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

2020 SHL Playoff – Game 3

Western Division Playoff (Anchorage leads, 2-1)

PORTLAND BLUEBACKS 8, ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 4

After suffering two embarrassing losses at home to open this Western final, the Portland Bluebacks had one goal for Game 3.  As RW Vince Mango put it succinctly: “We damn well better win.  We can’t get swept again.”

Mango and the Bluebacks made good on that goal.  They walked into Arctic Circle Arena and not only defeated the Anchorage Igloos, they did it convincingly, by a score of 8-4.  It was a statement win for a team that desperately needed to make a statement, to prove that they could match up with the Igloos in the postseason.

“That was the game we’ve been looking for the last two years,” said Mango.  “That was the dominating performance I knew we had in us.”

The win itself was enough of a statement, but the Bluebacks also flexed their roster depth: Each of their goals was scored by a different player. “That was a really nice touch, I thought,” said coach Harold Engellund.  “People tend to think our team is all about Vince and Eddie [Costello], but there’s so much more to us.”

In fairness, the Igloos put up more of a fight than the final score would indicate.  In spite of the fact that Portland built a 3-0 lead in the first half of the opening period, Anchorage declined to give in.  When Bluebacks D Benny Lambert was penalized for holding the stick, Igloos D Sebastian Pomfret scored on the ensuing power play to break the shutout.  Portland regained their three-goal edge just 20 seconds later on a tip-in by LW Rod “Money” Argent, but then Anchorage struck back again when LW Les Collins caught Portland goalie Jesse Clarkson out of position and buried it in the upper-left corner of the net.  And when C Jens Bunyakin scored 11 seconds into the second period, Anchorage pulled within one goal and the crowd started coming to life.

At that point, Mango called his teammates together to deliver a brief but pointed message.  “Hey, we need this,” Mango shouted.  “Let’s go out and break them.”

And that’s exactly what Portland did.  First, they broke loose on an odd-man rush, which Costello finished by going five-hole on Ty Worthington.  Next, less than a minute later D Woody Fairwood pinched along the board to thwart an attempted Anchorage clear, then passed to fellow blueliner Doron Lidjya, who banked it in off the right post.  Then just over a minute later, RW Philippe Durien stuffed home a wraparound before Worthington could seal off the post.  Suddenly it was 7-3, the crowd was silenced, and Worthington was off to the bench having stopped just 8 of 15 shots, replaced by backup Curt Freeze.

The rest of the game was a formality, with the teams trading goals, but the Igloos weren’t happy with a couple of Portland’s third-period actions.  Durien earned an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taunting the Igloos bench, a performance that involved several obscenities as well as the grabbing of his groin.  Later in the period, in response to some chirping from Anchorage directed at Mango, LW Alphonse Gaspard fired a water bottle in the direction of the home bench, also earning an unsportsmanlike penalty.

“It’s really interesting to me that they hadn’t even won one game yet, and they were already running their mouths,” said LW Jerry Koons.  “Apparently they didn’t think they could let their play do the talking.  You’d better believe that we’re going to make a mental note of that.”

Coach Sam Castor echoed Koons’ sentiments.  “I don’t think we have to worry about finding any motivation for the next game,” he said.  “The Bluebacks were nice enough to take care of that for us.  I really appreciate that.”

W Final - Gm 3, Portland @ Anchorage, Arctic Circle Arena

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Portland           4   3   1        8
Anchorage          2   1   1        4

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

Costello        C      5   1   0   1   1   0  +2   Keefe           D      0   0   1   1   2   2  -4
Mango           RW     3   1   1   2   0   0  +2   Ericsson        RW     2   1   0   1   0   0  -2
Fairwood        D      1   0   3   3   3   0  +4   Koons           LW     2   0   1   1   0   0  -2
Lidjya          D      1   1   2   3   1   0  +4   Frost           C      5   0   1   1   0   0  -2
Gaspard         LW     1   0   1   1   2   2  +2   Pomfret         D      3   1   0   1   2   0  -4
Argent          LW     1   1   0   1   0   0  +2   Kerasov         D      0   0   1   1   2   0   0
Lambert         D      1   0   3   3   3   2   0   Hoffman         C      1   0   1   1   0   0  -2
Beasley         C      5   1   1   2   1   0  +2   Collins         LW     2   1   0   1   1   0  -2
Pepper          RW     3   1   2   3   0   0  +2   Citrone         D      2   0   0   0   0   2   0
Gallagher       D      1   0   0   0   1   0   0   Zhlotkin        F      5   0   0   0   1   0  -2
Gatecliff       D      2   0   0   0   2   0  +1   Martinsson      D      1   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Durien          RW     3   1   1   2   0   2  +1   Adamczyk        LW     2   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Mortensen       D      0   0   0   0   2   4  +1   Calligan        D      4   0   0   0   1   2  -1
Derringer       C      1   1   1   2   0   2  +1   Bunyakin        C      3   1   0   1   0   0  -1
Bannon          LW     1   0   0   0   2   0  +1   Fleury          RW     3   0   1   1   2   2  -1
------------------------------------------------   ------------------------------------------------
TOTALS                29   8  15  23  18  12   5   TOTALS                35   4   6  10  11   8  -5

Coach: Harold Engellund                            Coach: Sam Castor                               

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

 
Portland            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Clarkson            35    31    4  0.886

Anchorage           SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Worthington         15     8    7  0.533
Freeze              14    13    1  0.929

 

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

GOALS:
05:16  POR  Derringer (Fairwood, Durien)
08:21  POR  Pepper (Lidjya, Fairwood)
10:41  POR  Beasley (Pepper, Lambert)
15:02  ANC  Pomfret PP (Koons, Keefe)
15:22  POR  Argent (Beasley, Pepper)
16:25  ANC  Collins (Hoffman)

PENALTIES:
00:11  POR  Mortensen 2:00 (Tripping)
01:06  ANC  Fleury 2:00 (Slashing)
13:43  POR  Lambert 2:00 (Holding the Stick)

