26W, no. 13; newsletter by h.s.)
The Pirates are used to being the underdogs going in the Finals, but this was perhaps the most extreme case to date. Team Maxwell finished the season as the No.1-seed with a 9-1 record — including a thorough spanking of the Pirates 5-1 during the season. Add to that the Pirates, as the No.3-seed, already had a comeback victory in the Semifinals against the Hocky Teem and one had to wonder how many more upsets they could be due in one Playoff run.
While Team Maxwell only had one sub, the Pirates had a full crew for their second Finals appearance in two seasons: Up front, Russ (who had flown cross-country and somehow made the game in time after the 10pm vs. 7pm snafu) paired-up with Wildman and Craig, while the MNM-line of the Miller Bros. and Newcomb hoped to rekindle the magic of the previous week. On the blueline, Gucci-Joe Baio and Scooby-Dave Matthews took care of business. For moral support, Pirates alumni Chris Goione (recuperating from his two surgeries and slated to return in December) and Keith Richardson were both on the bench.
In the opening minute Team Maxwell had their first breakaway (blocked gloveside), but the Pirates kept pressure at the other end and the scoreless battle continued. Late in the 1st period, the Pirates were called for the first penalty of the night, but a one-timer in front ended-up in Harris' glove and the kill was complete. With less than :10 seconds to play before the break, it looked certain that the teams would head to the bench knotted at 0-0; but on the final play of the period, Craig raced-down the left wing and found Russ for a one-timer — it hit the twine as the whistle blew to give the Pirates 1-0 lead. As the teams headed to the bench, the Team Maxwell goalie stayed in the crease — still frozen in position — stunned from the late goal.
The Pirates traded-off chances in the final period, but Team Maxwell was applying more pressure and controlled the early pace. The Pirates challenged at all parts of the ice, however, and the forwards were coming back to cover which allowed our our defensemen to press — but the strategy in the final period was clearly a defensive one. Halfway through the final period, Joe Baio knocked in a backhander to score what appeared to be a back-breaking goal; but upon review (essentially Dave Kurasz asking Brian was he 100% sure it was in), the goal was waved-off. The dumbfounded Pirate crew (that had already assembled at center ice), headed back into the Maxwell zone for the next play. A few minutes later, Team Maxwell called a timeout. On the following play, they forced a turnover deep in the Pirate zone and worked the puck to an open man behind the net; he took advantage of the mass of humanity in front of the Pirate crease to tie things up 1-1. (At the post-game “meeting” Dave Matthews got vindication from a Team Maxwell player that the shot went off someone's foot, but who's or how will never be known.) With 6:00 minutes remaining in regulation it was a new game, but neither team could score. Russ had an eerily-similar chance to his 1st period heroics to end the game in the waning seconds, but the Maxwell goalie deflected the puck off the inside of his pad ... and we headed to a 3:00-minute overtime.
Three minutes later, no one scored and so the Championship would be determined by a shootout. The three men chosen for the the Pirates would be Gucci, Craig and Russ — a trio that had combined for 35 points between them during the season.
The Shootout: Gucci shoots, he scores! Pirates lead 1-0 ... Team Maxwell shoots and scores to tie things up 1-1 ... Craig moves in and beats the goalie just beneath his blocker to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead ... Team Maxwell player weaves in close and tries to make a move, but he's stopped ... Russ goes in and wires one gloveside, but the goalie snags it to keep Team Maxwell alive ... Final shooter for Team Maxwell (he must score to keep it going) tries to make a move, but the puck lodges in my legpad (where it stayed during the final handshake at center ice) — AND THE PIRATES WIN THEIR 13TH CHAMPIONSHIP!
date of game: 8.23.06
1) THE TEAM
It might be cliché, but all eleven guys had to play their best game as a team to make this victory happen.
Like the Super Bowl champs you see on TV, Brian announced at the post-game “meeting” that he was heading to Disney World. (He really was — he left the next morning!)
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