HCCM skates to Toilet Bowl title
Well, it wasn’t really much of a surprise Friday night as the Brick Oven sealed its third town league title in a row, the fourth in the last five years, with a 2-1 win over the Last Steep.
But it was far from a sure thing.
It was SRO at Big Mine Ice Arena Friday night, with fans pressed against the glass and beers popped and propped up along the rail.
Despite the Brick Oven’s domination all season long, the Last Steep was determined to take the game to them rather than sit back and hold on. Typically, the Brick Oven plays an extremely efficient style of hockey but the work of the Last Steep took the Brick Oven a little by surprise. The Brick adjusted accordingly.
The Last Steep got a break early when Willy Coburn skated free for an open look on net but Brick goalie Cody Taub denied. Meanwhile, the Steep defense realized, as did the entire league, that trying to pull the puck off Deuce Wynes would be pointless, so they made sure they covered everyone else and stuffed the slot with players.
The Last Steep continued to push and capitalized seven minutes into the game winning a draw in the Brick Oven zone. The puck dropped back to Tom Consentino at the point and Consentino fired a low hard shot on net. Taub made the initial save but Mike Neustedter followed on the rebound to stuff it past Taub, giving the Last Steep a 1-0 lead.
The Last Steep had a chance two minutes later to build on their early lead when Ian Havlick blew through the Brick defense to fire a shot but Taub was in place to make the save and hold off the Steep attack.
The Brick Oven was set up for success late in the first period with a powerplay opportunity. If anyone can put together an organized powerplay, it’s the Brick Oven, but the Last Steep’s hustle and chaos kept the Brick Oven guessing. It by no means rattled them—not much rattles the Brick—but it did keep them guessing.
The Steep killed the penalty and momentum was on the side of the Last Steep in the second period backed by yet another outstanding effort by Andrew Winogradow. Winogradow pulled off a series of incredible glove saves throughout the second period to hold off the Brick but something had to give eventually as the Brick took control of the game midway through the period.
The Last Steep was scrambling to hold on but Dan Loftus found Steve Lawlor open on the weak side with a pass through the high slot and Lawlor scored to tie the game 1-1 heading into the third period.
Nate Welch was playing some of his best hockey all season to help spur the Steep on in the third period and Winogradow continued his magic between the pipes. Neustedter was all over the place blocking shots and breaking free and Coburn took time with the puck to find seams in the Brick defense.
But the Brick refused to break and remained calm, cool and collected. With the Preston brothers, Ben and Kent, carrying the puck through neutral ice, Gutter doing what he does and Evan Albanese offering additional punch in the offensive zone, the Brick Oven took over the game’s momentum. They killed off a penalty and matched the Last Steep’s effort with some old school hustle of their own and with less than a minute left to play, the Brick called a timeout to regroup for one final push.
The Brick stepped up the pace in the final minute and pinned the Last Steep in their own zone. Winogradow and the rest of the Steep team fought off the Brick onslaught. Realizing the Steep had just collapsed in front of their own net hoping to go into overtime, the Brick dropped the puck to Bill Frame at the point with 10 seconds left to play. Frame settled the puck, saw the mass of humanity in the slot and fired a shot. Winogradow never saw it coming and the puck sailed through untouched and into the back of the net for the game winner, for yet another Brick Oven title.
Couldn’t have happened to a nicer… ah forget it.