May 01, 2011

Legend-ary victory

It may have been a game 21 seasons in the making. Defying age, the Living Legend scored seven goals Sunday to lead his team to a 20-14 win and a two-game sweep of the Stanley Stick championship series.

The founding father's offensive outburst followed up a three-goal performance in last week's opener, including the game winner. That was enough to earn him votes as the series' most valuable player, his first Conn Stick award.

But while the Legend reaped the rewards, his side's sweep of the season's climactic showdown was forged by an all-around team effort to which every player was fully committed said Scrappy.

"That was a full team effort," said the fleet forward, who was kept off the scoresheet Sunday, but contributed a huge effort on the forecheck and backcheck. "Everyone was checking along the boards, playing tight to the man, not giving them much."

It was a game plan executed pretty much to perfection said Unabomber, as his side looked to put their opponents away after winning last week's opener 20-16.

"We wanted to keep our shifts shorter and keep everyone involved in the game," said the hard-shooting defenceman. "We needed to play a patient game, work a little harder, bide our time and it would work out for us."

Even as his side fell behind in the game's earliest stages, trailing 4-2 at one point, they refused to panic.

"We just kept coming back," said Lak Attack. "That's when we knew if we stuck to our plan we were eventually going to take over."

It took a while though. Combatting a sticky, bouncing ball on the warmest day of the spring, the margin for the favorites was a slim single goal, 10-9, half way and almost two hours into the game. But their opponent's resolve was showing signs of fracturing as their line juggling that was necessitated by the unexpected scratch of veteran defender Nibs began to take its toll.

"I think we were hurt through the second half of the game by not having that sixth guy," said the Colonel. "It was a warm day and we wore down a bit."

And the Legend was quick to take advantage, as he scored a pair of goals on his first shift after the break, chipping a backhander over Pig Farming Goalie's outstretched pad at the corner of the crease and sweeping home another off a furious rush out of the corner by Lak Attack.

"We came out with a bit more jump and Legend got behind their coverage," said Scrappy. "Once you get a big lead like that after such a tight game for so long, it's demoralizing for the other team."

"The hard part for us was the backbreaking goals that resulted from opportunistic plays," said the Colonel.

Still, with the score 15-9, the underdogs showed signs of renewed life, as they took advantage of some defensive lapses to score three straight and close the gap to 15-12. But that was as close as they got, as Chico smothered every ball that rolled his way and his teammates renewed their commitment to defence.

"It was important not to let any one goal swing the tide," said the rookie rearguard. "We knew what we needed to do."

And when Kid swooped down the wing and lifted a seeing-eye shot past Pig Farming Goalie, they'd accomplished what they'd set out to do.

"We all had confidence in each other and we knew if we just played our game, it would come around in our favor," said Unabomber.

"I think it all comes down to discipline," said Scrappy. "We just had to keep it simple."

"We had the team effort you need to win the Stick," said Chico.






While the Legend's scoring touch was unmatched on Sunday, it wasn't without precedent, as he netted eight in a game just three weeks ago. Time and again he was able to take advantage of defenders focusing on his linemates to evade coverage and convert his opportunities.
"I think we really benefitted from the opposition focusing on other players and letting Legend work his magic," said Chico.
"He got behind their coverage and they didn't take care of him clearly," said Scrappy.
But the Legend's contribution was greater than just goals, said the Colonel.
"(He) showed people he's got quite a bit of knowledge about the game," said the irascible veteran. "He was opportunistic to jump on a lot of his chances, but he did a lot of little things well. I think he raised his game."

Another player who raised his game was Chico, who was unflappable and mostly unbeatable throughout the championship series. After a difficult start to his road hockey career in which the rookie rearguard failed to win in his first five games, he was steady and surehanded when it most counted.
"Chico was just solid for us," said Lak Attack. "He really kept us in the game and that gave us a lot of confidence. we were never worried about having to push up in the offensive zone."
"We knew if we could keep them to the outside that Chico could handle the shots," said Unabomber.
"We were tentative those first few shifts and he made some big saves early," said Scrappy.
"He did everything his team could have asked from him," said the Colonel.

In fact, all season Chico did everything the league could have asked from him, including playing through his weeks of impending fatherhood. His arrival at the beginning of the season and commitment to the league through his difficult debut and all kinds of weather resolved a potentially crippling goalie crisis as erstwhile starter Gump battled injury much of the season.
Which is why Chico was awarded the second Wink Award for dedication and perseverance, named after the retired founding father, Notorious Gameshow Host Gone Bad Wink.

The 2010-11 Stanley Stick champions are: Chico, Living Legend, Scrappy, Scooby, Lak Attack, Unabomber, Kid.

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