Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Tuesday Championship: Mmm Bop!

April 25, 2006
Concord, MA

“I like Black,” referee Peter Bagley says when asked who will win this morning’s game between the birds: Penguins versus Ducks.

This morning, the Ducks, wearing mite-sized yellow pinnies tight enough to make Britney Spears envious (thanks to the AMHL photographer for that analogy), are missing two of their top three scorers, so the Penguins stand a better chance to defeat the Ducks for the first time this season.

Bagley and fellow official Matt Bielak watch Ducks’ netminder Ken “KISS fan” Tarr bear the brunt of the action in the first period. With 9:45 on the clock, Tarr slides on his knees—his zebra pattern TPS pads together—to stop Penguins’ top gun, Mike “Don’t Call Me Jerry (or Dale)” Evans.

A little more than a minute later, Evans—left alone in front of Tarr—redirects a perfect pass from Mike Chase to give Team Black the lead. The Penguins keep up the pressure. Martin Schedlbauer and Bill Chioffi launch successive shots at Tarr, but the nimble netminder smothers the puck with his pads.

The Ducks threaten in the last minute. Rookie sensation Scott Gelin “like a felon” fakes a pass from his left point position, dekes around two Penguins’ defenders, and then blasts a shot toward Claude Corbeil—right into the big guy’s mid-section. Easy save.

In the second period, the Ducks’ Dave Krinsky passes to Bill VanderClock, who hasn’t scored a goal yet this season, but is poised to do so in the slot. VanderClock wrists the puck on net, but Corbeil squeezes the vulcanized disc to force a face-off.

And so the battle of goalies continues, well into the second period. With 4:30 remaining, the Ducks commit another turnover, a giveaway to the wrong guy. Evans makes no mistake, firing the shot over Tarr’s shoulder, bulging the mesh. 2–0 Team Black.

Pete Bagley is a genius!

But wait. Dave Krinsky scores with 1:35 to go in the second period—a rebound from another Gelin blast—to close the gap.

In the third period, Evans takes control of the puck after another Duck giveaway. But Tarr slams the door on him.

The Ducks rally in front of their goalie. Gelin finds a pass in his feet, gathers the puck near the Pens’ blue line, goes around Dana Salvo (newsflash: Salvo thinks the play was offside and reports his conclusion to the official, who has no comment), and then beats Corbeil like a dusty rug. 2–2 with 12:30 still on the clock.

Evans wants to win this game in the worst way and graciously accepts another gift.

Ducks: For the love of Teemu Selanne, heads up before you pass the puck!

Tarr stones the speedy forward with the purple-striped hockey socks on this attempt and at least two more times before Duck defenseman Richard “the Yak” Rawal skates to the penalty box with 55 seconds in regulation.

“Aren’t you guys supposed to put away the whistle in the last minute,” Rawal jokes to the officiating crew, and then proceeds to talk about the new helmet he hasn’t worn yet, Volvos and Jaguars—about anything to anybody who’ll listen to him.

In OT, the Pens take a penalty, which prompts Bagley to stop the clock with 1:44 remaining to sort out the confusion. Four on four? Three on three?

When play resumes (three on three), Salvo snakes his way across the Ducks’ blue line, looking for a clear passing or shooting lane.

“Put that *&%$! thing in!” Evans hollers from the far bench bench.

Will Bagley’s pre-game prognostication prove prophetic?

Dana can’t finish the deal, and less than a minute later, Evans is on the ice to do what Dana didn’t. The puck is in the Ducks’ zone, and Ducks’ forward Michael “Mmm Bop” Hansen collects it, rushing up the right wing with nobody between him and Corbeil. Evans skates like a demon on fire to catch the Ducks’ second-leading scorer (ten goals) and lifts Number 14’s stick as the lanky Duck forward approaches the crease from Corbeil’s left. Hansen fights off Evans and pushes the puck behind the Pen’s goalie to win the game!

“The puck just sprung free…I got Big Claude to move, put it between his legs,” says Hansen, the sweat and joy dripping from his face onto his tight yellow pinney, as his goalie prepares to KISS the Koffey Cup!

Three Stars:

3. Mike Evans: Two goals, valiant effort
2. Ken Tarr: Stellar saves and his KISS mask is cool
1. Michael Hansen: Game-winning goal (and Hanson, the musical group, is underrated)

Also receiving votes from the media:

Pop music
Expensive cars
Talkative defenseman