What a CRAZY day!
We’ve still got a half a day of hockey tomorrow to put the cap on this wonderful event, but for most they think of the Saturday Night Pro Final as the Grand Finale to the NARCh FINALS. Sponsors have basically packed it in and I’m sure I will get a little grief from a few parents tomorrow stating that the sponsors should stay until the end. Happens every year.
Alex and Adam have done a great job blogging while I’ve been doing some other things, including playing. Two division and 7 games in 36 hours is a little more than I planned on, but it’s great to get on the rink with old friends that I haven’t played with in many years.
After some unbelievable pro playoff games today the stage was set for the championship, Mission Labeda Snipers vs Mission Axiom. There are probably six interchangeable teams that could be in this game, but it’s certainly no surprise that these two made it this far. The Snipers have had a whole year to think about their close loss last year, where they made it to the championship against the Mudcats, only to lose short-handed with only 4 seconds to go in the game. A heartbreaking loss is an understatement. In this sport on this stage you have to wait a full year for redemption.
To get to the championship the Snipers had to defeat a very tough Larceny Team, which is the Ducks under a different name. This tough battle would be knotted at 0-0 at the end of regulation, which is a first in NARCh History for the Pro Semis. Larceny was pressing but somehow a broken play and pass off the boards ended up as a breakaway for Crazy Kyle Kramer. He buried it 5-hole and then proceeded to have one of the best celebrations of the tourney, crashing hard into the boards then jumped up and partied in the corner as his teammates came and joined the animated game winner.
The championship would put the cherry on top of what I think is the best NARCh FINALS we’ve ever had, which is a very bold statement, but one I feel to be 100% true. I got many nice emails from many people I respect greatly stating that from afar the event looks incredible. As cool as it looked from a distance, it was even better if you were here in person.
In the championship Snipers would strike first, then almost score again very early in the game. In my opinion the Snipers were more aggressive in the first half, but it looked like it was going into half tied at 1-1. With just a few seconds left of the clock in the first half PJ Tallo scored on sort of questionable turnover that could have been a penalty, but he would snipe and send the Axiom up by a goal heading into half. It had to be deflating for the Snipers and I was curious as to how they would respond.
Halftime was pretty cool. Unfortunately the production room could not properly cue up the video that was worked on hard all day, but the only people that noticed were Mike Vickerman (our video editor), myself, and a few others on the inside. Bummer for all of us that worked so hard to make sure that this went perfect, especially Mike. We also had a spot from Juaquin Chavira that Jason Monroe put together, which was very touching. He’s an unbelievable person and is battling stomach cancer. Many people in attendance are very close to Juaquin and it’s so tough to understand why bad things happen to good people.
The bar was packed and everyone was having a great time. Those in the stands got plenty of schwag thrown their way from all of the sponsors and I was very happy that we decided to turn this into a big production, with replays on the jumbo screen, multiple camera angles, the whole nine yards.
When the second half started Axiom assumed the momentum that they captured with the lead heading into half. The Snipers thought they scored with a puck batted out of the air, but it was either disallowed or never crossed the line, I couldn’t tell from the far side of the rink. In all honesty I was sort of holding my breath when they showed the replay on the big screen, but it was definitely inconclusive.
Axiom pressed but could not find the net. With less than 2 minutes remaining the Snipers finally caught a break. Greg Thompson scored a huge goal to tie it up, one-handed no less. If you asked me before the game I would have bet it was going to overtime, because that’s how this tournament has gone and any other ending to the biggest game would not be unfitting.
Like the title, it was a crazy day, and Crazy Kyle Kramer would burry his second huge goal in less than 4 hours to give the Mission Labeda Snipers their first Pro FINALS Title after years of coming close. I’ve known Kyle since he was a little boy, way before he was Crazy. If you saw the game and cele, you know how much this victory meant to him and the whole Sniper Squad. I don’t root for anyone, but it’s hard not to be happy for this group of guys.
The first thing that Kyle asked me when he came to receive his medal was that if he could have one for his dad. It was an awesome moment for me, as I also know his dad and remember him from many years of dragging Kyle from NARCh Event to NARCh Event when Kyle was just a little boy.
This is such an incredible sport with so many awesome people, I’m just happy to be part of it all.