Playoffs – Round 3

Playoffs Round 3 Click picture for larger version


Schedule Update

Our 3rd place consolation game this Sunday (3/4/07)  is at 10:15 vs. Grateful Leafs, as they lost to the Black Jacks in the other semi-final 4-1.

See you on the ice!

Game Recap – Playoffs Round 2

2/25/07 vs. Puckhawgs (1st Seed)

As noted in the playoff preview yesterday, our history against this team was not a good one. In addition, we were missing some key components for the matchup, but got an unexpected surprise as Doc was not out of town and came ready to play. We entered this game with a great deal of confidence and ready for a battle.

The game started out with the Puckhawgs dominating us in our own zone, firing shots from numerous areas and testing our defense and goaltending early on. However we were up to the task and once we settled down, the game began to go back and forth for the next few minutes. About 6 minutes into the period, we popped home a rebound to take an early 1-0 lead. This was the scenario we had hoped for before the game, build a lead and play solid defense. As the period continued on, the play was back and forth, with each team having opportunities to put the puck away. Our defense was playing very well, blocking passes, blocking shots and really frustrating their shooters. The Puckhawgs best chance came on a 3-on-1, but the puck carrier decided not to pass and fired a shot right into Josh’s glove to end the threat. After the ensuing faceoff, Josh flashed his right pad at shot from the slot, but the rebound caromed off a leg and shot right back at him, however he was quick to cover it up. Moments after these two plays, Lenny rushed down the right side and fired a wrist shot that slipped through the goalie and trickled to the back of the net to give us a 2-0 lead. having a two-goal lead was huge for us, but there were still 2 full periods to play.

The second period saw much of the same action as the first. There were numerous chances on both ends of the ice, with the Puckhawgs seeing the better of the opportunities, but Josh was on top of his game, stopping shot after shot. They had a couple of partial breakaways scattered throughout the period, but again, Josh continued to stifle their offense. The Puckhawgs thought they had finally scored a goal a little more than halfway through the period, as the puck sat on the goal line. As their player attempted to push it across, he banked it off the post and back in the other direction, still on the line. Josh reached back and swiped it off the line before it fully crossed and covered it up. Fortunately, the referee was in excellent position to see this play and immediately called it correctly. However, the Puckhawgs finally broke through with a few minutes remaining on a 2-on-1 that just slipped under Josh as he tried to slide over to cover the shot. Ending the period leading 2-1, we felt confident we could continue to play sound defense and pull out the upset victory. Little did we know what was about to take place.

Off the faceoff to start the third period, the puck wound up sliding back to the right of our goal and as Bob chased after it, he tried to swipe it away from an oncoming player, but swiped it right off our own goal post. The referee, who was standing close to the blue line, claimed he saw the puck bounce off the pad inside the goal, then pop out and called it a goal. Just seven seconds into the 3rd period, we were knotted up at two and the entire complextion of the game had changed. We tried to battle back, continuing to play the game we had been playing, but the Puckhawgs attack was very strong and began to overpower us in our own zone. With 8 minutes remaining, one of their players stepped out of the corner with the puck, cut to the front of the net and roofed a shot that (apparently) hit the netting in the top of the goal and bounced quickly down on the line. Josh claimed it hit the crossbar, because he heard it ping. If the puck did hit the bar, it would’ve never crossed the line, therefore it would not be a goal. Plus, it could not come down at the angle it did and have gone inside the net. His argument was futile, the Puckhawgs had taken the lead, 3-2 and the tide had completely turned. Just 3 minutes later, they poked home another rebound in front and made it 4-2. Moments after that, with less than 3 minutes to play, a pass out front was tipped home and the Puckhawgs were in complete control, leading 5-2. We continued to press on and eventually, Tom N. fired a high slapshot from the point that found the twine, bringing us to 5-3, with just more than a minute to play. Using our timeout, we discussed our plans for pulling the goalie and hopefully, grabbing another quick goal. With about one minute to go, we received a fortunate penalty called against them and with Josh out of the net, we piled on the pressure, having numerous shots and rebound oppotunities, however, one bounced away from everyone, right to one of their players, who skated in and depostied the puck in the empty net to ice the game at 6-3.

All in all, a valiant effort, thwarted by two poor calls that completely changed the complexion of the game.

Final score: 3-6

Next week is the consolation game for 3rd place. Our opponents and time TBA.

Playoff Preview – Round 2

2/25/07 vs. Puckhawgs (11-2-1)

History has not been as kind to us against the Puckhawgs as it was for our opponents last week. While our record isn’t terrible, it’s the numbers during the losses that we should pay significant attention to:

  • In 7 previous games we are 3-4-0, scoring 20 goals for, but allowing 28 goals against;
  • The Puckhawgs have won the last 3 matchups
  • We’ve scored less than 3 goals in all four of the losses, being outscored 4-21, with the average scoring margin during those losses is over 4 goals per game;
  • We’ve been shutout once, in our first meeting, but that was a 1-0 loss in which the winning goal was not scored until late in the game;
  • However, in our 3 wins, we’ve outscored them 16-7, scoring more than 5 goals in each game, with an average margin of victory of 3 goals per game; and
  • Also working against us is the time of the game, 5:45 pm, as we are 5-12-1 in that time slot, including 1-2 in the playoffs.

