TORNADOS WIN !! TORNADOS WIN !!
The Tornados and the Thunder had split the first two games of the Finals, so everything came down to the third and deciding game. Captain Alex McLeod had his full team on hand for the rubber match, but Captain Tony Casella wasn’t so fortunate. Travis Whitehead and Mike Collier were out of town, Mitch Ellis was unable to suit up due to injury, and Kevin Shute was going to be a few minutes late. The men in black were hoping to hold off the orange attack until Kevin’s arrival, but Kyle Bayers fed the ball to Alex in the opening minute and he fired a shot past Marty Kane from the slot to give his squad the early lead. The Thunder shook it off and played a smart positional game, maintaining possession as long as possible and firing long shots at Jason Boudreau while their forwards crashed the net looking to clean up any scraps. Gill; Mombourquette was stopped on one of his quick wrap-around efforts and the ball squirted to Steve Rievaj, who cleared the ball ahead. Chris Sampson reeled it in and drove the net, his shot finding room just inside the post to make it a 2-0 lead. The Thunder were happy to welcome Kevin into the mix, and he buried a setup from Tony shortly after arriving to get his team on the scoreboard. Woody Gouthro pounced on a loose ball moments later and drove in alone. Jason lunged sideways and stopped Woody’s move to the forehand, causing the ball to squirt straight back into the slot. Troy Farnell swatted it towards the yawning net as a defender closed in on him, but his shot missed just wide and the Tors held onto their one-goal lead. Marty steered aside a couple of long bombs from Scott Harrigan, Jason stopped Tony’s rebound try during a goalmouth scramble, and the score remained 2-1 Tornados at the break.
Tony’s Thunder had done a good job keeping the score close, giving themselves a chance to win with a short bench, and they nearly tied the game in the opening minute when Woody stole the ball on a weak outlet pass. But Jason made the save, and play went the other way. Kyle set up Alex for a shot from the slot and the ball found the net, making it 3-1. Kyle got called for holding just a few seconds later, however, and Gill roofed a rebound from a sharp angle to get the deficit back to one. Marty thanked Bruce Hudson for tipping Harrigan’s shot wide as play continued, but then Bruce got into a battle for possession behind the Thunder net and chipped the ball out front. Chris Sampson was charging to the net after coming off the bench and he pounced quickly, beating Marty with a quick shot to make it 4-2. Alex got to a loose ball in the corner on the next shift, worked his way up the side wall, and whipped a hard pass through traffic to the front of the net. Greg Wheaton couldn’t get his stick on it but the ball somehow found its way past everything and into the net, giving the Tors a three-goal edge with twelve minutes left. Kane made a clever play when the ball came off the back wall to the side of the crease after Steve Rievaj fired a point blast. He lunged across and covered Bruce’s stick blade with his trapper instead of covering the loose ball, preventing him from swatting it in for a goal. Veteran move! The Tors made a bad change on the resulting stoppage, and Gill was left wide open to take a long outlet pass. He fired an uncontested shot past Jason from twenty feet out to make it 5-3 with ten minutes left.
Tony called a timeout to give his team a breather, while Alex used the break to settle down his troops for the final stretch. Then Kyle and Chris did what Kyle and Chris do. They cycled the ball, spun off defenders, and waited for an opening. Kyle finally saw one and got the ball quickly to Chris, who fired it home to make it a 6-3 lead with eight minutes left. Casella and his crew were running on fumes, but they steeled themselves for a strong final push instead of quietly fading. Woody just missed on a pair of long slappers and Jason got just enough of a third to steer it aside. Kevin shot the rebound just wide, and then Jason made a good stop on one of Gill’s slippery wraparound efforts. Some creative on-the-fly shuffling of troops resulted in Bruce being left as the last man back against Casella, a matchup that Tony probably liked a lot more than Alex did. Boudreau got in front of another point blast from Woody and the rebound squirted sideways, but Bruce got just enough of his stick on Tony’s rebound try to steer the ball wide of the goalpost and off the back wall. Alex was able to find some room up the middle late in the game and worked to his forehand before sliding a pass back across to Chris, who fired it home for his fourth of the night. Woody scored on a setup from Shute in the final minute but the Tors ran out the clock after that, their 7-4 victory giving Alex his third straight championship as a Captain and the right to once again hoist the Achilles Cup.
Everybody on the Thunder was present for their must-win game against the Tornados, who were missing Matt Monk. Captain Tony Casella buried a setup from Kevin Shute just two minutes into the game, and he added a second goal thirty seconds later after a broken clearance play. Travis Whitehead took a pass from Woody Gouthro shortly after play resumed and ripped a shot past Jason Boudreau on the far side to make it an early 3-0 lead. The Tors were playing a sluggish game, getting some pressure on their opponents in the attacking zone but unable to generate many Grade-A chances on goaltender Marty Kane. Scott Harrigan made a nice move to slip past Mitch Ellis, but Marty got just enough of his shot to steer it aside. Kevin finished off a pass from Tony to make it 4-0 before the game was even seven minutes old, and Marty robbed Kyle Bayers and Chris Sampson on several chances during a strong shift to keep his shutout bid intact. Captain Alex McLeod made a rare miscue after a stoppage in play, allowing Tony to knock in his outlet pass from behind the net. Alex took a timeout to try and settle things down, but Sampson took a strongly-protested penalty for tripping Woody on a play behind the Thunder net and Gill Mombourquette scored an unassisted powerplay goal after a botched clearing attempt, pushing the Thunder lead to six with less than five minutes to go in the period. Bruce Hudson finally broke the egg for the Tors, rifling a point shot that found a little space over Marty’s blocker, but the Tornados still trailed 6-1 at the break.
