FINALS - GAME 2
It was a springtime Wednesday night in Spryfield and you could feel the energy crackling in the air because it was time for Game 2 of the Ballstar Finals and COVID-19 was not going to be the winner in back-to-back seasons! After dropping Game 1, the Thunder were now in a must-win situation against the Tornados. Both teams had all players on hand for this one. Opening minute, Matty Mitchell intercepts Woody Gouthro’s long stretch pass and fires the ball diagonally to Nathan Atwell as he’s coming off the bench. Nate took three steps and beat Peter Regimbald with a wicked wrister from twenty feet to open the scoring. Dave Cooper nearly doubled the lead when he knifed a backhander but the ball clipped the crossbar and sailed high, and Travis Whitehead had half the net yawning at the other end but his redirect whistled just wide. Jordan Castilloux intercepted an ill-advised outlet pass on the next shift and cashed it in to put the Tors up 2-0. Captain Tony Casella fired a pass from Travis over the crossbar and Jason Boudreau had to lunge forward to cover the ball when Adam Healy’s clearing play got deflected right in front of the net!
Blain Sullivan finally lit the lamp for the Thunder when his one-timer rattled through the five-hole. Moments later, Tommy Zivanovich carried the ball in on a 2-on-0 but his centering backhand pass to Jonny Anderson got airborne and Jonny couldn’t connect. Play went the other way and Jordan potted the rebound from Nate’s shot. Chris Innes won the faceoff and got the ball to Cooper, who drove to the net and swatted in his own rebound to make it 4-1. But then, after Pete MacDonald hit paydirt when he blasted a feed from Tony past traffic, the Thunder started to roll. Woody stung the goalpost right off the faceoff and you could sense that a rally was coming. Tommy won a battle for the ball by the benches before head-manning the ball to Tony in front. Slick deke, quick goal. BOOM! Kevin Shute slammed home Jonny’s rebound thirty seconds later to tie the game and Travis backhanded Tony’s hard diagonal feed into the roof of the net as the period was winding down to put the Thunder up 5-4 before the break.
Cooper tied the game when he drove up his off-wing side and curled past a defender before ripping a shot post-crossbar-and-in. P-Mac took a penalty for obstructing Dave a few seconds later and Captain Mitch Ellis teed up Matty for the go-ahead goal on the powerplay. The teams traded chances for six scoreless minutes before Freddie Hutchison headed to the sin bin for a holding violation. Woody faked a slapper and sent the ball across to Blain Sullivan for a one-timer that knotted the score seven-all with about ten minutes left. Twenty seconds later, Woody took a penalty while battling Dave and was not pleased with the call. His teammates stepped up and killed off the penalty, however, and Woody was all fired up upon his return. He whipped a surprise pass straight across the slot through traffic to set up Tony for the go-ahead goal. Dave nearly tied it on a drive to the net but the ball rolled up Peter’s shoulder and teetered around drunkenly on the back of his neck. Peter eventually corralled it before it could fall in by twisting sideways and reaching behind his back with the trapper!
Unfazed by the near miss, Dave drove in again when play resumed. This time, with his back to the net, he spun off a defender and whipped a low shot through the five-hole for the tying goal. Seconds after the faceoff, Jordan tipped in Nate’s long slapper and the Tors held an 8-7 lead with under four to go. Crunch time. Tony called a timeout with 1:50 remaining. Travis couldn’t elevate the rebound from Tony’s wraparound try in the final minute but Jonny retrieved the ball and fed it down low. Travis drove behind the net, circled out front on his forehand and roofed his shot to tie the game with thirty seconds left, just as Regimbald was reaching the bench to switch up for an extra attacker. Peter made a great glove save on Dave with under ten seconds left and Dave got a whack at his own rebound, but the ball hit a defender’s stick and went wide. Overtime!
Travis just missed on a cross-crease feed from P-Mac. Nate made a nice move to spin past Woody at the side wall and centered the ball to Matty, who had a wide-open shot from fifteen feet out but ripped it a foot too high. Tommy couldn’t jam a rebound past Jason at the other end and Matty carried the ball up the floor before rocketing another long blast over the crossbar. Woody picked off a pass from Jordan, ran past him, and centered with a chip pass. Kevin couldn’t connect with the elevated ball and Matty cleared it away. Jordan took it, drove up the wing, and wired a hard wrister from twenty feet that found room over Peter’s blocker. Game winner! Series winner! The Tornados needed a solid effort from everyone to prevail against a formidable Thunder squad and they got it, winning two extremely close games to claim the Achilles Cup in Mitch Ellis’ first campaign as a Captain. Congrats to both teams for their strong play in a highly competitive and immensely entertaining Finals.
