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

SHL Season Begins with Scoreless Tie

The 2020 SHL season officially started just after noon Eastern time on Sunday, when the Hershey Bliss and Boston Badgers faced off at the Chocolate Center.  Prior to the game, the Bliss started a pool on which player would score the season’s first goal, recording their predictions and dollar amounts on a white board in the locker room.  C Justin Valentine and LW Lance Sweet were the most popular picks.  In the visiting clubhouse, the Badgers didn’t have a similar pool going, but their players were equally aware of the possibility.

“Scoring the first goal of the season… that would be a really awesome way to begin,” said C Alain Beauchesne.

Little did the Badgers or Bliss realize that 65 minutes would pass without either team lighting the lamp.  No one collected on Hershey’s first-goal pool, as the game ended with the same 0-0 score as it started.

“You know how they say that a tie is like kissing your sister?” said Bliss coach “Chocolate Chip” Barber.  “This game was like marrying your sister.”

Both teams had their chances to score.  In the first five minutes of the game, Valentine and RW Christopher Hart got loose on an odd-man rush.  Hart fed the pass to Valentine in the slot, and the center fired a shot toward the upper-right corner of the net.  Badgers goalie Roger Orion, though, stuck out his glove and snagged the blast.

“I was already counting my winnings in my head,” said Valentine ruefully.

Later in the period, Hershey D Wayne Snelling was penalized for interference, putting Boston on the power play.  Badgers LW Lix Darnholm fired a laser beam of a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle.  Bliss netminder Christien Adamsson got a piece of the shot, but it trickled behind him toward the goal line.  Fortunately for the Bliss, Adamsson fell back on the puck before the Badgers could jam it home.

After a fairly sleepy first forty minutes – Hershey had 14 shots across the first two periods, and Boston only nine – the action picked up in the third.  Unfortunately for both teams, the frustrations piled up as well.  On three separate occasions, the Bliss fired shots that hit the post, two of them by Sweet.  On the Boston side, C Derek Humplik fired a shot that beat Adamsson, but pinged off the crossbar.

“It just seemed like there was some invisible force keeping it out of the net,” said Badgers coach Kyle Barrow.  “It was pretty annoying.”

In the overtime session, Boston dominated the play, outshooting Hershey 6-1.  But they still couldn’t dent the scoreboard.  The closest attempt was a Beauchesne slapshot that sailed just above the net.

After the game, Barber praised the play of Adamsson, who turned aside all 25 Boston shots in his Hershey debut.  “This is exactly what we brought Christien here to do,” said Barber.  “It’s not his fault that we couldn’t provide him any support.”

“Definitely a weird way to start the season,” said Valentine.  “But you just have to put it behind you and move on.  It’s not like we’re going to go scoreless for the whole season.”

Continue reading “SHL Season Begins with Scoreless Tie”

Injury-Plagued Sailors Grab Leonard from Hershey

Hershey BlissSeattle SailorsIn their first week on the ice, the Seattle Sailors struck the first deal of the SHL’s second season.  Thanks to an onslaught of early injuries, the Sailors found themselves with a critical lack of defensive depth.  They plugged that hole by picking up D Adam Leonard from the Hershey Bliss in exchange for F Gene Kennedy.

The league has seen a significant number of players hurt over the week, but Seattle has been hit the hardest.   The Sailors lost players to injury in three straight game.  Sunday’s 3-2 win over Saskatchewan was marred by the departure of D Wayne Snelling, who suffered a lower-body injury that is expected to keep him out for a couple weeks.  In Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to Michigan, RW “King George” Lane fell awkwardly against the boards and left with a lower-body injury; the team lists him as day-to-day.  On Wednesday, Seattle lost both another game — 5-3 against Anchorage — and another player, as rookie D Benny Lambert was felled by yet another lower-body injury that could put him out of action for up to a week.

Lambert’s injury sent the Sailors into crisis mode, as they looked to grab the first available blue-liner.  The Bliss, who were looking to enhance their forward corps, were a willing trade partner.

adam-leonard
Adam Leonard

“Obviously, we were hoping not to have to make a move this early in the season,” said Sailors GM Jay McKay.  “But we didn’t let ourselves get held up.  Adam is a promising young player who fills a need for us now, but has a chance to grow with the team later on.”

Hershey selected the 22-year-old Leonard, a recent graduate from Peninsula State, in the fourth round of this year’s entry draft.  He has a reputation as a stay-home defenseman and a good shot-blocker, although he is not an especially heavy hitter.  He had yet to appear in a game for the Bliss at the time of the trade.  He made his debut with Seattle on Friday in the Sailors’ 7-4 loss to Dakota.

gene-kennedy-hsy
Gene Kennedy

Seattle claimed the 24-year-old Kennedy from Washington in the expansion draft.  Kennedy was a reserve for last year’s division-champ Galaxy squad, putting up 5 points in 23 games.  Though he was only occasionally saw the ice, Kennedy’s fun-loving spirit made him a fan favorite.  The Sailors planned to use him as part of a third-line forward platoon with Yann Eberlein and Randy O’Connor.  He had appeared in one game for Seattle before being dealt.

“This was a great opportunity for us,” said Bliss GM Scott Lawrence.  “I’ve been a Gene Kennedy fan for a while now.  I always liked him when he was with Washington.  When I realized we had a chance to get him, I didn’t hesitate.”

With Leonard on board, the Sailors now find themselves hoping for better health in the upcoming games.  Until Lane is able to return to action, Seattle’s only available reserve player will be their backup goaltender.  As Sailors coach Stewart “Popeye” Corrigan said in his postgame press-conference Wednesday, “I don’t know if I’m running a hockey team or a sick ward.”