In front of a packed house that was the Greenheck Fieldhouse, the SPASH Panthers and DC Everest Evergreens locked up in a battle for the ages Saturday afternoon in the Sectional 2 final game.
For 64 plus minutes, both teams played their hearts out and the fans for both teams were treated to a game they will never forget, as the Evergreens earned their first-ever trip to state with a 2-1 double OT win over the Panthers.
Ben Peloquin banged home a rebound 5:39 into the second extra period to give the 'home' team a victory that turned half of Greenheck into a madhouse, and the other half into a mausoleum as the Panthers fans stared in disbelief at the post-game proceedings.
The Evergreens were plastered to the glass in front of their adoring fans, stealing the game from what seemed to be within the grasp of the Panthers, who had chance upon chance negated mostly by a fellow that wore DCE jersey #1.
This author's first star in the game was DCE goalie Michael Janke. The senior netminder stopped 43 shots in the contest, half of which were critical stops on tough shots, turning aside SPASH threats seemingly on every trip down the ice.
SPASH broke the seal first, just over three minutes into the game. Dayne Hoyord punched in a rebound from the low left side, with assists to Trey Zagrzebski and Jake Minch.
The Panthers went on the power play in the middle of the period and scored an apparent goal, but it was waived off as the SPASH fans voiced their collective displeasure. The best guess from press row was that one official called a goal while one of the others blew his whistle.
The rest of the period featured end-to-end action but no further scoring. Janke stopped 12 shots for DCE, while Spencer Wierzba made two saves for SPASH.
Ty Tretter evened the score with his rebound goal with just over seven minutes left in the middle period. Ryan Begley and JJ Berdal had helpers on the play.
The last five minutes of the period belonged to Janke, as he made a couple solid saves and watched an airmailed puck or two, as the Panther shooters were going for the perfect shot but just missed high.
Janke stopped 14 shots in the period, while Wierzba stopped five shots for SPASH.
The third period was scoreless, and both teams had eight shots in a very even-steven period.
The first overtime almost came to an end as Eli Haas got in front of the pack, crossed over from left to right, and lost control of the puck as he attempted to put it in the net with about 5:30 left.
In overtime two, SPASH thought the game was over as a shot from the right side appeared to hit the back of the net and immediately bounce out, but one ref called a goal while another one blew the whistle to stop the play.
Then finally the game came to an end as Peloquin tapped in a loose puck for the game-winner. Brendan Hoover and Ben Weller had helpers on the game-winning goal.
Janke stopped nine shots in the last two periods to finish with 43 saves, while Wierzba made seven saves to end with 22 on the evening.
**Two things come to mind the morning after witnessing this great game that was played yesterday at Greenheck.
After the battle had finished, PA announcer Curt Keene introduced the runners-up SPASH Panthers play-by-player to receive their medals. When it was time to introduce the DC Everest Evergreens, he handed the microphone over to long-time 'Voice of the Evergreens,' Michael Plaza.
Said Keene: 'It's his team, his players. He knows them. He deserves this.'
Plaza introduced the players with a bit of an emotional catch in his voice, as his children played in both the Storm and Evergreens programs for many years, and Plaza himself knew most (if not all) of the current DCE players standing on the ice since they were mini-mites a dozen years ago.
I'm sure the DCE fans and team appreciated this unselfish gesture by Keene as well.
Well done, Curt!
**On the other end of the spectrum was SPASH coach Brandon Busse. After the emotional loss, the team trudged off the ice to return to the visiting locker room.
Busse never made it that far, instead sitting on the floor of the ramp leading to the locker area. He sat with the runners-up plaque cradled in his arms, staring off into space, inconsolable.
To the Panthers, I say great season, hold your heads high. Nothing to be ashamed about.
**And who says this game isn't important?
Thanks for listening...