THE

UPPER VALLEY HOCKEY LEAGUE

March 8th, 2004 - 9:30PM
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Game ID: 106

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES? Silver upsets Red for Title!!!!!!

Silver changed its colors to gold in an overtime shootout with Red, the UVHL's top team, on Monday March 8th at the Woodstock Union Arena in the second Cinderella upset of the night.



Red's captain Rick Hughes' team entered the night leading the UVHL in points and goals scored looking to continue their dominant season in which they had no regulation losses and cruise to the inaugural Championship. The "WHALEN CUP", named in honor of upper valley hockey icon Paul 'Pop' Whalen, was on hand for presentation to the winner of the final contest between the UVHL's top teams. Silver, the only squad to put a blemish on Red's 10-0-1 regular season record with their December shootout win over Red, had a recent 9-6 spanking at the hands of Red fresh on their minds. Commissioners John Turner and Shawn McDermott contemplated getting the trophy engraved in advance and handing it over to Hughes before the start of the game.



Both teams were without some of their top players for the championship contest. Tao Smith, Silver's captain and second leading scorer, was away on a pre-scheduled vacation as Killington Mountian's Head of School. Red's Sean Coakley and Ryan Sinclair, both teachers and coaches at Cardigan Mountian School, were also absent for the same reason. Might the outcome have been different with Smith's dominant forechecking and knack for the net, Sinclair's incredible UVHL 6 points per game pace, and Coakley's lethal combination with Mark Turco all in force with the Whalen Cup on the line? Unfortunately, hockey fans, we will never know the answer to that question...



Captain Rick Hughes started it off right for Red at 9:44 of the first on a patented blue line ripper past Turner off a realtively clean face-off win by Turco. Turner, who just missed making the save, had the puck deflect off the inside edge of his paddle instead of its face and saw it go behind him to make it 1-0 Red. Turner shook it off and Silver somehow kept it scoreless for the rest of the period even as Red controlled the play with superior puck control, skating and offensive chances. The only penalty in this game for Red went to Turco for tripping at 9:39 just after his goal. Silver could not capitalize as Ken Lallier turned away 2 or 3 good scoring chances in the Red goal. Acting captain McDermott earned a 6.0 from the Russian judge with his pirouette and crash at the Red blue line on his failed attempt at a one-timer/keep the puck in bobble on a Red turnover near the end of the first. He would later admit that he didn't have his "A game" that night. With a strategic 3-D and 7 forward approach in an attempt to limit Red's chances, to keep it close and give his team a slim chance of winning, and allow the hardworking forwards a chance to rest, he and defense partners Tom Dakai and Ben Robbins would tire themselves out and each play the majority of the game focussing on defending, not scoring.



Red's gameplan took form with their usual early goal in the second period only 52 seconds in when Dean Cashman netted one past Turner assisted by Turco and Gary Hunter. With the score 2-0 and their offense flying Red looked poised to claim the cup, if only they could maintain their comfortable lead, smooth play, and dominance in front of Turner. Unfortunately for them, Silver became most uncomfortable after being outshot, outchanced, outworked and outplayed to that point in the game. The UVHL's most senior member, Dyke Shaw, scored for Silver just over three minutes later with assists going to Kelly Park and Tom Dakai to make it 2-1 for Red. Silver was inspired, and the competitive fires burned a little brighter as they began to turn defensive victories into puck advancement into the neutral zone and offensive scoring chances in Red's end. Silver and UVHL's regular season leading scorer Kelly Park did what he does best, and with a nose for the net evened the score at 2 apiece with a long wrister from just inside the blue line that fooled Lallier and made its way into the top corner after neutral zone passes from Dave Willis and McDermott at 5:16 of the second frame.



