Eldo’s valiant effort falls short in OT
WOW, what a season. This may have been one of the best years of town league hockey since the open-air, chain-link-fence days, and it came to a climactic close as the Lightning edged out a 5-4 win in overtime over the Eldo on Thursday, March 12 at Big Mine Ice Arena, taking the 2015 town league hockey title.
The Eldo made it to Broadway the hard way. After losing in the first round of the playoffs to the Last Steep, the Eldo was left to battle their way through the loser’s bracket with their backs against the wall, staring elimination in the face each time they took the ice.
The Lightning’s road to glory was no cruise either, edging out a couple of one-goal wins and playing the entire post-season with targets firmly planted on their backs. But they rattled off three wins in a row to make it to the big show.
In the end, the difference came down to fatigue as the Eldo played back-to-back games Wednesday, taking down both REG and the Last Steep in the process to make it to the championship game. But an effort like that can take its toll on a team, no matter how many Swiss cake rolls, orange slices, cheese sticks and assorted other nutrients they take in over two days to keep the rally train chugging.
The energy was somewhat subdued at the start of the title bout with most of the push coming from the Lightning, led by Morgan Osterling.
That is, until Sam Reaman decided to pick up the pace on his own for the Lightning, skating coast-to-coast to open the scoring five minutes into the game.
But in true Eldo fashion, backs against the wall, they came back only madder. Again, pressure in the neutral zone made all of the difference, breaking up the Lightning transition to kick a loose puck to Ryan Maddux. Maddux wheeled around straight to net and roofed it over Lightning goalie Kris Bruun to tie the game 1-1.
The Eldo then took control, winning battles for loose pucks and forcing the game to be played on their terms. The effort paid off once again as Maddux capitalized on another broken play to score, giving the Eldo a 2-1 lead heading into the second period.
Then mid-season acquisition Don Turner showed up at the game for the Eldo and things were looking even better for an Eldo upset. That is, until Reaman decided to make another run from end-to-end, destroying three Eldo players in the process to net his second goal of the game and tie it back up 2-2.
But just like their most vocal supporter and hardest working man in town league, Milo Wynne, the Eldo would not submit. It was a total team effort on the ice for the Eldo with everyone from their worst to their best player contributing in some way. That teamwork made the difference with just over a minute left in the second period when Mike Preston broke up the Lightning attack with a quick poke check to find Turner open and Turner put on his own solo show to slice through the Lightning defense and score for a 3-2 Eldo lead.
As Reaman continued to draw all of the attention, Isaac Long went along on his usual way, just as he’s done for the past 15, maybe 20, years. Solid on his skates and slick with the puck, Long found a seam to net as Reaman took a shot from the point and crashed on the rebound to score for the Lightning, tying the game up 3-3 with one more period of regulation left to play.
The Lightning retook the lead two minutes into the third period as they set up in the Eldo zone. A cycle down low opened up the point and they kicked the puck back to Michael Fabbre. Fabbre looked to line up a slapshot but as the Eldo closed on him, he pushed it cross ice to Reaman and Reaman blasted the puck through traffic to pick the low corner.
But the Eldo just would not go down and seized upon the moment to lay it all on the line. They ramped up one last time and set up their offense for an extended period of time midway through the third. Bruun turned away a couple of shots and the Lightning held off the Eldo as long as they could, but ultimately they cracked as Hank Deroche settled the puck at the point and drove a low wrister at the face of the net. Bruun made the initial stop but Maddux stuffed the rebound and the teams were headed to overtime notched in a 4-4 tie.
Overtime can go in two directions, booooring and conservative or a wide-open mess of near-complete chaos. Fortunately, the latter happened as the two teams traded off successive blows searching for the game winner. One surge up the ice by the Eldo would result in a counter from the Lightning and so on and on until three minutes in, when Long picked just the right time to do what he does. Long carried the puck up the boards to the corner, drawing two Eldo players before finding Fabbre in the slot with a pinpoint pass and Fabbre pushed it home to bring the Lightning the 2015 town league hockey title.