Saving the best for last

by Daryn Goodwin

(video to go with the story at the bottom)

Our 320th game of the tournament was our Junior Championship between the Konixx Outcasts and Black Ice.  Many of these players also played in the Pro Division and that game between the two teams ended in a tie, which was the closest anyone came to beating Black Ice in Pro.

Black Ice would start their last game of Winternationals just like they started almost every game they play, by scoring first.  Tyler Kraft from PJ Dimartino just 13 seconds into the game!  Usually when that happens that quickly the game might as well be over.  Roller hockey’s version of a first round knock out. 

Konixx shook it off quickly and answered the call with a goal from #18 Matt Swanson.  Matt was feeling it.  A few minutes later he would put his team up 2-1 with another snipe.   The lead would not last long though, as Black Ice finished the first half strong with two late goals by Dimartino and Kraft.  Heading into the break it was 3-2, Black Ice on top.  Ron Best was in net for Black Ice and Charlie Robinson for the Konixx Outcasts and both made some big point blank saves.  Their skills would be tested more.  Much more.

Both teams traded chances through the first five minutes of the second half.  The pace would change dramatically throughout this game.  One team would slow it down with a precise breakout, until an odd man rush opportunity would present itself.  Off that rush would set up a two on one the other direction, followed by a nice save, and three on two back the other way.  Next would come a whistle off a puck out of play, then we would start the process over again. Face off win, methodical breakout, then flip the switch to fast exchanges and scoring chances both ways.  

Sam Eisenhower would be the next to find twine.  Black Ice now up two goals which is typically the back breaker for most opponents.  With just over two minutes remaining, #27 Kevin Mooney would cut the Black Ice lead back to a goal, now a 4-3 lead.  Black Ice just doesn’t panic and know how to close games out better than any other team in the sport.  The newest face to the Konixx Outcasts bench was also their most dynamic player.  #20 Parker Moskal had assisted on all 3 goals up to that point, but his biggest contribution would come with about a minute remaining in the game.  Konixx was pressuring and throwing pucks at the net and Parker somehow got loose from his coverage and found a juicy rebound right on his stick in the high slot and buried it.  Tie game 4-4, heading to overtime.

Flashback exactly a year, the Outcasts were in the Junior Championship at the 2016 Winters against Supa Hot and that game was insanely entertaining.  I believe it went to triple overtime and the Outcasts took it eventually. History repeating itself, at least sort of.

The side distraction in this one is the fact that Black Ice has to race to the airport and catch their flight.   PJ Dimartino had a flight out of LA and actually left the bench at the end of regulation for the locker room to make sure he didn’t miss his.  After a few seconds of heavy contemplation,  and maybe a little coaxing from Jeremy Ellis, he would arrive back on the rink before the puck dropped for overtime to cheers from the crowd.  It wasn’t a huge crowd, but they were thoroughly entertained and nobody was leaving this game until we had a winner.

Up to this point it was a super clean game, with only one high stick penalty called.   Not far into overtime PJ had a one on one with Parker and a step on him to the outside.  Parker basically had to wrap him up hard as PJ flew by, drawing our second penalty of the game.  Just like that, Parker went from hero to possible goat.  It was a play he had to make though, otherwise PJ had a breakaway.

If I had to guess I would put the Black Ice power play at 80%, scoring on 4 out of 5 of their opportunities.  Not looking good for the Outcasts.  Charlie Robinson lasted through the minute and a half Rocket Puck assassination and the game would continue with even strength hockey.

As the overtime ticked on, the Outcasts proved to be the team with more energy.  Completely understandable, with 10 players to the 5-man skeleton crew of Black Ice.   Parker had a great chance to end the game and hit the crossbar.  Matt Swanson also had a great opportunity that Best just got a piece of.

Unreal action and incredibly exciting and suspenseful.  So much so that the time on the clock really doesn’t matter.  We’re done when someone scores, it’s that simple.  The buzzer would sound and we would send it to the next overtime.

The game would continue as it started, slow pace to the frenzied exchanges.  It was awesome. Every guy and both teams gave it everything.  Two incredibly talented teams that play really smart.  Roller hockey at it’s finest really.

We would be just a minute away from two full games worth of hockey when this game finally came to an end. The Outcasts pressed and a turnover created a two on one for Black Ice.  #94 Max Halvorson created the turnover, then made a nice cross rink pass to PJ who was flying down the left side.  Two back checkers were right on his tail, a d-man in front of him, and Max flying down the right side of the rink.  PJ drew all the attention, and the pass back was perfect.  Or as perfect as it could be to get back to Max, there wasn’t much room for error.  Max was slightly handcuffed, but adjusted his body and buried it past a sprawling Charlie Robinson.  Perfectly executed play. 

Max lost his grandfather over the weekend, so it ended appropriately.  Our condolences to the Halvorson Family.