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.