A little about the league, it’s a draft league, so each year, the captains get together and draft new rosters. It’s a nice way to do it as there should be some league parity, and you’re likely to be a little better behaved as any other player in the league could be your teammate next year. This works pretty well for the captains with regards to picking the players who have played, but when it comes to the rookies, there can be some wild cards. I’ve gotta give credit to my captain Mike Pappas who did his homework on potential picks (read *facebook stalked*) and drafted like the Detroit Red Wings.
When the season started it was kind of weird for me to be in a room where I didn’t know a single guy, and I know it’s a cliche but we really came together as a team throughout the course of the year. When only lost 7 games all year through the regular season and playoffs, and while we weren’t the highest scoring, nor were we best defensively, we managed to find ways to battle through tough opponents, like the Phantoms in the finals for example.
In game 2 of the best of 3 series with us up a game already, we got down early and the mood on the bench was still good, we knew we had the ability to come back. We got down another goal and Aaron beside me said “we’ve still got this guys, just keep going hard” with no panic in his voice. We’d been through it before and come out on top, so we started battling back. I can’t remember which Ferg it was, but I think Aaron put my rebound in the back of the net and the momentum shifted, the smiles weren’t as big on the other team’s faces. Our goalie Matty MacKenzie came up absolutely huge, even stopping one with his back in a crazy reflex save, he was our MVP all year, the best goalie in the league. Later, own 3-2 I scored one of my favourite goals of the season when I batted a puck in out of the air on the backhand, I waited for it to drop below the crossbar but I was still worried it was going to be called a high stick, but it wasn’t. Unfortunately the tie only lasted 20 seconds when their (and the league’s) top player Kyle Miller scored a beauty. They say the shift after a goal is an important one and we blew it on this occasion.
With only a few minutes left in the game I got my second goal of the game, another one out of the air (both from O’Connor), to tie things up, I was pretty pumped. I really wanted to score the hat trick to win the game, but instead, with just 6 seconds left in regulation I took a stupid penalty. I figured it wasn’t a huge deal until regulation time ended and I learned that we weren’t going to a shootout like we did in the regular season and the other rounds of the playoffs, but would be going to overtime instead. Thankfully my teammates bailed me out with an awesome penalty kill. I think they only got one shot on net against us during my 2 minutes in the box.
Our first overtime, played at 5 on 5, came to an end with no result so we went to a second overtime at 4 on 4. We were just wrapping up another awesome penalty kill when we had a bit of a mixup at the bench. My linemate Brad was sitting on the boards waiting to start his shift when one of our D accidentally hopped on the ice, so Brad waited, but the defenceman came back off as the puck went into our zone. A couple of us noticed that we only had 3 men on the ice and Brad hopped over the boards just as Theron got the puck. Theron, who admitted he was gassed and would have normally taken his time, maybe made a move or two, looked up and saw Brad flying down ice, and laid down a perfect backhand saucer pass to Brad, just inches out of the reach of their last man back, for the breakaway. Our entire bench got to our feet as we knew the right guy had the puck on his stick and with a classic forehand backhand move, he slid the puck 5-hole for the win. It was nice to win, but it was even better to win it in such dramatic fashion.
What a way to finish off a great season with a great group of guys. It’s kind of bittersweet knowing that most of the guys will be on different teams next year. I’d love to play with this team again. I know that each and every one would have my back in a heartbeat. I know because of the numerous times we all backed each other up, from Brad taking out a guy who drilled me after a goal, to Healy sticking up for Erv last night when Erv got drilled from behind and injured his shoulder, knowing full well he’d be spending time in the box. That’s just the kind of thing you do when you care about the guy sitting next to you in the dressing room. As we all soaked in the victory in the dressing room after the game, what I saw was much of what I had seen all year; a group of guys with smiles on their faces, having a good time, except this time there was champagne.
Great year boys!
(some photos contributed by Gord Mundle of Ice Men Atlantic Hockey)