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

GOALS:
00:11  ANC  Bunyakin (Kerasov, Fleury)
01:56  POR  Costello (Mango, Gaspard)
02:54  POR  Lidjya (Fairwood)
04:09  POR  Durien (Derringer, Lambert)

PENALTIES:
04:39  ANC  Calligan 2:00 (Holding the Stick)
12:47  POR  Mortensen 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)

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

GOALS:
00:12  POR  Mango PP (Lambert, Lidjya)
09:58  ANC  Ericsson PP (Frost)

PENALTIES:
00:10  ANC  Citrone 2:00 (High-sticking)
03:32  POR  Durien 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)
08:48  POR  Derringer 2:00 (Roughing)
12:21  POR  Gaspard 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)
17:47  ANC  Keefe 2:00 (Delay of Game)


 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Portland          11   9   9       29
Anchorage         17   8  10       35

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

Portland         1 for 4
Anchorage        2 for 6

 
INJURIES
--------

None

 

Eastern Division Playoff (Hamilton leads, 2-1)

HERSHEY BLISS 4, HAMILTON PISTOLS 3

Justin Valentine is a natural-born leader.  The Hershey Bliss center has that combination of movie-star good looks, natural eloquence, and strong play that makes teammates naturally want to follow him.  And when his team faced a win-or-go-home Game 3 against the defending champion Hamilton Pistols, Valentine came up big, potting a pair of goals – including the game-winner – and contributing an assist to lead his team to a 4-3 win to stave off elimination in the Eastern final.

“Great players want the puck in big moments,” said Bliss coach Chip Barber.  “And Justin always wants the puck in those spots.  Like a good premium chocolate, he’s perfect for every occasion.”

Valentine’s first heroic moment came early in the second period.  Hershey found themselves trailing after the first, despite once again scoring the game’s first goal, a power-play tally by D Steve Cargill.  Tallies by Pistols D Raymond Smyth and LW Steven Alexander quickly put the Bliss behind, and neither the Bliss bench nor the crowd at Chocolate Center wanted to risk a multi-goal deficit.  So when D Jean-Luc Aubin found Valentine in the slot, the center wasted no time going top shelf to tie things up.

“[The Igloos] were beating me up pretty good in front of the crease,” Valentine said, “but I was determined to strike pay dirt there.”

A couple minutes into the third, Valentine threw an impressive check on Pistols C Calvin Frye to relieve him of the puck.  After corraling the biscuit, Valentine through a head-man pass to D Cedric Meloche, who found LW Lance Sweet cutting to the net.  Sweet went glove-side to out Hershey back on top.

“Everybody thinks of Justin as a scorer, but he doesn’t get enough credit for his D,” said Sweet.  “Frye’s a pretty big rig, and that was a big-boy check that Justin put on him.”

Hershey’s bliss was short-lived, as Pistols D Clayton Risch tied things up less than two minutes later.  But Valentine bided his time, waiting for an opportunity to strike again.  When Hamilton RW Claude Lafayette was sent off from cross-checking with less than nine minutes remaining, the captain had his chance.  Hershey was in its standard umbrella formation, with Valentine stationed low near the left post.  Sensing a seam in the Hamilton penalty kill, Valentine signaled Sweet to switch just as Cargill unloaded from the point.  Crossing in front of the net, Valentine was able to redirect into the top left corner of the net as Sweet screened Pistols goalie Lasse Koskinen.  That tip proved to be the winning goal.

“I knew the team needed me to deliver today,” said Valentine.  “Now we just need two more like that.”

Hamilton coach Keith Shields graciously acknowledged Hershey’s strong play, while maintaining confidence in the outcome of the series.  “We figured [the Bliss] would have a game like this in them,” Shields noted.  “They’re too good a team to go down quietly.  But we’ve got two more shots to close this out, and we’re going to do it.”

E Final - Gm 3, Hamilton @ Hershey, Chocolate Center

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hamilton           2   0   1        3
Hershey            1   1   2        4

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

Lafayette       RW     2   0   0   0   1   2  -1   Milton          D      3   0   1   1   1   2   0
Frye            C      4   0   1   1   2   0  -1   Sweet           LW     5   1   2   3   0   0  +1
Alexander       LW     5   1   0   1   2   0  -1   Hart            RW     2   0   1   1   1   0  +1
Mulligan        D      0   0   1   1   2   0   0   Aubin           D      2   0   1   1   3   0   0
Risch           D      5   1   0   1   1   0   0   Valentine       C      8   2   1   3   0   0  +1
Smyth           D      2   1   1   2   0   2  +1   Kirkpatrick     C      4   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Summers         RW     1   0   0   0   0   0  +1   Cargill         D      2   1   1   2   0   0  -1
Venezio         C      5   0   1   1   0   0  +1   Meloche         D      3   0   1   1   1   0  -1
Campbell        LW     3   0   1   1   0   2  +1   Swindonburg     LW     2   0   0   0   1   0  -1
Hampton         D      3   0   0   0   0   2   0   Montrechere     RW     1   0   0   0   1   0  -1
Marais          C      4   0   0   0   0   0  +1   Ketterman       C      1   0   0   0   1   0  -1
Glasco          D      2   0   0   0   2   0  +1   Daniels         RW     5   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Patterson       RW     1   0   0   0   0   0  +1   Nahorniak       LW     5   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Jennings        F      1   0   1   1   0   0  +1   Minnik          D      2   0   0   0   1   0   0
Klemmer         D      0   0   0   0   0   0   0   Snelling        D      1   0   0   0   5   2   0
------------------------------------------------   ------------------------------------------------
TOTALS                38   3   6   9  10   8   1   TOTALS                46   4   8  12  15   4  -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            46    42    4  0.913

Hershey             SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Adamsson            38    35    3  0.921

 

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

GOALS:
01:35  HSY  Cargill PP (Sweet, Milton)
02:16  HAM  Smyth (Venezio, Campbell)
05:15  HAM  Alexander (Frye, Smyth)

PENALTIES:
00:57  HAM  Smyth 2:00 (Hooking)

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

GOALS:
01:03  HSY  Valentine (Aubin, Sweet)

