Tuesday, August 22, 2006

AMHL Tuesday Championship: "Sweet Emotion"

John Bionelli, AMHL rookie and Aerosmith roadie, is busy. On the ice, he has scored 19 goals for the Penguins, one of them in an upset win over the Flyers last week. Later this year, Aerosmith’s assistant tour manager will support the Boston-based band in gigs in hockey venues like the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, the Corel Centre in Ottawa, and Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh.

But Steven Tyler’s schedule is probably the furthest thing from his mind this Tuesday morning. The underdog Penguins are without front man Kevin MacDonald (and four other band members) against the Blues, who have their top two scorers, 40-point man Brendan Doyle and Marshall McLean (26 points).

Goaltender Claude Corbeil for the Pens and Mike Edwards for the Blues are ready to go. The Pens, skating right to left across your imagination, are on the attack but can’t beat Edwards. The Blues crank up the offense, but Corbeil holds his own. The period ends, scoreless.

“This is like a real Stanley Cup…Bettman shows up,” the AMHL photographer quips from the scorekeeper area between the player benches at the intermission.

To her left and beyond the boards behind the goal line, AMHL celebrities from far and wide gather. Injured Penguin, AMHL all-time points leader, and league webmaster Dana Salvo has driven down from Dracut with a brace on his right hand to support his teammates. “Lefty” is joined by Mitch “the commish” Weiss, who has lugged the Koffey Cup and a surprise set of gifts all the way from AMHL Worldwide Headquarters. Kate Mikkelson (formerly Antos), the starlet of AMHL Glory’s Chapter 14 is on hand, as is Erin Tullock, the AMHL Leafs’ emissary. All are here, presumably, to catch a glimpse of the man who tells Aerosmith what to do and where to go.

Three minutes into the second period, Bionelli is behind the Blues’ net with the puck. He skates out to Edward’s right—stick side—and slides the puck under the goalie’s glove and inside the post to give the Pens a 1–0 lead.

The Blues’ Eric Schoen ties the game less than three minutes later on an easy tip in, but “Lighting Strikes” again when Bionelli scores what looks like a replay of Schoen’s goal except at the other end of the ice. At 7:14 the Penguins have the lead again.

It’s the “Same Old Song and Dance” at 12:20: another puck redirected off Bionelli’s stick blade. 3–1 Penguins.

“Good goaltending,” referee Peter Bagley comments as Corbeil closes the door on Brendan Doyle’s bid to bring the Blues to within one goal.

Good crowd. Maybe a record. While the AMHL celebrities convene around the Koffey Cup, New England Women’s Hockey League icon Gretchen Young sits in the stands behind what will be the Pens’ net. Who’s going to show up next, Joe Perry?

Barely a minute into the third period, Brendan Doyle beats big Claude—or does he? The puck slides onto the goal line, but has it crossed it? No, rule the refs. B. Doyle can’t believe it!

But the Blues don’t quit. A minute and a half later, B. Doyle knocks home a rebound to bring the Blues back within one.

The Pens take a penalty, and the Blues hope to tie the score. Instead, Scott “Rhymes with Mellon” Gelin fights off a defender as he streaks over the blue line and in on Edwards. The Blues’ backstop fends off the first shot, but you know who is waiting to punch home the rebound. Bionelli repeats the feat less than four minutes later. Five goals! Can this guy “Walk on Water?”

Blues’ defenseman Jeremy Doyle rushes up ice, skirts around a would-be defender, and then deposits the disc behind Corbeil. 5–3!

Can the Blues come back? “Dream On.” Dream On. Dream On.

The Dunkin’ Donuts Three Stars…

3. The Penguins’ Kevin Crowe: two blocked shots, one assist
2. Scott Gelin (five assists, scary slap shot)
1. John Bionelli: (“Let the Music do the Talking”)

Honorable mention:

-The AMHL photographer (took a puck off the foot during warm-ups, but she’s a gamer)
-Google (and Wikipedia, and Aerosmith.com)
-Boston-based bands (and the boys behind the scenes)
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