THUNDER WIN ! THUNDER WIN !
Thunder and Lightning. Game 3 of the Finals. Winner take all. Captain Tony Casella had everyone on hand for this one, and Captain Kenny White didn’t. Mike Collier and Chris Munroe were missing, but Scotty Harrigan gave the Bolts a boost by suiting up for action despite battling through a foot injury. The teams traded chances in the early going, the best one coming when Peter MacDonald took a give-n-go feed from Tony and snapped his shot off the crossbar from ten feet out. Travis Whitehead stole the ball from Phil Wheaton in the corner and fed a quick pass to the slot, where Tommy Winsor one-timed a shot past Paul Highmore to open the scoring. Phil redeemed himself moments later by whipping a diagonal pass to the back-door side. Mike DeGrace stopped Adam Fancy’s low attempt at the five-hole, but Chris Sampson cleaned up the rebound to tie the game. Phil got the ball again behind the Thunder net and chipped the ball over the cage to himself as he circled out front, but his backhanded swat at the airborne ball was a misfire that trickled wide. Ricky Miller took a great return pass from Peter when play went the other way, but he fired just over the crossbar and the score remained tied.
Phil fired a point shot and the ball rattled around in front. Kevin couldn’t bury it, but Sampson lit the lamp on the second chance to give the Lightning a 2-1 lead. The ball came to Tommy on the ensuing faceoff and he drove up the wing. A quick feed out front allowed Travis to tip the ball into the top corner, tying the game just seven seconds after the Thunder had surrendered the go-ahead goal. Adam Fancy stung the crossbar just three seconds after play resumed. Mitch Ellis and Phil exchanged a couple of friendly bumps as they drove towards a loose ball in the Thunder end. Sampson picked off a deflected clearance attempt and fed the ball to the middle, where Kenny swatted a low shot just inside the post as he drove hard to the net. Kenny called a timeout to rest his troops, but Travis made a steal along the side wall once play got back underway. He drove to the net and forced Paul to come up with two big saves on the initial shot and the rebound. At the other end, Kevin fed a pass to the middle but Fancy whistled a low wrister just wide. Ricky drove across center with time winding down and swerved to the middle, using Kenny as a screen and wiring a wrister past Paul to knot the game 3-3 with just one second remaining in the period.
Sampson stole the ball at center and chipped it ahead past a defender. Mike charged out and swatted it away before Chris could run onto it, but Kevin sent it back out to Harrigan and Scotty fired a low bullet into the net to make it 4-3. Kevin and Chris both missed close-range tries on a scramble, Sampson missed just wide on a rebound a few seconds later, and then Mike made a trapper save on Sampson’s off-wing snapshot during a rush. Ricky missed high on a drive to the net, but the ball took a juicy bounce off the back wall and he buried the rebound to tie the game. Moments later, Tony caused a turnover behind the Lightning net and the ball came out to Ricky, who scored his hat-trick goal with a low spinning shot to his forehand. Mike stopped a high point shot from Kenny after a turnover, Travis fired a snapshot just over the net, and Fancy ripped a high shot that clipped the trapper before rattling off the crossbar. But then another shot from Fancy got past a screen and deflected to Sampson, who buried his third of the game to square the match at 6-6 with eight minutes left.
Ricky couldn’t connect on Travis’ swift pass to the doorstep and the ball went into the corner, where Kenny was eventually given a holding penalty during a battle against Travis. The Thunder powerplay controlled the ball well, Paul stopped a couple of howitzers from Mitch, and Travis just missed roofing a rebound. A stretch pass to Phil on a broken play allowed him to unleash a huge one-timer from twenty feet out with his team still shorthanded, but the high shot missed just wide. Kenny called a timeout after his PK blanked the Thunder PP. Tommy’s centering pass to Travis got deflected away, and Kevin lost the handle at the other end after Chris sent him in all alone. Kenny fired a shot over the bar, Mike stopped a high one-timer by Fancy from twelve feet out, and play went the other way. Ricky gained control and headed out to the point, with Kenny doing his best to blanket his opponent. Ricky’s low shot clipped Kenny’s foot, fluttered through a sea of legs, and slipped unseen past Paul to put the Thunder ahead 7-6 with just over a minute to go. Fancy backhanded a centering pass from Phil just wide as time was winding down, and Phil’s last-second shot from the wing hit Mike in the chest. It was one helluva game and it could have gone either way, but Tony’s crew held onto their lead after scoring a late one and the Thunder are your Achilles Cup champions for Season 28. Congratulations!