PENALTIES:
02:44  HSY  Milton 2:00 (Slashing)

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

GOALS:
02:21  HSY  Sweet (Meloche, Valentine)
03:45  HAM  Risch (Mulligan, Jennings)
11:25  HSY  Valentine PP (Cargill, Hart)

PENALTIES:
05:07  HSY  Snelling 2:00 (Diving)
11:06  HAM  Lafayette 2:00 (Cross-checking)
11:40  HAM  Hampton 2:00 (Tripping)
19:33  HAM  Campbell 2:00 (High-sticking)


 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hamilton          15  11  12       38
Hershey           12  15  19       46

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

Hamilton         0 for 2
Hershey          2 for 4

 
INJURIES
--------

None

2020 SHL Playoff – Game 2

Eastern Division Playoff (Hamilton leads, 2-0)

HAMILTON PISTOLS 5, HERSHEY BLISS 1

When it’s playoff time at Gunpowder Armory, it’s not a good idea to show up late.  For one thing, the games always sell out, and you wouldn’t want to have to fight your way through the raucous crowd to find your seat.  For another, you never know what you might miss.  Fans who showed up even a couple minutes late to today’s Game 2 missed a pair of power plays and three goals, as well as some of the rare competitive moments in a game that became a 5-1 Pistols blowout, bringing the defending champs within one game of a return trip to the Finals.

“We’re playing our best hockey at the perfect time,” said LW Steven Alexander.  “It feels a lot like last year, if you know what I mean.”

The game was just seven seconds old when Pistols D Hercules Mulligan went to the penalty box for interference.  Just ten seconds after that, Bliss LW Lance Sweet found the back of the net on a slapper.  It was the second straight game that Hershey scored first, and that left the home team steaming.

“We weren’t going to wait for Coach Shields to wake us up,” said C Calvin Frye.  “We wanted to take the game back before [the Bliss] started getting comfortable.”

Hamilton did just that fifty seconds into the game, when Hershey committed a costly neutral-zone turnover that led to an odd-man rush.  Frye finished it with a beautiful deke that got Bliss goalie Christien Adamsson out of position, allowing Frye to go five-hole and tie it up.  Just four seconds later, Hershey D Bruce Minnik was sent off for high-sticking.  On the power play that followed, Mulligan redeemed his earlier penalty with a blast from the blue line that beat a screamed Adamsson.

All that in the first 65 seconds.  That early flurry set the tone for a frenetic period that featured a total of 34 shots (23-11 in Hamilton’s favor) and one more goal by D Albie Glasco.

“I loved the way our guys showed up with authority and took control of the game,” said Pistols coach Keith Shields.  “Just an awesome job feeding off the energy of the crowd, tilting the ice and absolutely setting the pace.  I couldn’t have been prouder.”

After the wild first, the second period was almost shockingly silent, with no goals or penalties.  Even the famously rowdy Hamilton crowd seemed to lose its edge, at least until the Pistols scored a pair of third-period goals (from Frye and RW Ben Summers) to put the game away.  As the final minutes ticked away, the fans chanted “Back to back!  Back to back!”, already anticipating the Finals trip that feels close.

As for the Bliss, they seemed eager to put this game in the rear-view mirror and head back for the friendlier confines of Chocolate Center for a win-or-go-home Game 3.

“There’s too much talent in this locker room to count us out,” said D Reese Milton.  “When we get back home, we’ll be ready to turn this series around.”

E Final - Gm 2, Hershey @ Hamilton, Gunpowder Armory

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

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

Milton          D      3   0   1   1   2   0   0   Lafayette       RW     2   0   3   3   0   0  +1
Sweet           LW     4   1   0   1   1   2  -1   Frye            C      4   2   1   3   0   0  +1
Hart            RW     2   0   0   0   2   0  -1   Alexander       LW     7   0   2   2   1   0  +1
Aubin           D      0   0   0   0   0   0   0   Mulligan        D      4   1   0   1   1   2   0
Valentine       C      3   0   1   1   0   2  -1   Risch           D      3   0   0   0   3   0   0
Kirkpatrick     C      2   0   0   0   0   0  -1   Smyth           D      2   0   1   1   1   0  +3
Cargill         D      0   0   0   0   1   2  -3   Summers         RW     5   1   0   1   0   0  +1
Meloche         D      1   0   0   0   0   0  -3   Venezio         C      2   0   1   1   0   0  +1
Swindonburg     LW     2   0   0   0   1   0  -1   Campbell        LW     3   0   0   0   2   0  +1
Montrechere     RW     2   0   0   0   1   0  -1   Hampton         D      2   0   0   0   3   0   0
Ketterman       C      1   0   0   0   0   0  -1   Marais          C      2   0   1   1   0   0  +1
Daniels         RW     1   0   0   0   0   0  -1   Glasco          D      2   1   0   1   0   0  +3
Nahorniak       LW     3   0   0   0   0   0  -1   Patterson       RW     5   0   1   1   0   0  +1
Minnik          D      4   0   0   0   3   2   0   Jennings        F      2   0   0   0   1   0  +1
Kulkarov        D      0   0   0   0   0   0   0   Klemmer         D      1   0   0   0   1   0   0
------------------------------------------------   ------------------------------------------------
TOTALS                28   1   2   3  11   8  -3   TOTALS                46   5  10  15  13   2   3

Coach: Chip Barber                                 Coach: Keith Shields                            

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

 
Hershey             SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Adamsson            46    41    5  0.891

Hamilton            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Koskinen            28    27    1  0.964

 

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

GOALS:
00:17  HSY  Sweet PP (Valentine, Milton)
00:50  HAM  Frye (Alexander, Lafayette)
01:05  HAM  Mulligan PP (Lafayette, Frye)
04:24  HAM  Glasco (Marais, Patterson)

PENALTIES:
00:07  HAM  Mulligan 2:00 (Interference)
00:54  HSY  Minnik 2:00 (High-sticking)
18:32  HSY  Valentine 2:00 (Holding the Stick)