The two teams entered the third tied with the cup on the line. Any team would take that bet with 15 minutes to play - one period for all the marbles! Kelly Park continued where he left off by scoring at 12:44 combining with surging linemates Jon Gillespie and Dave Willis finishing a pretty passing play off a turnover by Red forced by Willis along the boards. Willis chipped the puck to Gillespie who faked and froze a Red defender, Lallier came out to challenge, and Gillespie passed it by the both of them to an open Park who sent it past a sprawliing Lallier to take the lead 3-2. Silver was cautiously optimistic, and tried to shake off the feeling of foreboding doom as Red's lethal offense had taken a period off and was poised to strike back. Three and a half minutes later Red willed themselves back into the game with another playoff goal from Turco, assisted by veteran Marty White. Red took the offense, and began to dominate and push for the victory. Captain Rick Hughes performed in the clutch for his team to take the lead 4-3 at 6:49 of the third on a patented Red 4th attacker twisted wrister over Turner's glove that found a small space under the crossbar. Silver's defense was tiring, but Turner showed that his UVHL goals against average best was no fluke by rejecting Red during their third period onslaught and kept his team in the game as all great goalies do. Silver's Poli Nightingale and Dan Coffey contributed with great defensive and backchecking efforts to thwart Red's attacks. However, the tide kept shifting towards Red's favor, and the game seemed destined for Hughes' to raise the cup to the rafters when Silver's Jon Gillespie took the only other penalty of the contest when he highsticked Gary Hunter backchecking and accidentally had his stick ride up and clip Hunter in the head. Gillespie apologised, and went to the box and felt shame. With the game on the line and his team down by a goal with only 5:22 left to play, Gillespie sat in the box contemplating the consequences of his actions. Silver somehow kept Red's chances to a minimum, and Turner wisely froze the puck at every opportunity during Red's power play. Gillespie thought about the 3-for-1 trade that brought him to Silver, reflected on his injured, swollen knee and bruised abdomen that kept him out of the last two games, and dug deep, deep inside of himself, and hopped out onto the ice to join the play at penalty's end with linemates Park and Willis. Seven seconds later Gillespie found himself inside the circle to Lallier's right and sent a wicked shot into the back of the net to tie it at 4 exorcising skeletons of the past and present in the process with 3:15 left to go. Red was shocked, but confident that they, if any team, could come back. Turner ensured that the score remained tied, and stopped a couple more chances by the opposition, as did Lallier in the other crease. A close call on a Marty White opportunity alone in front off a rebound just before the puck made it cleanly onto his stick was called dead by Gove as White was clearly in the crease. McDermott would end the night on the ice for ALL of the goals by both teams, a less than stellar 0+/- in a championship game, lending further credibility to his earlier statement of his "A" game being absent and being "used up in the semifinal against Blue". Regulation remained 4-4, with a sudden death shootout on the horizon to determine the winner.



In a classy and generous move nighttime rink manager Gary Wood encouraged a 5 minute sudden death overtime in order for the two squads to have a chance at glory as teams, not individuals. "I don't want to see it end, its a good game" Wood said. Discussion ensued between comissioners Turner & McDermott, Ref-In-Chief Tony Gove, and Red's representative at the table Gary Hunter. Turner was ready for a shootout. Gove was willing to stay for the extra 5. McDermott was exhausted and neutral, and they left it all up to Hunter. Smelling victory Hunter agreed to the additional 5.



SUDDEN DEATH 5-MIN OVERTIME

Both teams and goalies continued the inspired play, but nothing was decided in the extra frame of this nail-biter. Park and Willis each had chances to end it for Silver. Turco, Hughes, White and Cashman also had opportunities to become post-season heroes for Red. Each time the goalies came up with posession of the puck, forcing an inevitable shootout for the UVHL gold and inaugural season bragging rights.




SHOOTOUT FOR THE CUP

Each team selected their 5-man shootout roster. McDermott wisely kept himself out of the mix choosing Shaw, Willis, Park, Robbins and Gillespie for Silver. Red countered with Cashman, Turco, Hunter, Hughes and Weber. The refs prepared, goalies were set, and the teams and fans were on the edge of their seats for the drama to unfold. The home team, Red, chose to go second in the shootout. Gove and Hatfield took position and blew the whistle.



Ken Lallier stopped Dyke Shaw with a fine save in the Red net on the first shootout attempt.