So here we are in the thick of the Ballstar Finals and Kenny White’s Lightning, the winners of a tight contest in Game One, are in position to close out the series and claim the Achilles Cup. But they’d have to do so without the services of big d-men Scotty Harrigan and Chris Munroe, while Tony Casella’s Thunder headed into this must-win game without the steady presence of Ryan Rideout on defence. Phil Wheaton made a quick pass to Chris Sampson in the opening minute, and his quick shot found room through the five-hole to give the Bolts an early lead. Peter MacDonald took a roughing penalty after an exchange with Sampson, putting the black knights in danger of falling into an early hole. Paul Highmore denied Sampson on a stuff attempt at the side of the net, and then made a blocker save on Adam Fancy’s shot from twelve feet in front. Paul stopped another short-side try from Sampson, and play went the other way. Phil made a great read and jumped in to pick off a cross-crease feed from Tommy Winsor to Tony at the back door, and Mike DeGrace made a great save on a high backhander at the other end after Kenny picked his way through the middle. Mike came up big again on a goalmouth scramble, stopping Kevin Shute and Sampson on a pair of quick shots. Travis Whitehead fired a shot just over the crossbar on Paul, and then got denied moments later as he tried to jam the ball in from the doorstep.
Sampson fed the ball out front to Kenny when play resumed, and this time White’s spinning backhander found the net to make it 2-0. Kenny fired a slapper just wide, and Paul had to be sharp at the other end to steer aside Ricky Miller’s deceptive no-look shot from the wing. Tony drove to the net and collided with Mike Collier, but there was no penalty called even though Casella went sprawling to the floor on the play. Mike stopped Shute on a one-timer, Paul stopped Travis after he’d intercepted a pass up the middle, Collier picked off a backdoor feed from Travis intended for Peter, and Paul made a great pad save when Ricky fired through Collier’s legs from fifteen feet out. Shute hunted down a long rebound at the other end and made good on his shot, finding the five-hole and pushing the lead to 3-0 with just over two minutes left in the period. Casella called a timeout to settle his troops, and it seemed to work. Travis fired a pass from Peter shortly after the faceoff and the ball battled its way through Paul’s pads, creeping just over the goal line to cut the deficit to two. Travis tried to pitchfork a pass to Pete on the doorstep as time was winding down, but he whiffed on the elevated feed and the score remained 3-1 Lightning after twenty. The SOG totals were 21 for White and 11 for Black.
Sampson tipped a long shot by Shute past Mike to make it 4-1 early in the final frame. Fancy scooped up a loose ball, circled his own net, darted up the floor by the benches, and fired a long blast that eluded Mike and pushed the lead to four with fourteen minutes to go in regulation. But then, just fifteen seconds later, Peter buried the rebound from Troy Farnell’s slapper to make it 5-2. Kenny missed wide on a setup from Shute as he drove to the net. Mitch Ellis fired a long-range bomb and the ball hit Paul, bouncing straight up in the air. Travis swatted it down with his hand and potted a backhander, cutting the deficit to 5-3 with eleven minutes left. Kenny called a timeout. Sampson drove to the net when play resumed, headed wide after a dangle, and hit the post with a high shot past a sprawling Mike. Ricky got control and sped up the floor with Phil in hot pursuit, forcing Paul to come up with a big save on a quick release from fifteen feet out. Shute knocked one off the goalpost at the other end, and Travis used his body to fend off Collier before firing a quick shot that Paul steered into the corner. But then the ball came back out to Mitch at the point, and he fed it ahead to Travis. This time, he held off the defender and scored with a backhander, his hat-trick goal making it 5-4 with about four minutes to go.
Paul stopped Tony from point-blank range on a great feed from Travis moments after the ensuing faceoff, and the ball came back to the point. Ricky drove down the wing, faked a pass to Tony in the corner, and whipped a shot into the far side to tie the game with just three minutes remaining. Hey, remember that four-goal Lightning lead? Gone. The Bolts were starting to look a little gassed, but Tony decided to call a timeout anyway. Why not? With the Season on the line, he took the opportunity to throw a gameplan into place. Hindsight is 20/20, but it turned out to be the right call. Ricky roofed a high shot from ten feet out at the tail end of an impressive tic-tac-toe play with Tony and Travis, and the Thunder now held their first lead of the night with two minutes to go. Winsor drove deep with the ball and circled the net. Phil went down while trying to stop him, Tommy centered to Tony, and Paul came up with a huge save. The ball went out wide and Travis picked off a clearing attempt. Driving to the net, he swerved to his backhand and slid a quick shot under Paul’s pads to make it 7-5. It was the sixth straight Thunder goal, and they killed off the remaining time to secure the win and tie the Series at one apiece. The third and deciding game will be this Wednesday, and maybe some of you will make time to come out and enjoy the festivities as these teams duke it out for the privilege of hoisting the Achilles Cup as the champions of Season 28. Or you could just stay home and let TMZ give you a comprehensive update on what’s going on with the Kardashian girls. Your choice!