critical juncture.  The playoff races are coming into focus, and each game is magnified in importance, as contenders fight hard for every possible point.  On Saturday. two teams in the thick of the playoff chase – the Anchorage Igloos and the Quebec Tigres – staged amazing third-period rallies to salvage points from what looked like certain defeat.

The Igloos were at Neon Sky Arena facing the New York Night, a struggling team that fired its coach last week.  Struggling or not, the Night still have a powerful offense and can run up the score at any time.  And they barraged the Igloos and backup goalie Curt Freeze.  They fired 17 shots in the first period and scored three times.  By the midpoint of the second period, New York led 6-2, and the fans were razzing the Anchorage players mercilessly.

Jerry Koons

But the Igloos refused to give in.  In the waning minutes of the second, RW Broni Zhlotkin got on the board to pull Anchorage within 6-3, but they headed into the locker room still trailing by three with only 20 minutes remaining in regulation.  “Even though we were behind, we felt confident,” said LW Jerry Koons after the game.  “We know that we’re a strong enough team not to be counted out of any game.”

To start the third period, C Jens Bunyakin won the opening faceoff, and the Igloos stormed up the ice and scored, with Zhlotkin finishing to make it a two-goal game.  Then, seven and a half minutes later, D Tony Citrone went five-hole on New York netminder Sherman Carter, and the Igloos were within one goal.  A mere thirty seconds later, LW Tadeusz Adamczyk tied it up with a shot that banked in off the crossbar.  The Igloos had effectively silenced the crowd, but they weren’t done.  With less than five minutes remaining in the game, C Tom Hoffman fired a hard, low slapper that eluded Carter’s catching glove and landed in the back of the net.  It proved to be the winning goal in a 7-6 Anchorage victory that kept the Igloos in second place by four points over the Saskatchewan Shockers.

Meanwhile, Quebec is slowly, doggedly trying to catch up to the Hershey Bliss and secure the second and final playoff spot in the East.  With a game at home against the fifth-place Dakota Jackalopes, the Tigres came in looking for an easy win.  But they were in for a rude awakening, as Dakota shelled goalie Riley Lattimore.  After the first frame, Dakota had built a 5-1 lead despite being outshot 16-13.  In the second period, Quebec was able to regain control of the game’s tempo, slowing things down considerably.  But they couldn’t score, and they came into the third still staring at that four-goal deficit.

Walt Camernitz

“Honestly, we thought the game was probably done,” said C Mikhail Ilyushin.  “But Cammy [LW Walt Camernitz] provided a good speech.  He said, ‘Come on, guys.  We’re the better team, and we cannot lose like this.  We need to go out and light a fire.”

Ninety seconds into the third stanza, D Hampus Olsson lit the blaze that Camernitz was hoping for, jamming home a rebound from a severe angle.  But the Tigres were unable to get anything else going until Dakota took a pair of poorly-timed penalties.  D Kirby Hanlon, a former Tigre, committed high-sticking on a missed lift check just before the nine-minute mark.  It took only ten seconds on the ensuing power play for Quebec winger Rupert MacDiarmid to cash in.  And a mere six seconds after MacDiarmid’s goal, Dakota D Alex Angelos wound up in the sin bin after swinging a fist in Camernitz’s direction.  The Jackalopes nearly killed off that penalty, but Tigres RW Stephane Mirac fired a slapper home with three seconds left in the power play.  A couple minutes after that, Camernitz poked the puck loose in the neutral zone and found Mirac, who went streaking to the net and scored the tying goal on a beautiful deke.

Like the Igloos, the Tigres scored four times in the third period.  Unlike the Igloos, however, they weren’t able to score the go-ahead goal, and the game ended in a 5-5 tie.  Still, that tie – the third one in a weird week for Quebec – allowed them to move into a tie with Hershey for second place.

“We do not play the most beautiful hockey,” said Tigres coach Martin Delorme.  “But we play hard hockey, and we are quite determined and do not give up ever.”

It was a pair of thrilling games in an exciting week for the league.  If this is any indication of what’s to come, the last 12 games of the season should be a wild ride.

Continue reading “Two Big Rallies Highlight Wild Saturday”