Conclusion: Scoring more than 3 goals will be huge in this game. Josh and the defense will also need to keep our goals against down.

This week’s game will be a true test for us because not only are we playing the #1 seed, we’ll be trying to do so without 4 regular players, as Paul, Dave, Doc and Lyle will all miss this week’s action. This leaves us with only 9 skaters, meaning we’ll be forced to play 2 lines and 3 defense. This will be a daunting task as the Puckhawgs are loaded with speed and skill.

Edited 2/25/07: Ike will also miss the game due to back spasms, leaving us with 5 forwards and 3 defenseman.

Keys to the game: it will be important for the forwards to move the puck quickly out of the zone and for the defense to not allow too many odd-man rushes. More importantly, Josh must play his A++ game.

One mistake could unravel us, but if we play sound defense and can score the first goal, it could be an enormous upset that would propel us into the championship game.

Playoffs – Round 2

Playoffs - Round 2 Click picture for larger version

Game Recap – Playoffs Round 1

2/18/07 vs Enforcers (3rd Seed)

As was mentioned in the playoff preview, this was the first-round playoff matchup that favored us, despite being the lower seed, as all of the stats pointed to a big win for Houston Strength.

Before the game even began, another wrinkle was throw into the plan as the Zamboni broke, so we were going to be playing on ice that had not been resurfaced for the majority of the afternoon. They shoveled around the boards and in the creases, eliminating areas of piled up snow, but the condition of the ice was absolutely terrible.

The opening of the first period saw play go back and forth with both teams finding the ice surface cumbersome. Passes would bounce over sticks or just stop in a pile of snow. However, one “pass” that did not stop came from Dom, as he cleared the puck off his wing and down the ice immediately after a faceoff. As Dom sent the puck toward the other end, Dave took off in a flash to catch up with it creating a breakaway. He cruised in on the goalie and tucked away the first goal of the contest. Just minutes later, as Tom N. was cycling the puck below the goal line, he made a sweet pass to Doug, who in turn, made a beautiful backhand shot that also found the back of the net. With 7 minutes left in the first period, we had a somewhat comfortable 2-goal lead that we held onto for the remainder of the period.

In the second, we began as we ended, playing tight defense, smart offense and not worrying about the ice conditions, just playing our game. However, 4 minutes in, the Enforcers got on the board with a wrist shot from the point that found it’s way through a couple bodies and off Josh’s stick. He was partially screened, but saw it most of the way and just misplayed it, slicing our lead in half. The second period saw a lot of back and forth action, including a number of penalties taken by both teams, creating numerous powerplay and shorthanded opportunities. However, the score remained 2-1 until about 2 minutes to go when Lenny, after taking a pass from Josh, raced down the right wing and using the defenseman as a screen, rifled a bullet past the goalie to regain our 2-goal lead and position us for a strong third period.

During the break between periods, we talked about playing smart, clearing everything up the boards in our own zone, but we also wanted to stay aggressive. The Enforcers came out strong, controlling the play for the first five or so minutes until Paul intercepted a pass at the blue line and raced in alone on a breakaway. He stuffed home his first Houston Strength playoff goal and put us in a commanding position to win the game. Moments later, on the same shift, Paul blocked another pass at the blue line and took off once again, although this time he was almost caught just before he struck again with his second goal in less than a minute. This goal prompted the Enforcers to use their timeout with almost eight minutes remaining. On our bench, we reiterated playing smart, dumping the puck in the corners if we didn’t have a play and clearing EVERYTHING up the boards in our zone. After the break, it was obvious what the Enforcers plan was as they moved their best defenseman up to a forward spot on their top line. While they created chances in the last few minutes of the game, our defense and goaltending was up to the task as we skated off with the upset victory.

In the end, all of the positive history against the Enforcers, which was noted in the playoff preview, worked in our favor, improving us to 6-3-0 all time against them. We scored more than 3 goals, allowed only 1, had a large margin of victory and improved to 11-2-2 in games played at 715.

Final Score: 5-1

Next Sunday, playoff round 2 vs. #1 Puckhawgs.

Playoff Preview – Round 1

2/18/07 vs. Enforcers (8-3-3)

History slightly favors us in this matchup, as our record against the Enforcers is a good one:

  • In 8 previous games vs. the Enforcers, we are 5-3-0, scoring 28 goals for, while only allowing 18 goals against, including 1 shutout, which occured in the playoffs no less;
  • We’ve also scored less than 3 goals only once in those 8 matchups (losing 2-3), which should help our confidence as well;
  • 2 of the losses have been by 1 goal and the other loss was by 2, so we know we can play with them;
  • In our 5 wins, we have outscored them 20-6, with our average margin of victory at almost 3 goals per game;
  • Also favoring us, we are 10-2-2 in games played at 7:15

Conclusion: when we win, we win big, when we lose, it’s a tight game.

Unfortunately, we’ll be missing one of our leaders, Ed, as he continues to nurse some lingering injuries. In addition, Fargo is not playoff eligible, so our offense will be up against the wall, relying on Lenny, Paul and Tom N. to pop a couple goals home, while Josh and the defense will need to be stingy in their own end as well.

Keys to the game: we need a large amount of shots on net; have to stay out of the penalty box; and limit the amount of odd man chances they have.

This game should be another classic matchup – tight checking, close scoring, solid goaltending and in the end, only a mistake or two may be the difference.