Monday, August 20, 2007

AMHL Wednesday Championship: Reputations

August 15, 2007
Concord, MA

Word on the street is that Bill “the Butcher of Billerica” Mandarano is wild. Officials in the Sonus Street Hockey League refer to Bill as a “crashing jetliner” but also list him as the league’s second-leading scorer in league’s two-year history.

In his two seasons in the AMHL, fans have yet to see the “savage style” that strikes fear in the hearts of his street hockey opponents, but Mandarano has excited AMHL faithful with his sweet move (not a typo: Bill says he has only one move).

Fifty ticks into the Wednesday Championship against the top-ranked Canadiens, Bill skates into the Habs’ zone—right to left across your AMHL broadband—into the near circle. Mandarano, a right-handed shot, dekes a defender with a powerful forehand-to-backhand move and cuts across the crease, sliding the puck past Kenny “KISS Fan” Tarr to stake the Sharks to a 1–0 lead.

Almost five minutes later, Sharks’ bad-boy Mike “Rhymes with Neely” Seeley, who before the game said of his team-leading twelve penalty minutes, “I have a reputation to keep up,” stews in the sin bin as he watches Tim Matthews score for Les Habitants.

Matthews, esteemed for play that has earned him the Art Ross Trophy (a.k.a., Points Puck) will likely be lauded with AMHL Rookie of the Year honors, but he’s not focused on that. Tim and his Canadiens watch the Sharks extend their lead to 3–1 on a goal by Ed “the Teal Baron” Maron and then to 4–1.

“2 from 15. 2 from 15,” the referee says. “I say everything twice. I say everything twice.”

Number 2 is Sharks’ sharpshooter Tim Donahue, who has notched his second goal of the game, assisted by Mandarano.

Dana Salvo, who this season surpassed Gordie Howe’s mark for career points and has his sights set on Gretzky’s record, scores off a rebound; but AMHL rookie phenom Donahue nets a natural hat trick with :07 on the clock to give the Sharks a 5–2 lead after the first period.

“Don’t let up!” a Shark exhorts his teammates.

But the second period belongs to the goalies. Tarr, who (excluding substitute goalies) led the Wednesday division with a 3.40 GAA entering this morning’s game, keeps the Sharks at bay while his counterpart, Kate Fallon, who entered the game with a 3.80 GAA, is sharp as a shark’s tooth.

In the third period, Matthews tallies for the Habs at 3:59; but Mandarano, with his patented toe-drag move, counters to make the score 6–3. The outlook looks bleak for the Canadiens when Donahue scores a power play goal midway through the period, but the Habs storm back with goals by Greg Longtine—a sweeping one-timer from the slot—and then Ken MacLeod—a wrister from a few feet inside the right point.

With 1:35 remaining on the clock and with Seeley serving time for tripping, Matthews scores to close the Sharks’ lead to 7–6.

Seeley, the pride and joy of Port Huron who has been playing tough D for the Sharks all morning (despite being shown to the penalty box three times) is not know for his offensive skills outside Eastern Michigan. He did score two goals and four assists this season, however, and chips in on Chuck Livoli’s goal at 18:11 to secure the victory.

When the Koffey Cup is on tour in Port Huron or Billerica, the rabid AMHL fans in those fine towns won’t care much about their hockey heroes’ reputations—they’ll all be clamoring to have their picture taken with their favorite player and the cherished chalice.
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