18W, no. 15; newsletter by b.n.)
If you looked at the Summer schedule when it came out in May, you would have noted that the season ended on August 25. So what was going through the minds of the Coastal Pirates when they stepped on the rink that fateful night? Well, thanks to the Phantoms (who postponed the previous week's contest) the Pirates could extend the season even further; a win would put them into Finals which the Pirates were told would be played the next night. Of course, a loss against the Phantoms would put an end to a season that started with so much promise and ended with an impressive 11-1-2 record. Add to that the fact that the Sunday team just pulled off a stunning playoff run (winning the Sunday Western Division Championship just three days earlier) and the stage was set for a possible letdown. Or at least that was what I was worried about.
When the game began, the Pirates sported Chris Goione-Craig-Wildman on offense, while Dave-Keith got things going on “D.” And when I say they “got things going,” I certainly mean it. Keith made a great pass to Craig who buried the puck to give the Pirates the early lead on the opening shift. It looked like the rout was on when the second line of the Miller Bros.-Russ continued to keep the pressure on; Russ looked like he picked-up the second goal of the night when he swatted at a puck that found its way into the back of the net (the reason it found its way into the net, however, was because Russ kicked it there, and no one objected when the goal was waved off). Still, the Pirates seemed to be rolling and it looked to only be a matter of time before the Pirates exploded. Or at least that was what I thought.
As it turned out though, it was the Phantoms that converted next on a 2-on-1. The funny thing about the Phantoms' goal was that it tied the score at 1-1, which was correctly reflected on the scoreboard; Harris, however, apparently never realized that Russ' “Mia Hamm goal” was not a goal at all, so after allowing a goal, Harris was confused when the scoreboard it tied 1-1 instead of 2-1 Pirate lead. Apparently Harris was bothered by this discrepancy for the rest of the 1st period until he was able to ask what the heck happened. (Believe it or not, after the game, Harris actually tried to blame his defensemen for not informing him of what happened on Russ' non-goal, but the defensive core would have none of it. Harris was probably the only person in the building who thought Russ netted that goal — even 3-year-olds in the stands knew that the goal didn't count, but that's Harris for you). So when the horn finally sounded to end the 1st period the score was, in fact, tied 1-1.
Before the game started, Russ went to #67 and asked him if he wanted to play defense. Instead of answering the truth by saying, “Well, you know Russ, I haven't played 'D' for the Pirates since about midway through the season so I might be a little rusty”; #67 said something stupid like, “I'll play wherever you want me to.” That decision looked like it might cost the Pirates the game when (teamed with Mike Farrell on the blueline), #67 made a nice play to reach and keep a puck from going out of the zone; unfortunately, after stopping the puck the Phantom formerly known as “Arroyo” swooped-in and grabbed it and took off out of the zone; next thing you know, the Phantoms had the lead in the game early in the 2nd period. As the period continued it didn't seem like the Pirates could get anything going. After dominating the start of the game the Pirates sensed that the momentum had shifted to the Phantoms. That is until with only 3:00 minutes remaining in the 2nd when Keith hit Scott Miller with an awesome breakout pass; Scott made a move on the breakaway, but the Phantom goalie made a great play to stop the puck — Scott didn't give up though, as he dove and fired the loose rebound past the goalie. With the momentum shifting back to the Pirates, the period ended again in a tie at 2-2.
The last time the Pirates entered the 3rd period tied 2-2 they lost 4-2. But hey, that was two weeks ago, right? This time around the Pirates would come through when Chris Goione found the net (on a pass from Craig) to give the Pirates back the lead they had relinquished early in the 1st period. The Pirates would survive a late powerplay when #67 was called for the hook (it was a bad call, but not nearly as bad as the penalty against Evan Miller when he was pulled down and got a penalty called against him). The Pirates killed-off the penalty with only 3:00 minutes remaining and then iced the game when Dave Matthews finally realized that he couldn't skate the puck out of the zone and instead passed it across the middle (where else?) to Russ who caught the goalie leaning to his left and pinpointed a shortside goal to give the Pirates some breathing room. The Phantoms would pull their goalie, but the Pirates remained aggressive and held their two-goal lead at the final buzzer.
Oh yeah, and the longest season in Pirate history just got a little longer: Instead of playing the following night as we were told, the Final has been postponed. To when? Who knows? But these Pirates still have some unfinished business to attend to.
1) SCOTT MILLER
For a pivotal goal that got the Pirates back in this Semifinals game. Would you expect anything less from the Art Ross and Richard Trophy winner from this season?
2) CHRIS GOIONE
For his GWG.
3) CRAIG SUDOL
For his 2-point evening. Man, we missed this guy during game #14!