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

GOALS:
None


PENALTIES:
None


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

GOALS:
02:23  HAM  Frye PP (Alexander, Lafayette)
15:06  HAM  Summers (Venezio, Smyth)

PENALTIES:
00:24  HSY  Sweet 2:00 (High-sticking)
15:35  HSY  Cargill 2:00 (Slashing)


 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hershey           11   8   9       28
Hamilton          23  11  12       46

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

Hershey          1 for 1
Hamilton         2 for 4

 
INJURIES
--------

None

 

Western Division Playoff (Anchorage leads, 2-0)

ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 6, PORTLAND BLUEBACKS 5

After it was all over, in the quiet and sorrowful locker room, Portland Bluebacks LW Rod “Money” Argent tried to explain what had happened.  How the Bluebacks had allowed a game that they seemed set to win slip away.  How they had managed to give up four goals in a wild third period that saw them lose their lead, then regain it, only to lose it again.  How a team that had been so strong in the regular season – especially at Willamette River Arena – could drop the first two games of this best-of-five Western final at home.  How a team that swore they’d learned the lesson of last season – a team that was dead set on winning the Vandy – could be on the verge of being eliminated in a humiliating sweep for the second straight season.

Argent stared at the floor for a good long time, then looked up at the circle of reporters around him and said, “Honestly, I can’t explain what happened.  It was so fast and so stunning.  All I know is that we can’t let it happen again.  We’ve got to fix it, now.”

Coming into the fateful third period, Portland seemed to be comfortably in control.  They’d built a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Argent and D Doron Lidjya.  Anchorage had rallied in the second, with C Jake Frost and LW Les Collins getting on the board, but Argent had a power play tally in between to keep the Bluebacks in front.  The home team was outshooting the Igloos 27-17.  Goalie Ty Worthington was doing his part to keep Anchorage in the game, but he was not as unbeatable as he seemed in his Game 1 shutout.  Portland seemed to be on its way to evening the series.

But the Igloos weren’t content to take the loss and rest secure at the thought of Games 3 and 4 taking place at home.  Instead, they came out aggressively, pressing the Bluebacks and forcing them into turnovers.  Seventy seconds into the third period, Frost stormed into the slot and fired a shot past Jesse Clarkson‘s blocker to tie the score.  Less than a minute after that, RW Broni Zhlotkin tipped a shot from Collins and deflected it into the upper left corner of the net, giving Anchorage its first lead of the game.

The Bluebacks and the crowd were left stunned.  Coach Harold Engellund called timeout to stabilize his reeling team.

“I told them to let it go and focus on getting that lead back,” Engellund explained after the game.  “There was plenty of time left.”

The Bluebacks seemed to head Engellund’s message.  Less than 30 seconds after Zhlotkin’s tally, RW Vince Mango got loose on a breakaway and beat Worthington on the glove side to equalize it again.  Five minutes later, C Cliff Derringer rumbled in from the wing and collected a loose puck in front of the crease, jamming it home to give Portland a 5-4 edge.  After their brief scare, the Bluebacks seemed to have regained control.

But the Igloos weren’t done.  LW Tadeusz Adamczyk parked himself in front of the Portland net during a lengthy offensive shift, and flipped a rebound just under the crossbar to even things against at the 9:28 mark.  Half a minute later, Mango made a lazy pass that Frost picked off at center ice, flicking it to D Sebastian Pomfret.  Pomfret found RW Nicklas Ericsson, who turned on the afterburners to elude Bluebacks D Woody Fairwood and fire a low liner between Clarkson’s legs to make it 6-5.

“I thought maybe I was too old to go that fast still,” joked Ericsson.  “But in the playoffs, you find the energy.”

Portland still had half the third period to catch up.  And they tried, firing shot after shot at Worthington.  They even pulled Clarkson with two and a half minutes remaining, hoping the 6-on-5 edge would deliver the tying goal.  But even though they loosed 20 official shots in the third period (along with several more that went wide or were blocked), they couldn’t best the Anchorage netminder again.

Now the Bluebacks face a daunting task: they must win three in a row – including the next two at Arctic Circle Arena – in order to make it to the Finals.

Engellund believes his team is up to the task.  “We’ve left ourselves with no room for error,” the coach told reporters.  “But sometimes, it’s when your back is up against the wall that you find the real strength inside.  I think that’s what will happen.”

As for the Igloos, they’re hoping for a fast finish.  “I think we should go for the sweep,” said Frost.  “Us old guys could use a little rest before the Finals.”

W Final - Game 2, Anchorage @ Portland, Willamette River Arena

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Anchorage          0   2   4        6
Portland           2   1   2        5

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

Keefe           D      1   0   1   1   1   0   0   Costello        C      4   0   2   2   0   0  -2
Ericsson        RW     5   1   2   3   1   0  +2   Mango           RW     7   1   0   1   0   0  -2
Koons           LW     1   0   2   2   1   0  +2   Fairwood        D      3   0   1   1   2   0   0
Frost           C      7   2   1   3   2   0  +2   Lidjya          D      4   1   0   1   0   0   0
Pomfret         D      4   0   2   2   1   0   0   Gaspard         LW     3   0   1   1   1   0  -1
Kerasov         D      2   0   0   0   1   0  -1   Argent          LW     4   2   1   3   2   0  -2
Hoffman         C      2   0   1   1   2   0  +1   Lambert         D      4   0   1   1   0   0  +1
Collins         LW     2   1   1   2   0   2  +1   Beasley         C      4   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Citrone         D      1   0   0   0   1   0  -1   Pepper          RW     3   0   2   2   0   0  -1
Zhlotkin        F      1   1   0   1   0   2  +1   Gallagher       D      0   0   0   0   2   0  +1
Martinsson      D      1   0   2   2   2   0  +4   Gatecliff       D      2   0   0   0   1   0  -4
Adamczyk        LW     1   1   0   1   1   0   0   Durien          RW     5   0   1   1   0   0   0
Calligan        D      0   0   0   0   2   0  +4   Mortensen       D      1   0   0   0   4   0  -4
Bunyakin        C      1   0   0   0   0   0   0   Derringer       C      3   1   0   1   0   0   0
Fleury          RW     0   0   0   0   1   2   0   McElvern        F      0   0   0   0   0   0   0
------------------------------------------------   ------------------------------------------------
TOTALS                29   6  12  18  16   6   3   TOTALS                47   5   9  14  12   0  -3

