Friday, March 17, 2006

AMHL Tuesday: Excalibauer!

Leafs' goaltender John Saner reached for his goalie stick, ready to take it into battle, but it had been stolen by the enemy.

“He took my *&^%! stick!” growled Leafs’ goalie, as he spied his counterpart, the Flyers’ Brian Monahan, stepping onto Rink One.

The vengeful Saner grabbed Monahan’s weapon—still gleaming and leaning against the boards—and then strode toward Monahan, who prepared for the inevitable confrontation. Monahan held Saner’s CCM; Saner clutched Monahan’s Bauer.

John’s CCM is nothing special: your run-of-the mill, off-the-shelf, Martin Brodeur model. Brian’s tool is the stuff of legend. An original AMHL goalie, Brian is widely known for his unorthodox style of stopping pucks. He flashes left-hand leather, snaring pucks in his glove but wields his stick like a sword. Rather than keeping the stick’s blade perpendicular to the ice, Brian keeps the blade nearly a foot in front of him so that pucks tend to rebound into the corners or out of play behind him. And if you have the puck behind the net, Brian is likely to flick his mighty right wrist and swing his sword along the ice to poke the puck off your stick. This unconventional method prompted AMHL legend (now retired) Tom Tidman to dub Brian’s stick “Excalibur.”

Nonetheless, Saner flung Monahan’s legendary talisman toward the neutral zone, laying down the proverbial gauntlet. Monahan followed suit, sending Saner’s stick toward center ice, thus setting the stage for a classic duel between two long-time AMHL veterans, both of whom wear number 30 on their jerseys.

In the first period, the Flyers attacked first, but Saner squeezed into classic butterfly position, his stick covering the five-hole, to turn aside the Flyers. Monahan was a mere observant—until Alex Tee launched a rocket from the top of the circle to Monahan’s right. Excalibur glinted just before the puck bounced against Monahan’s blade and then out of harm’s way.

The Flyers mounted a counterattack that not even Martin Brodeur could have stopped. Down 0–1, the Leafs rushed back at Monahan. Excalibur glimmered weakly beneath the feeble arena lighting, and the vulcanized projectile bounced off the shaft of the stick— not toward the boards but back toward the crease. Rebound. Score!

And so the battle raged into the third period, the two goaltenders locked in an epic battle. Monahan’s Flyers leapt to a 4–1 lead, but Saner’s Leafs surged upon Monahan with such fierceness King Arthur himself had never witnessed. But had the celebrated fictitious king been at this Tuesday morning melee, he would knight Monahan. The proud warrior would surrender only two goals in the third period and win the game—and tie the Leafs for second place.

Next week’s stop in the Life of Brian: Monahan and the Flyers duel the Ducks!