So, same story as last week but with the roles reversed. Right? Well, not so much. Sampson and Kyle clicked in the opening minute to make it 6-2. Woody scored on a long, high, fluttering off-speed slapper to answer back, but then Chris scored again on a pass from Alex to cut it to 7-3. Kyle potted another feed from Alex moments later, and Chris completed his hat trick on a setup from Kyle at the end of the shift to cut the deficit to two goals with nearly fifteen minutes remaining in regulation. Game on! Alex took a pass from Steve Rievaj and darted up the middle. Bruce planted himself directly in front of Marty, providing a great screen and trusting his Captain to find some net with the shot. Alex did just that, making it a one-goal game with eleven minutes left. Chris got called for another trip on Woody, a penalty that somehow wasn’t recorded on the scoresheet, but Travis buried a feed from Mitch on the powerplay to make it 8-6 with nine to go. Chris made a sweet east-west centering feed to Kyle, but his one-timer from eight feet out missed just wide. At this point, Scotty Harrigan had seen enough. He took a pass from Alex and he darted up the floor, firing a thirty-footer off the goalpost to get the Tors back within a goal. Another unrecorded penalty gave the Tornados a man advantage, and Chris potted his fourth of the night on a sweet feed from Kyle to knot the game at eight apiece with five minutes to go.
Gill nearly restored the lead as play continued, but Jason was able to get just enough of Gill’s patented spinning backhander to prevent it from finding the roof of the net. Marty was equally sharp at the other end, stoning Chris on a backdoor feed by Kyle and then stopping the rebound. Time ran out on the second period, and the game headed to overtime. The checking was tight for the first couple of shifts, but then there was a stoppage in play in the Tornados’ end. Gill fed a pass to Travis while the Tors were still changing and the quick shot got past Jason, giving the Thunder a 9-8 overtime win. The Championship Series now heads into a third & deciding game that will determine which team gets to hoist the Achilles Cup!
Game 1 of the best-of-three Finals between the Tornados and the Thunder kicked off at 7pm, and the only player unable to attend was Steve Rievaj. The orange crew struck first in the opening minute, with Chris Sampson roofing his third attempt from just outside the crease after Marty made two great saves from the doorstep. After Jason Boudreau made a big stop on Kevin Shute’s one-timer, Kyle Bayers extended the lead at the five-minute mark when he finished off a nice play by Scott Harrigan. Moments later, Captain Alex McLeod lifted a high dump-in towards the net. The Thunder defender misjudged the height of the ball and it landed behind him, where Bruce Hudson swatted it past a surprised Kane to make it a 3-0 lead. Captain Tony Casella called a timeout to help his troops gather themselves and regroup. The Thunder were doing their best to fight back, but the Tors were doing a good job of keeping them to the outside and Jason was doing the rest, denying long-range attempts and smothering the ball whenever it came close enough for him to cover. Kyle scored again on a setup from Matt Monk to make it 4-0, and then Travis Whitehead earned a trip to the sin bin for a tripping infraction. Marty did a great job to turn aside the onslaught for nearly the entire penalty, but then Sampson centered from behind the net to Kyle. He took the pass and faked a shot short side, then pulled the ball across the crease before tucking in a backhander for his hat-trick goal, making it a five-goal lead with about six minutes left. Sampson converted another feed from Kyle in the late stages of the period, bumping the lead to 6-0 before the break.
Bruce made a steal early in the final frame and cut to the corner. He centered to Alex in the slot and his shot found the net, putting his Tors up by seven. Jason made a circus save on Travis to maintain his shutout bid, but then Gill Mombourquette made a sweet pass to Woody Gouthro as he drove to the back door, getting the Thunder on the scoreboard. Travis potted another setup from Gill on the next shift, cutting the deficit to five goals with about thirteen minutes remaining. The dark side poured on the pressure, but then Greg Wheaton ripped in a pass from Alex to make it 8-2 with ten to go. A pair of point shots from Mitch Ellis and Mike Collier were blocked as play continued and when Sampson buried his hat-trick goal on a pass from Alex during the next shift, the writing was on the wall. Sampson faked a pass to Bruce in the slot and instead whipped the ball behind him to Harrigan, who ripped it in to make it a 10-2 advantage. Woody scored on a nice play from Tony, and Greg added another by burying a clearance from Bruce with about five minutes left in the game. Gill beat Jason by deflecting Troy Farnell’s shot out of mid-air with ten seconds left, giving him three points on the night, but the Tornados took the first leg of the Final with a convincing 11-4 triumph that leaves them within one win of the championship.