Coach: Sam Castor                                  Coach: Harold Engellund                         

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

 
Anchorage           SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Worthington         47    42    5  0.894

Portland            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Clarkson            29    23    6  0.793

 

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

GOALS:
04:21  POR  Argent PP (Fairwood, Pepper)
07:34  POR  Lidjya (Pepper, Gaspard)

PENALTIES:
03:19  ANC  Collins 2:00 (Clipping)

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

GOALS:
00:43  ANC  Frost (Koons, Ericsson)
03:34  POR  Argent PP (Costello)
06:05  ANC  Collins (Martinsson, Hoffman)

PENALTIES:
01:59  ANC  Zhlotkin 2:00 (Delay of Game)
08:33  ANC  Fleury 2:00 (Tripping)

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

GOALS:
01:11  ANC  Frost (Ericsson, Koons)
01:53  ANC  Zhlotkin (Collins, Martinsson)
02:19  POR  Mango (Argent, Costello)
07:12  POR  Derringer (Lambert, Durien)
09:28  ANC  Adamczyk (Keefe, Pomfret)
10:01  ANC  Ericsson (Pomfret, Frost)

PENALTIES:
None



 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Anchorage          7  10  12       29
Portland          16  11  20       47

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

Anchorage        0 for 0
Portland         2 for 3

 
INJURIES
--------

None

2020 SHL Playoff – Game 1

Western Division Playoff (Anchorage leads, 1-0)

ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 2, PORTLAND BLUEBACKS 0

The Portland Bluebacks came into today’s game at Willamette River Arena prepared to notch their first-ever postseason victory.  They were fired up but not overamped.  They had a sellout crowd of screaming fans behind them.  They flew up and down the ice, fired crisp tape-to-tape passes, and bombarded the Anchorage Igloos‘ net with 41 shots.  In short, they did everything they needed to win.

They just weren’t counting on Ty Worthington.  The Igloos goalie was a buzz saw, turning aside all 41 Portland shots.  Thanks to Worthington’s brilliance, Anchorage managed to steal one on the road, claiming a 2-0 win.

“He just sealed it up,” said Bluebacks D Woody Fairwood, who unloaded 10 shots on Worthington to no avail.  “He was never out of position, and he wasn’t leaving any daylight. He just had the net on lock.”

Worthington has five seasons worth of playoff experience; at this point in his career, the bright lights don’t raise his heart rate.  “I was able to block out the noise and just focus,” he told reporters.  “I was seeing the puck really well, and muscle memory took over from there.:

Igloos coach Sam Castor praised Worthington, but he also credited the team’s defense for denying the Bluebacks good looks at the net.  They were particularly effective at containing Portland’s top line of LW Alphonse Gaspard, C Eddie Costello, and RW Vince Mango, limiting them to just six shot.  “Sure, [the Bluebacks] took a lot of shots, but they weren’t top-quality shots,” said Castor.  “They were firing from the outside and severe angles a lot, and they weren’t getting second looks.  It wasn’t always pretty, but it was effective.”

With Worthington standing on his head, the Igloos didn’t need much offense.  C Jake Frost scored the winning goal for Anchorage just over three minutes into the game, catching the Bluebacks in a poor line change and finishing a breakway by firing the puck over the right shoulder of Portland netminder Jesse Clarkson.  They added a bit of insurance early in the second, when Bluebacks C Cliff Derringer was whistled for a controversial offsides to nullify a potential odd-man rush.  A frustrated Derringer whacked the puck into the stands, earning a minor for unsportsmanlike conduct.  On the ensuing power play, D Sebastian Pomfret cycled down from the blue line and fired a slapper that Clarkson couldn’t corral.

After the game, Derringer took responsibility for the loss.  “I have no idea what I was thinking,” he said.  “I just lost my head out there, and you can’t do that on this stage.”

In spite of their strong season, Portland now finds itself facing a must-win situation in Game 2.  Coach Harold Engellund believes his team is up to the challenge.  “We got knocked down today,” said Engellund.  “But I know we’re going to get off the mat and come back swinging.  They can’t shut us out every time.”

 

W Final - Gm 1, Anchorage @ Portland, Willamette River Arena

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

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

Keefe           D      0   0   1   1   2   4  +1   Costello        C      3   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Ericsson        RW     1   0   2   2   1   0  +1   Mango           RW     1   0   0   0   0   2  -1
Koons           LW     2   0   1   1   0   0  +1   Fairwood        D     10   0   0   0   0   2  -1
Frost           C      4   1   0   1   2   0  +1   Lidjya          D      0   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Pomfret         D      6   1   0   1   2   2  +1   Gaspard         LW     2   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Kerasov         D      2   0   0   0   1   0   0   Argent          LW     1   0   0   0   2   5   0
Hoffman         C      3   0   0   0   1   0   0   Lambert         D      4   0   0   0   4   0   0
Collins         LW     1   0   0   0   0   5   0   Beasley         C      5   0   0   0   1   0   0
Citrone         D      4   0   0   0   4   2   0   Pepper          RW     1   0   0   0   0   0   0
Zhlotkin        F      1   0   0   0   0   0   0   Gallagher       D      3   0   0   0   1   0   0
Martinsson      D      2   0   0   0   1   0   0   Gatecliff       D      4   0   0   0   1   0   0
Adamczyk        LW     1   0   0   0   0   0   0   Durien          RW     1   0   0   0   0   0   0
Calligan        D      3   0   0   0   2   0   0   Mortensen       D      0   0   0   0   1   0   0
Bunyakin        C      1   0   0   0   0   0   0   Derringer       C      4   0   0   0   1   6   0
Fleury          RW     3   0   0   0   1   0   0   McElvern        F      2   0   0   0   0   0   0
------------------------------------------------   ------------------------------------------------
TOTALS                34   2   4   6  17  13   1   TOTALS                41   0   0   0  11  15  -1

