10W, no. 9; newsletter by c.g.)
What a difference a season can make even if it was a strange one, full of come from behind ties. At this point last season, the Pirates were thinking ahead to what would be their second consolation game in a row against the Gerrys, having missed the playoffs again. Instead now we are looking ahead at the Championship game for the West Division. So how did they get there? Read on ...
The Coastal Pirates entered the Semifinal game against the Jags down two key players, in Dave Matthews and Brian Newcomb (both were known prior to gametime). As the opening puck was dropped, however, we were also without Captain Russ Nicolosi leaving us with nine skaters, in what would be our most important game of the year to this point. The defense consisted of Keith Richardson, Assistant Captains Glen Chambers, and Roger Weiss providing the three-man rotation ( Russ would join shortly into the period, providing a steady four-man rotation on the blueline for the remainder of the game ). The forward lines consisted of Farkas, Scott LeMatty, and Allen on the first unit, with Goione and the Miller brothers as the second line.
The 1st period started out well as the Pirates quickly got on the board with a one-timer by Goione from a centering pass by Scott Miller. On the play, a Jaguar defender took the puck behind his own net where he met with pressure from Goione forcing the turnover into the corner, for a waiting Miller; Goione peeled-off into the slot just as Scott was looking to put the pass in front and, with a little help from a defenseman's skate, the puck ended-up on a perfect trajectory for the one-timer. That 1-0 lead would hold for a long while as everyone seemed to bring their A games. There were numerous blocked shots by the defensemen, and forwards throughout, as the Jaguars were stymied at every position.
The 2nd period was a hard-fought affair as both teams tried to add the next goal. Scotty The Bull LeMatty almost added one as he broke in with two players literally hanging on him and was still able to make a move, only to be denied. Scott's linemate, Glenn, fired several quality shots on goal which couldn't find their way in either. But the real story of the 2nd period if not the night was the defense. The pairs of Russ-Chambers and Richardson Weiss played their hearts out and made sure the 1-0 lead would hold up against a talented Jaguar team. The forwards definitely played their role in the defensive effort as well, but the four blueliners made sure there was never anyone alone in front, and there would be no clean breakaways. Harris pulled his usual Billy Smith impersonation and turned away any chances the Jaguars had, and allowed practically no rebounds as the 2nd period wound to a close, 1-0.
The Pirates began the 3rd period with 1:06 of a 5-on-3 powerplay to kill, after both LeMatty and Farkas entered the box. The trio of Nicolosi, Chambers, and Goione killed it off with a combination of blocked shots and good clearing plays, allowing little pressure from the frustrated Jaguars. As the clock ticked away, that second goal loomed large and the Pirates would get it midway through the 3rd, as Evan Miller drove home an off-angle shot (assists to Goione and S. Miller) proving that Scott was not the only Miller capable of such a shot. With a 2-0 lead the Pirates continued their defensive play and held the Jaguars off the board. Would this be Harris' second straight shut out? Though until now I had not mentioned it, Harris was working on a streak of eight periods without letting up a goal. But alas, the shutout bid would come to an end with just four ticks left on the clock, as the Jaguars finally found a way past him. On this night the Pirates played a smart game of defensive hockey, that proved the old adage "Defense wins Championships."
Next week we get to see if that's true.
1) CHRIS GOIONE
For a 2-point night and a great 2-way effort.
As ref (and league director) Scott Baldwin put it while shaking his head after the game: Harris gives up 12 goals during a regular season game, but in the playoffs ...
3) KEITH RICHARDSON
For his tenacious D.