by Than Acuff
Town league hockey season is winding down with the playoffs starting on Wednesday, March 1 and the championship game scheduled for Tuesday, March 7 at 7:15 p.m. With a one-and-done format, the action should be top shelf—see you there.
But before we go there, two teams vying for a shot at the title, REG and SKA, squared off at Big Mine Ice Arena Tuesday evening in their final game of the regular season. REG’s bench was noticeably depleted with Dot… just kidding, Dodson Harper still on the DL and thus coaching, Billy Watson also assuming a coaching role and Steve Banks flat out missing. Meanwhile, SKA was in full force with everyone on the roster suited up and in attendance.
To add a little more prestige to the close of the regular season, the honorable Jack “Turner” Gibbons was on the ice as well in his familiar officiating role.
The game, while low in scoring, was high on speed with both teams showing why they each have a legitimate shot at the title.
Matt Whiting opened the game for SKA providing a human highlight reel as he sliced his way through the REG team several times for shots. Despite his smooth skating and open looks, REG goalie Zach Vaughter was spot on in the net turning away five straight shots by Whiting in the first five minutes.
REG struggled to muster any counterattack though as the Ginger D line of Ben Preston and Tim Clark proved impenetrable. The one time REG did break free up ice for a two-on-one, Dan Loftus was in position to bust up the odd man rush.
SKA finally broke the ice nine minutes into the first as they set up shop in REG’s zone. Kent Preston took a pass back to the point and fired a shot on net with Anthony Poponi in front for the tip. Vaughter made the initial save to deny Poponi but Whiting followed on the rebound to score for a 1-0 SKA lead. John Holton and Frank Konsella teamed up to provide one last offensive surge for REG in the final minute of the first period but Malcolm Bailey denied Konsella with a glove save to keep SKA’s lead in tact.
REG took over the pace of the game to open the second period feeding off the effort of Vaughter in net. Vaughter had Whiting’s number all period with a number of additional saves to deny not just Matt but his father Dick as well.
As the game proceeded, SKA just got stronger and set up shop several times to fire shots at will at the REG net. REG’s defense stepped in front of numerous strikes to hold off the onslaught but with nothing happening on the attack, REG called a timeout with 1:25 left to assemble the troops.
Once back on the ice, SKA continued to dictate play and when REG pulled their goalie with a minute left, SKA ultimately sealed the win as Loftus scored an empty net goal in the final 10 seconds.