Coach: Sam Castor                                  Coach: Harold Engellund                         

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

 
Anchorage           SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Worthington         41    41    0  1.000

Portland            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Clarkson            34    32    2  0.941

 

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

GOALS:
03:19  ANC  Frost (Ericsson, Koons)

PENALTIES:
09:06  POR  Derringer 4:00 (Spearing)
14:25  POR  Argent 5:00 (Fighting)
14:25  ANC  Collins 5:00 (Fighting)

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

GOALS:
02:47  ANC  Pomfret PP (Keefe, Ericsson)

PENALTIES:
02:28  POR  Derringer 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)
04:54  POR  Fairwood 2:00 (High-sticking)
08:09  ANC  Citrone 2:00 (Slashing)

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

GOALS:
None


PENALTIES:
02:11  ANC  Pomfret 2:00 (Tripping)
06:59  POR  Mango 2:00 (Holding the Stick)
09:30  ANC  Keefe 2:00 (High-sticking)
18:00  ANC  Keefe 2:00 (Elbowing)


 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Anchorage          8  12  14       34
Portland          19  10  12       41

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

Anchorage        1 for 4
Portland         0 for 4

 
INJURIES
--------

None

 

Eastern Division Playoff (Hamilton leads, 1-0)

HAMILTON PISTOLS 3, HERSHEY BLISS 2

After the first period of today’s series-opening game, Hamilton Pistols coach Keith Shields knew he needed to reset his team.  Within the first six minutes, the visiting Hershey Bliss had built a 2-0 lead on a pair of power-play goals.  Those power plays had come courtesy of two ill-advised penalties by D Burt “Hacksaw” Hampton, who earned a seat on the best for the rest of the period.  The Pistols reacted to the early deficit by turning frantic, firing a flurry of shots that Bliss goalie Christien Adamsson easily stopped.

“I could tell our hearts were beating a little fast,” said Shields.  “We needed to slow down a bit.”

So Shields reminded his team of who they are.  “You’re the defending champions,” he said to his players.  “You’re mighty warriors.  You’re behind, but you’re not out of it by a long shot.  You’ve faced bigger deficits than this.  Take a breath and relax.  You’ve got this.”

He turned to Hampton and said, “I’m letting you out of jail.  But we need you on the ice, so go forth and sin so more.”

The Pistols took their coach’s words to heart.  They went out and rallied, notching a come-from-behind 3-2 win that marked their first step toward defending their title.

“This was a big statement win for us,” said Pistols RW Claude Lafayette.  “It showed that if somebody else wants the Vandy, they’re going to have to come take it from us.”

Hamilton got a break just seven seconds into the second period, when Bliss D Steve Cargill was penalized for high-sticking on a failed lift check.  On the power play that followed, the Pistols whipped the puck around with aplomb until it wound up on the stick of LW Steven Alexander, who fired one of his trademark slapshots to the short side to cut the deficit in half.  The crowd at Gunpowder Armory, which had been unusually quiet, roared back to life after Alexander’s tally.

The scored remained 2-1 through the rest of the second, but the momentum was shifting, and both teams felt it.

“When that crowd got going, that seemed to settle [the Pistols] down,” said Hershey C Justin Valentine.  “They lost that nervous energy and started playing with more confidence.  And then they started tilting the ice.”

Just over six minutes into the third period, the Pistols set up on an extended shift in the offensive zone.  The puck came to Alexander, who wound up for a booming slapper… only instead of shooting, he fired a pass to Hampton, who was breaking toward the net.  The hulking defenseman finished with a surprisingly light touch, flipping the puck over Alexander’s blocker to tie it up.  It was a tremendous relief for Hampton, who toned for his earlier blunders.

“When coach let me out of the doghouse, I wanted to show him that he was right to trust me,” Hampton said after the game.  “Scoring isn’t really my game, but I was glad for the chance to lift the team up.”

A couple minutes after that, LW Jamie Campbell – who struggled for much of the season – earned his shot at redemption.  Campbell is skating on the second line due to Magnus Gunnarson‘s injury, and when that line set up in the Hershey end, the Bliss defenders ignored Campbell to focus on C Marco Venezio and RW Ben Summers.  Seeing the opportunity, Venezio found Campbell, who had a clear lane to a wide-open net.  He didn’t miss, tucking it under the crossbar to put the Pistols in front.

“I had a feeling the game was going to find me,” said Campbell.  “And I knew if it did, I wanted to be ready.”

As exciting as the win was for the Pistols, it came at a cost.  Rookie D Elvis Bodett left the game in the third period after taking an awkward check up high and he did not return.  The team announced that he will miss the rest of the series.

Meanwhile, the visiting locker room was quiet after the deflating loss.  But Hershey will need to readjust quickly if they’re going to bounce back in Game 2.

“We need to be more aggressive with the lead next time,” said coach Chip Barber.  “That’s the defending champs over there, and if you give them a chance to get back into a game, they’re going to take it.  When we get ahead next time, we need to finish them off.”

 

E Final - Gm 1, Hershey @ Hamilton, Gunpowder Armory

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

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

Milton          D      1   0   1   1   1   0   0   Lafayette       RW     0   0   2   2   0   0  +1
Sweet           LW     3   0   0   0   1   0  -1   Frye            C      4   0   1   1   0   2  +1
Hart            RW     1   0   0   0   0   2  -1   Alexander       LW     3   1   1   2   0   0  +1
Aubin           D      2   0   0   0   2   0   0   Mulligan        D      2   0   0   0   2   0   0
Valentine       C      4   1   0   1   3   0  -1   Risch           D      3   0   0   0   3   0   0
Kirkpatrick     C      2   1   0   1   0   0  -1   Smyth           D      1   0   0   0   5   0  +1
Cargill         D      6   0   1   1   0   4  -1   Summers         RW     2   0   1   1   0   0  +1
Meloche         D      0   0   0   0   0   0  -1   Bodett          D      4   0   0   0   0   2  +1
Swindonburg     LW     1   0   0   0   0   2  -1   Venezio         C      1   0   1   1   0   0  +1
Montrechere     RW     1   0   0   0   1   0  -1   Campbell        LW     7   1   0   1   1   0  +1
Ketterman       C      1   0   0   0   0   0   0   Hampton         D      5   1   0   1   2   4  +1
Daniels         RW     2   0   1   1   1   4   0   Marais          C      2   0   0   0   0   0   0
Nahorniak       LW     2   0   1   1   2   0   0   Glasco          D      1   0   0   0   0   0  +1
Minnik          D      2   0   0   0   1   0  -1   Patterson       RW     2   0   0   0   1   0   0
Kulkarov        D      0   0   0   0   3   0  -1   Jennings        F      2   0   0   0   2   0   0
------------------------------------------------   ------------------------------------------------
TOTALS                28   2   4   6  15  12  -2   TOTALS                39   3   6   9  16   8   2

