15S, no. 11-12; newsletter by c.g.)
There are times when you look at a situation, and scratch your head. The fact that the Sunday Coastal Pirates nearly missed out on an opportunity to play in the Playoffs is one of those situations. Here the Pirates were sporting one of their most potent rosters ever and we had to sneak in on a tiebreaker on the final game of the season against the last place Jaguars. Another area that might make you think is the Pirates opponent for the Best-of-3 Championship series was none other than the last place team in the A-division (you might ask how a team that competes in the Eastern Division ends up playing for the Western Division Championship?). In the end though, I guess it was the right move, as the Pirates were able to dispense of the Flyers in just two games handily outscoring them 12-5 in the process.
The Story of this Championship begins back in the final game of the regular season when the Pirates faced those last-place Jags while teetering on the brink of elimination. Up until this point it had been a frustrating season, as the team seemed to underachieve and only play good enough to stay close in a few games instead of pushing over the top (opponents like the Blackhawks, Flyers and Micro come to mind); strong efforts only to be dashed as the game slipped away by not getting that extra something. All through the season we showed we belonged to play with the big boys, but couldn't do more than merely be competitive, while eventually going down to defeat. All that started to change in that Jaguar game. The Jaguars of last season can't be put in the same category as those teams I previously mentioned, but after the 1st period of that game their roster was peppered with members of the Bruins (who had the next game and decided to get a little extra skating in); the thing is it made no difference as the Pirates continued to dominate the game, rolling on towards the playoffs. Fast forward a few weeks, and the Pirates had dispensed of the Zombies in a dramatic fashion with a come-from-behind shoot-out victory, setting up the matchup for the Western Division Title.
COASTAL PIRATES 7, FLYERS 2
(Pirates lead best-of-3 series 1-0)
The Pirates started this game with seven skaters, as Dan DiPierro, Kevin McLaughlin, and Wildman, were not at the rink when the puck dropped. Dan and Kevin were known absences, while Wildman was just AWOL. As the game began, the Pirates rotated five forwards and played with just two defenseman. The forwards were #19, Russ, Ralz, LeMatty and Ferraro, while the iron duo on defense were Mike Farrell and Keith Richardson. Midway through the 1st period Kevin arrived (having left a family function early to join another manner of festivity), and a little after that Wildman rolled in muttering something about missing equipment. Richardson got us on the board early when he beat the screened Flyers' goalie with a blast from the point. Keith would add an assist on the next tally when he passed the puck to Farrell for the powerplay goal, and the 2-0 lead. The pace of the game was fast, but with the Flyers only icing six skaters, it was questionable how long that pace could keep up. Harris made some tough saves early, but the combined team defense kept the high percentage shots to a minimum.
In the 2nd period, Farrell added his second goal of the night with (assist going to Russ). At one point the Flyers had a long 5-on-3 when #19 brushed a Flyer during a penalty kill, and his resulting fall landed him in the box; the Pirates were able to kill that one off and (luckily for me) no harm was done. The Flyers finally did get on the board in the 2nd, however, but the Pirates never backed off and continued to pour it on.
The 3rd period was an offensive explosion when the Pirates added four more goals to the total, while only allowing one additional score by the Flyers: First, it was Kevin with a steal at the blueline and then a blast to beat Hoenge (the Flyer goalie); next it was Wildman, potting one off a feed from Nicolosi; Kevin added an emptynetter, for his second of the period; and finally, Russ closed out the scoring on a give-and-go play from #19 with the finals seconds of the game expiring.
1 was in the books with a whopping 7-2 lopsided victory, and the Pirates
had a comfortable lead in the Best-of-3 series. No one expected it to come
this easily, and that fact caused an uneasiness, as to what we might expect
in Game 2. I mean, it couldn't be this easy, could it?
COASTAL PIRATES 5, FLYERS 3
(Pirates win best-of-3 series 2-0)
Game 2 started out with the Flyers pumped-up, as they jumped out to a quick two-goal lead. Harris (who had been solid through the previous three games) suddenly looked flappable, and the Flyers looked to take advantage. The Pirates went without a shot on goal for the first 6:00 minutes, and it looked like the Flyers wanted to show everyone Game 1 was nothing more than a fluke. As the 1st period drew to a close, two significant things happened: First, Harris found his game and started making some big, key saves to stymie the Flyer offense; and second, Jimmy (who had been held pointless in game one) got on the scoresheet with an assist on a Russ Nicolosi goal, to cut the score in half at the first intermission, 2-1.
Jimmy got on the board quickly in the 2nd when #19 sprung him on a breakaway goal (while the defense was draped all over him) to tie it up at 2-2. Farrell then added his third goal of the series with an unassisted shorthander to close out the second a goal that would noticeably shift the game's momentum. Once again, #19 gave the Flyers a two-man advantage when he again glanced a Flyer (their best scorer Blum no less), who then proceeded to lay motionless on the surface as though he had been shot; needless to say, Blum was back on the ice less than :05 seconds later, and karma would play a part as he would ring one loudly off the post and harmlessly away on the ensuing powerplay but still, a clear pattern with #19 was starting to emerge (insert sarcasm here).
In the 3rd period, Jimmy would add his second of the evening another shorthander (assist to Kev) putting the Pirates up with a 4-2 lead. Ralz got his name on the scoresheet when he banged one in (assist to LeMatty), giving the Pirates the commanding 5-2 lead. Harris, after a brief early game stumble, came on like the playoff goalie we all know he is save after save he frustrated the Flyers, making impossible saves look easy. The defense helped the effort by keeping quality scoring chances to a minimum, while contributing to the offense scoring 60% of the goals and assisting on nearly every other score. The Flyers would add just one more tally, but it was with less than 1:00 minute in regulation, and the sweep was complete.
this Championship Series (and especially in Game 2), Harris and the defense
completely shut down the Flyers. Some of the finest defense I have witnessed
the Pirates play was during this Series, and collectively the team played
smart hockey as we were able to outwork the Flyers, who probably
came in thinking this was going to be an easy one to add to the trophy case.
It had been a long time coming, but the Pirates were Champions and
some might say this was the the most satisfying of the six GoodSports Titles
the Pirates have claimed. Three Pirates arguably the best blueliners
in Pirate history will finally add Championship patches to their
jerseys: Mike Farrell, Kevin McLaughlin and Keith Richardson. Although Mike
announced his retirement earlier in the playoffs, his status is still uncertain
as off-season negotiations feverishly continue.
THE CONN SMYTHE
(Most Valuable Player in the Playoffs)
The voting for the Conn Smythe was pretty much what you would expect, as Harris won the award going away though Mike Farrell did also receive mention. Harris' contributions throughout the Playoff were numerous, as he started things off with a dramatic shoot-out victory and followed that up with two strong games against the potent Flyers (posting a 2.50 g.a.a.). Some comments follow:
No question. Would not have won without him. The goaltending made the difference this playoff season. Harris stood on his head when we needed it most! For the shoot-out victory and stopping a team that scores over 50 goals a season. Brought his 'A' game when he had to. The shoot-out victory was the start of something big.
GAME 1's SKULLS
1) KEVIN MCLAUGHLIN
He pretty much owned this game on both sides of the blueline.
2) KEITH RICHARDSON
His best game as a Pirate.
3) MIKE FARRELL
Two goals and solid D.
GAME 2's SKULLS
1) JIMMY FERRARO
Three points when we needed it most.
The goaltending made the difference this playoff season. Harris stood on his head when we needed it most!
3) MIKE FARRELL
His confidence never wavered and his shorthanded goal stunned the Flyers.
2003 CHAMPS SHIRTS!
[ click Pam to see'em! ]