28S, no. 12; newsletter by h.s.)
You couldn't help but notice the similarities between the Winter 2007 Championship game and the previous seasons': Once-again the Pirates finished first in their division, and once-again they faced the second-seeded St. Pats. Last season's Title game, however, was not something the Pirates wanted to repeat: As you may remember, we quickly fell behind to a surprisingly-dominant St. Pats team and (although we rallied in the final period) were never able to make-up the deficit. Adding to the motivation, the Pirates had the chance to provide the spoiler to a St. Paddy's holiday weekend and once-again reclaim their status as a post-season team.
Although most of the capacity crowd was there to cheer on the No.2-seed, Russ and I (both on the D.L.) were on-hand to root for the good guys. In our places, the Men In White recruited Joe Baio to bolster the blueline and Mike Riccardi, who was fresh from his Semifinals win in the Pirates net. Also in the lineup for the Tile fight was Dan DiPierro (who had a two-goal Semis game), Brooks, LeMatty, Toscano, Tim Hand, Glenn Farkas (complete with new skates), Gucci (who scored a pair the week before), Murf, and Kevin (back from his bout with the flu). I found out later that at least two Pirates had no idea we were playing in the Championship game this night — so I suppose nerves were not a factor on the bench.
When I arrived just a few minutes into the 1st period, I noticed Brooks was already sitting in the sin bin. Seeing Bob in the penalty box is not an unusual thing, but I couldn't help but wonder if he had broken his own record for quickest penalty. Before I could figure that out though, he told me he was serving the bench minor for “too many men” (a penalty we usually reserve for later in the game and in more critical situations). Thanks to some great back checking, the Pirates killed-off the two minutes and soon our special teams found themselves on a powerplay of their own. The old axiom “just shoot on net and anything can happen” proved true, as Gucci fired a shot from beyond our own face-off circle past a screened St. Pats goaltender. The 1-0 lead which the Pirates took at the 14:00-minute mark, held for nearly the rest of the period and it looked like we'd head into the break with the edge. Then, with just under 2:00-minutes remaining, the St. Pats got a little “Luck O' the Irish”: On the play, Riccardi stopped the original shot but before he could glove the aerial rebound, the St. Pats crashed the net — sending the goal off the moorings and the puck into the displaced net. Much like Brett Hull's Stanley Cup-winning goal against the Sabres, the play was cloaked in controversy, but the refs stayed with their original call and at the break the teams were now gridlocked 1-1.
The Pirates had some close calls in the final 22:00-minutes, but couldn't seem to pull away: One memorable play had Dan DiPierro rifling a shot from just outside the face-off circle that was stopped at the last moment. Deep in the period the teams were still tied when the Pirates took another casualty: This time Brooks fell to the ground on a backcheck and ended-up with a skate to the ear. After a few scary moments on the floor, a Rocky Balboa-looking Brooks skated to the bench to get bandages for his blood-soaked head. With Anthony also playing at half-strength nursing a shoulder injury, it looked like the St. Pats might win the game by attrition.
Then, at the 7:00-minute mark, Tony weaved deep into the zone and made a fantastic pass to an open Tim for the go-ahead goal. (Ralz joked later that his release was so slow that the guys told him the videographer had time to change the film in-between Tony's pass and his shot.) Although the goal put the Pirates back on top 2-1, the St. Pats were determined to get the goal back and started sending more troops into our zone. Great defensive plays by Joe Baio and Kevin kept the puck out-of-reach while taking precious time off the clock. With less than 1:00-minute remaining, Riccardi held his ground on another crease-crashing attempt — this time the refs called an “interference” penalty on the St. Pat forward though (the teams skated five-on-five because LeMatty was called for an off-setting “slashing” penalty on the same play). Brooks, who roared back into action, had a near-miss on the empty net in the final minute, but it sailed just wide. The last :50-seconds of “stop time” seemed like an eternity, but when the buzzer finally sounded the Pirates had stolen back the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
date of game: 3.18.07
1) TIM HAND
For the GWG that gave the Pirates their 15th Championship.
2) DARREN GUGGLIELMELLI
For the first goal of the night.
3) ANTHONY TOSCANO
For playing injured and making a key pass to set-up the game-winner.
The win was the first for our newest Pirates, Muff & Tony. League rule changes will most likely prohibit the duo from playing on the same Pirate team next season.
It was bad enough Brooks got bloodied, but did he have to wipe his blood all over the bottom of his Pirate jersey?
For the team photo (and Scott, Danny and Kevin with The Cup), visit the link below and scroll to the bottom of the “Champions Row” gallery.
[ images / click here ]