Coach: Chip Barber                                 Coach: Keith Shields                            

Scratches:
HSY:  Kilborn, Snelling, Lapointe
HAM:  Klemmer, Pedersen, Winston (INJ), Gunnarson (DL)

 
Hershey             SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Adamsson            39    36    3  0.923

Hamilton            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Koskinen            28    26    2  0.929

 

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

GOALS:
01:51  HSY  Kirkpatrick PP (Nahorniak, Daniels)
05:54  HSY  Valentine PP (Cargill, Milton)

PENALTIES:
01:06  HAM  Hampton 2:00 (Interference)
05:02  HAM  Hampton 2:00 (Cross-checking)
13:38  HSY  Daniels 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)

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

GOALS:
00:41  HAM  Alexander PP (Frye, Lafayette)

PENALTIES:
00:07  HSY  Cargill 2:00 (High-sticking)
02:02  HAM  Bodett 2:00 (High-sticking)
13:56  HSY  Cargill 2:00 (High-sticking)
15:15  HSY  Hart 2:00 (Holding the Stick)
16:43  HSY  Swindonburg 2:00 (Cross-checking)

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

GOALS:
06:32  HAM  Hampton (Alexander, Lafayette)
08:33  HAM  Campbell (Venezio, Summers)

PENALTIES:
00:44  HSY  Daniels 2:00 (High-sticking)
02:00  HAM  Frye 2:00 (Clipping)


 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hershey            9   8  11       28
Hamilton          18  10  11       39

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

Hershey          2 for 4
Hamilton         1 for 6

 
INJURIES
--------

Elvis Bodett (HAM) -- Upper-body  7 games

Bluebacks Seek First Finals Trip Against Igloos in West Playoff

Last season, the Seattle Sailors made the postseason for the first time.  It was a landmark moment not just for the franchise, but for the players, most of whom had never been to the playoffs before.  So what was the experience like?

Vince Mango

“Honestly, I have no idea,” said RW Vince Mango.  “It was over before I really knew what was happening.”

Yes, the Sailors’ postseason was practically over as soon as it began.  They were rudely dismissed in a three-game sweep in which they were outscored 10-2.  They never led at any point in the series.  And the team that sent them packing?  The Anchorage Igloos.

This year, a number of things have changed.  For one, the Sailors relocated, and are now known as the Portland Bluebacks.  They added a couple of top-notch contributors in C Eddie Costello and G Jesse Clarkson.  They’ve improved on both ends of the ice; they led the league in points and finished fourth in goals-against average.  Their reward?  Another trip to the playoffs… against the same team that swept them last season.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Mango.  “If you want to be the best, you got to beat the best.  I’m looking forward to a little sweet revenge.”

On paper, the matchup looks like a blowout in favor of Portland.  The Bluebacks finished the season 10 points ahead of the Igloos.  They took the division lead in the third week of the season and never looked back.  They were better on offense and in net.  And they’re headed into the matchup with a fully healthy roster, while Anchorage is missing a key offensive cog, RW Waldo Miranda, who was injured on the last day of the regular season.

But as the Igloos would be happy to tell you, games aren’t played on paper.  And they’ve got a few points in their favor as well.  For one thing, they’ve got experience on their side.  Anchorage has been in the playoffs every year except one (2016), and they’ve got two Vandys to their name.  For another thing, they’re coming into the playoffs on a tear, having won 12 of their last 14 games.  Portland, meanwhile, enters the postseason having gone 2-4-1 in their last seven games (although they’d long since locked up the division title by then).

But perhaps the biggest reason for the Igloos’ confidence is that they remember 2018.  That year, they faced the rival Michigan Gray Wolves in the playoffs.  The Wolves had cruised to the division title, leading wire-to-wire, while the Igloos had underperformed for much of the year before getting hot down the stretch to secure a spot.  That matchup was considered even more lopsided than this one; Michigan finished 14 points ahead of Anchorage.  But the Igloos proceeded to dispatch the heavily-favored Wolves in a stunning sweep, and went on to win their second title.

Jake Frost

“We’ve definitely seen this movie before,” said Igloos C Jake Frost.  “We liked the ending pretty well last time, and we’re looking forward to the sequel.”

“Everybody’s rushing to crown [the Bluebacks],” added LW Jerry Koons.  “But we’re the ones who have been here before, been through the wars and come out on top.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re a really talented team, but the playoffs are a whole different level of pressure.”

But Bluebacks coach Harold Engellund said that he’s not going to let his team get overconfident.  He’s made a point of showing them plenty of footage of last year’s sweep.

“I know they’re getting tired of looking at it,” said Engellund.  “But I tell them that the best way to get rid of those memories is to go out and make better ones.”

That’s exactly what his team will try to do.  But in order to find their happy ending, the Bluebacks will need to find a way past the team that’s seen it all before.

Bluebacks Clinch Playoff Spot

The Portland Bluebacks‘ first season in their new city has been a dream come to life.  They got off to a fast start and haven’t slowed down since.  They’ve had a sellout crowd for every game.  They have a fun new fight song.  And now, they’re the first SHL team to clinch a spot in the postseason.