PLAYOFF MVP - DAVE COOPER
FINALS - GAME 1
Here we go, Ballstar Season 31 Finals, Game One. Full team on hand for the Thunder. The Tornados were missing Freddie Hutchison and were glad to see Matty Mitchell arrive just before the opening faceoff. Nate Atwell broke up a play near the center circle and fed the ball to Dave Cooper, who wristed a low shot past a defender from twenty feet that rattled through Peter Regimbald’s feet for the opening goal. At the other end, Travis Whitehead tried to sneak a quick diagonal pass to Pete MacDonald at the back post but a defender deflected it away. Peter stopped a snapshot by Chris Innes but Cooper roofed the rebound with a spinning backhander to make it 2-0. Captain Tony Casella picked off a clearance attempt up the solid wall and centered to Travis, forcing Jason Boudreau to make a great save. A holding penalty against Pete with ten minutes left in the period gave the Tors a chance to pad their lead. Dave ended up falling to the floor during an attempt to escape the aggressive defensive pressure being applied by Woody Gouthro but no penalty was called on the play. Eventually Jordan Castilloux teed up Captain Mitch Ellis for a booming point shot that found the net for a powerplay goal.
Kevin Shute fired a shot on a 2-on-1 play and Jason steered it wide. Tommy Zivanovic swatted down Mitch’s clearance attempt from the corner and got the ball over to Travis, who fed it quickly to the doorstep. Tony’s shot rattled through Jason’s feet and the ball squirted through the crease but slid just wide of the far post and went behind the net. Travis centered it for TZ but his shot hit a defender and the ball was cleared. Ellis tried to close off Shute along the solid wall on the next Thunder rush, but Kevin kept his feet moving and eventually drew the interference call. Blain Sullivan stumbled a bit as he drove in from the point but he caught his balance and whipped a diagonal pass to Tony at the back post. It looked like a sure goal but Jason somehow got his pad on it. A big scramble in front led to a pair of Thunder shots that got blocked, and then Woody tried to shelf one short-side but his shot went too high. TZ got set up for a last-second chance with Jason already down on the play but his shot got blocked by an opponent and the Tornados still held a 3-0 lead at the break.
Matty picked off a pass up the middle and sent Innes in alone but Peter kept the deficit at three with a big save. The Thunder rewarded him with a strong offensive push. Pete couldn’t elevate a rebound over JB from in tight but TZ fed the ball back to Woody for a point shot that found the mark. After Travis missed high on a backhand, he chased down the exit play and stole back the ball, then fed the ball ahead. Tony fought off Adam Healy, spun to his forehand and scored with a low shot to the far side. Dave and Woody got into a heated battle for the ball along the side wall, Dave ended up crashing to the floor again, and this time Woody did get a penalty. Twenty seconds later, Jordan’s slapper hit the back wall and took a hot bounce, allowing Dave to slam in a powerplay goal and complete his hat trick before Peter had a chance to react. Blain drove up the middle and just missed connecting on a backdoor pass to Travis, and then Mitch took his second penalty of the game and was ejected. Woody took a feed from Jonny Anderson early in the powerplay and scored with a long slapper to make it 4-3 with eleven minutes left.
Ahead by just one now and playing without Mitch, the Tornados shifted their game up a gear. Dave bulldozed his way through the middle between two defenders to get to a stretch pass from Nate, corralled the ball while falling forward, and managed to quickly change the angle before ripping a hard wrister past Peter for his fourth goal. Twelve seconds later, Matty ripped a shot that found the roof of the net and the lead was 6-3 with ten to go. After Jason denied Travis’ attempt to park one upstairs from ten feet out, Cooper came off the bench and was a force of nature. Dogged pursuit of the ball, a steal by the benches, a drive to the net that Peter stopped, the recovery of his own rebound behind the net, thirty seconds of ragging the ball and killing clock, and another shot from fifteen feet that Peter stopped and covered. Once he went back to the bench, the Thunder finally found a little space. Shute fired a rebound chance off Jason’s pad and the ball deflected up & over the crossbar, but P-Mac poked in the rebound from Blain’s shot a few seconds later. A tripping penalty against Blain killed the momentum, however, and there was only five minutes left. Tony had two great shorthanded chances and nearly stole the ball to get himself a breakaway, but the ball got kicked away and Peter came up with a wicked glove save when Innes tipped the resulting shot. Travis had one more good chance that Jason poked away and time ran out on the Thunder comeback bid. The SOG were 51-48 in favor of the Tornados, who take Game One by a final score of 6-4.