John Turner, still ready and focused for the shootout, also started strong sending Dean Cashman back to the Red bench.



Dave Willis contuined a strong effort and snuk one past Lallier to make it 1-0 Silver.



Mark Turco couldn't find the 5-hole on Turner with Red's second attempt, and would leave with a 4-point night and a remarkable 13 points in two playoff games for Red, a playoff scoring record that should remain untouched forever in UVHL history and earning strong consideration for playoff MVP.



Park was unable to control a rolling puck to put it past Lallier's left pad and hit the side of the net. In typical Park shootout fashion
Park's wife Alana shouted "You missed the net, Kelly" from the scorekeeper's box. Park did not need to feel any shame with a 4-point performance and playoff MVP consideration of his own on championship night.



Gary Hunter made it 1-1 with a clutch goal past Turner increasing the hopes for Red with their third 5-hole attempt in a row on the butterfly-style tender.



Ben Robbins, with his second shootout goal of the season against Red, put his team up 2-1 with a patented deke over a sprawling Lallier.



Hughes just missed by putting a rocket over the crossbar and Turner's glove keeping it at 2-1 for Silver.



With the season on the line, and the opportunity to banish the demons forever, the 40 year-old Jon "this house is clean" Gillespie skated towards Lallier with his hot one-piece in hand. Big Jon barely found room past the solid Lallier and scored the fateful skate off goal ensuring the Cinderella upset for Silver, winning the shootout 3-1 over the Big Red Machine. Turner turned in an MVP performance in net for Silver en route to the Whalen Cup, and would later say that "the UVHL was the most fun I have ever had playing hockey - men's league in Boston, or pro. I didn't want the season to end".



Gillespie and his teammates joyfully raised the 2003-2004 inaugural UVHL Championship Whalen Cup after hugs and high-fives.


Final Score: Silver wins in OT shootout to claim UVHL gold over top ranked Red!

Final Analysis: Do you believe in miracles? Silver kept it close and won by playing their game of heart and hard work, choosing not to engage Red in a scorefest that they would surely lose. Absent players would have been a factor, and could have tipped the scales in Red's favor instead of providing Silver with a slim chance and opportunity at a depleted Red roster. Both squads played a gentlemanly and classy game, focussed on hockey's principles of skating, passing, hard work, effort, defense, forechecking/backchecking and heart. Congratulations to Red for an unbelievable season where they finished 11-0-2 and captured second place with superior skill, smooth skating, and class. Silver turned a 9-3-1 season into gold on the back of Turner's strong goaltending, Park's scoring prowess, and heart and hard work from the remaining rostered pluggers.

Final Tally: Kelly Park - 2G, 2A; Mark Turco - 1G, 3A; Rick Hughes - 2G; Jon Gillespie - 1G, 1A, 1 SOG (game ending); Dean Cashman - 1G, 1A; Dave Willis, 1 SOG, 2A; Gary Hunter - 1 SOG, 1A; Ben Robbins - Cup winning SOG; Dyke Shaw - 1G; single assists to White, Dakai and McDermott.



POST-GAME

Bentley's hosted the post-season celebration for Silver and the handful of White, Blue and Red players that closed the establishment into the wee hours of the morning. In yet another classy move, Red's captain Rick Hughes called the bar and sent shots to Turner and McDermott congratulating the victory and a first UVHL season well done. Thanks, Rick! It was an honor to have you as captain of the best team in the league, and we appreciate your significant contributions in making this first year a success. Gillespie happily drank the shot in lieu of Turner, and McDermott proudly downed his tribute saluting the Silver squad's victory. White celebrated their first win of the season and was happy to finish on a high note. Blue's captain Dave Fitts celebrated alongside Red's Al Sorrentino with the Silver and White players, enjoying the camraderie and atmosphere. All players in attendance expressed their enjoyment of the season and the night, and were looking forward to the upcoming Mud League, the league that inspired the creation of the UVHL.



Respectively submitted by Shawn McDermott, UVHL co-comissioner.
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