The Stealth, Ice Men Atlantic Hockey Champions 2016

This might sound silly to those of you who don’t play men’s league hockey, or any adult rec sports for that matter, and maybe even to some of those who do, but I don’t care, I’m writing this.
 
Last night our hockey team, the Stealth (aka the orange team), in Ice Men Atlantic Hockey, won our championship *waits for applause, thank you, thank you*. It’s the first time in about a decade that I can remember winning anything, and I had forgotten just how good it felt to win and not just for myself, but for the entire team.  Looking around the room after the game, I couldn’t see a single guy who didn’t play a big part in our win.
 
When the year started I was a little nervous about playing competitive hockey again. I hadn’t played in a league for about 5 years, and definitely not anything very challenging, so I wasn’t sure exactly where I stood.  I found out about the league from a guy named Mark when I met him and his fiancee about shooting their wedding (check back here on the blog in August for that one), and Mark said the level was pretty good.  I set myself a goal of being in the top 20 of scoring in my first year and I had no clue if that was realistic or setting myself up for disappointment.  Turns out that I did alright thanks to playing most of the season with the Ferguson brothers, Aaron and Brad, whose hands and hockey IQs were much better than mine, so I usually defaulted to them.  I think one of them named us the Dusty-Ferg line and it stuck, and so did we as a line.  It’s really nice to play with the same guys for the better part of a year, you really get to know tendencies.  I couldn’t have asked for better linemates either, Aaron led our team in scoring, Brad was second, and I was fourth.  I’ll take it, though I would have been third if Theron didn’t start scoring points to match the way he had been playing all year (you bastard Theron).

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)
Halifax Sports Photographer Dustin Hall

Brad (#7 on the right) gets mobbed after scoring the 2OT winner.

Halifax Sports Photographer Dustin Hall

Yeah, I was pretty happy to win.

Halifax Sports Photographer Dustin Hall

Traditional Championship on ice photo

Halifax Sports Photographer Dustin Hall

The guys in the room

Halifax Sports Photographer Dustin Hall

Theron with the wink and thumbs up

Ice Men Atlantic 2016 Champions

2016 Champions!

Ice Men Atlantic 2016 Champions

No, I wasn’t actually drinking out of the bottle, it was empty.

Halifax Sports Photographer Dustin Hall

Pap giving us his post season speech. No, it was not as epic as his weekly emails.

Halifax Sports Photographer Dustin Hall

Thanks for the cool photo Gord, I thoroughly spraying that bottle

Halifax Sports Photographer Dustin Hall

I soaked Pappas pretty good with this

Halifax Sports Photographer Dustin Hall

It was pretty much just suds going into the cup

Halifax Sports Photographer Dustin Hall

Aaron and Vinny

Halifax Sports Photographer Dustin Hall

Passing the Cup around

Halifax Sports Photographer Dustin Hall

The Dusty-Fergs

Halifax Sports Photographer Dustin Hall

Calling his mom to let her know he won.

Ice Men Atlantic Hockey

Brad enjoying that champagne

Halifax Sports Photographer Dustin Hall

Saunders and Pappas

Halifax Sports Photographer Dustin Hall

“Oh yeah I scored the Cup winning goal”

Halifax Sports Photographer Dustin Hall

Brad, Aaron, Vinny, Theron, and Pappas

Halifax Sports Photographer Dustin Hall

Lingering in the dressing room, I’m surprised he’s not still there

Halifax Sports Photographer Dustin Hall

Vinny making sure Matty gets another drink, he earned it

Halifax Sports Photographer Dustin Hall

Matty, the best goalie in the league. Hear that Gord?

Halifax Sports Photographer Dustin Hall

The look of a guy proud of the team he put together

Drinking from the cup

A bunch of guys with their Cup moment

Theron Lane, Dustin Hall, Brad ferguson, Aaron Ferguson Ice Men Hockey

Theron, me, Brad, and Aaron

Halifax Sports Photographer Dustin Hall

Pappas with his hardware

 

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