“Stumptown, welcome to the playoffs!” crowed owner Jared Carmichael after his team clinched.  “We have the greatest fans in the league and they deserve this, and I’m so glad we were able to deliver.  Onward to greatness!”

The Bluebacks officially punched their ticket on Tuesday by beating the New York Night 3-2 at Neon Sky Arena.  During the team’s beer-soaked celebration, they sang several choruses of “Catch the Bluebacks Fever,” the aforementioned fight song.  The party continued when the team returned to Portland on Wednesday morning, where they were greeted at the airport by hundreds of fans, and at their game at Willamette River Arena the next night, where they soaked in the adulation of the crowd.  Then on Saturday, they thrashed the Anchorage Igloos 6-2 at Arctic Circle Arena to clinch their first-ever division title.

Vince Mango

“I wish we’d been able to clinch at home, because these fans have been there for us all season,” said RW Vince Mango.  “They’ve been the wind at our backs all the way through, and I can’t want to bring the Vandy home to them.”

This season saw another stage of Mango’s gradual maturation.  Once derided as a selfish, one-dimensional, publicity-hungry scorer, the winger stepped up his passing game last season, looking for ways to set up his teammates rather than always shooting first.  This season, Mango has embraced his role as a team leader. going out of his way to praise teammates in interviews and arranging team bonding events.

“The growth in Vince is the growth I’ve seen across the squad,” said coach Harold Engellund.  “He’s become a better and more well-round player, and we’ve become a well-rounded team.”

The Bluebacks are hoping that this year’s playoff experience is more pleasant than last season’s.  The then-Seattle Sailors made their first-ever trip to the playoffs in 2019.  But they faced off against the defending champion Igloos, and found themselves rudely dismissed in a three-game sweep.

“I think that was a good learning experience for us,” said Engellund.  “Anchorage handed us our heads, yeah, but we came away from that a stronger team.  And we learned about by watching Anchorage and their approach to the game, and how they took it up to the next level for the playoffs.”

Portland will definitely be a challenging playoff opponent.  They’ve been among the SHL’s top goal scorers all season, but they’ve also got a solid defense and excellent goaltending from the perennially underrated Jesse Clarkson.

“Playing in front of such big and enthusiastic crowds, it just fires you up,” said Clarkson.  “I think our crowds have added 20 points to my save percentage, just from the extra energy.”

The Bluebacks will surely be able to count on more sellout crowds in the playoffs.  Whether they can bring the Vandy home to those fans.. well, it should make for an interesting spring in the Rose City.

Bluebacks Release Fight Song Video for Playoff Run

The Portland Bluebacks are having a great season in their new city.  After relocating from Seattle in the offseason, the Bluebacks have been excellent from the season’s beginning, have compiled the league’s best record, and are on the verge of clinching a playoff berth with a dozen games left in the season.  They’re wildly popular in their new city, having sold out every game so far at Willamette River Arena.

Vince Mango

All in all, it’s been a storybook season so far.  So what’s missing, other than the Vandy?  According to RW Vince Mango, the other missing piece is… a team fight song.

According to Mango, he was inspired by coming across a YouTube video of the 1985 Chicago Bears doing the “Super Bowl Shuffle.” He did a little research, and was fascinated to discover that they recorded the video in December, before the regular season was over.  “So they basically, like, called their shot,” said Mango.  “They were so confident that they were like: ‘Yo, we’re going to sing about winning the Super Bowl before the playoffs even start.’  That’s pretty [awesome].”

Mango then fell down a YouTube rabbit hole, and discovered that a lot of sports teams – including NHL clubs – recorded videos with the players singing (or lip-syncing) songs celebrating the team.  “Apparently, it was kind of a thing back in the ’80s,” Mango noted.  “It was kind of corny, I guess, but also kind of cool.”

This gave Mango the idea: why not have the Bluebacks do a similar video?  “It was a fun old-school thing to do,” said Mango.  “And I was sure the fans would totally eat it up.”

Since Mango stars in a reality television show, “Meet the Mangos,” he has connections in the TV and music industries.  He worked with a songwriter friend of his to craft a fight song called “Catch the Bluebacks Fever.”  (Originally, in the spirit of the Super Bowl Shuffle, Mango wanted t owrite a song about winning the Vandy, but his superstitious teammates refused to participate.)  The song includes lyrics like “We’re cool, we’re hot, we’re breakin’ the ice/Bluebacks hockey is really nice/We shoot, we score, we’re winnin’ the game/We’re the Portland Bluebacks, better learn our name!”

And he had his production crew come and record the team dancing and lip-syncing to the song.  The team appeared wearing their jerseys over jeans, in the spirit of the ’80s videos.  The team released the video on its YouTube channel on Monday, and as expected, it proved to be a hit with the fans. When the team returns from its current road trip, they plan to start playing the video on the Jumbotron before games.

The players reported that they enjoyed making the video.  “It was kind of a chance to let loose and have a good time,” said C Eddie Costello.  “And Vince was smart enough to make sure there was alcohol on the set.  That helped make sure that everyone would loosen up a bit and have fun.  Some guys maybe had a bit too much fun, but that’s okay.”

Perhaps surprisingly, the breakout star of the video was not Mango, but LW Alphonse Gaspard.  According to Costello, Gaspard was one of the heavier consumers of the on-set alcohol, and he clearly enjoyed himself while making the video.  The winger appears in a couple extended shots in the video – one in which he performed an air-guitar solo, and another in which he did a Mick Jagger-esque duck walk – both of which have already been turned into GIFs by the fans.

“I don’t really remember it at all,” said Gaspard.  “But at least I kept my clothes on.”

Time will tell if “Catch the Bluebacks Fever” becomes a lasting success or is remembered as a one-hit wonder.  But at least for now, it provided a welcome bit of levity for a team on a championship quest and the fan base that loves them.

If there’s one person associated with the Bluebacks who didn’t like the video, however, it’s coach Harold Engellund.  “I’m old enough to remember when these types of videos came out originally, and honestly, they were all embarrassing,” said Engellund.  “But if something embarrassing goes away long enough, young folks start to think it’s cool again.  That’s basically how fashion works, so I guess it works for this too.”