Something strange in the air[ By Than Acuff ]
It was evident in the first game that something was amiss at Big Mine Ice Arena on Wednesday, January 25. In a game that was described as “chippy,” Sunflower took down the Talk of the Town 4-0 in the first game of the evening.
That energy carried over into the second game that night as Bliss faced Kochevar’s only to have the game called by the officials with six minutes remaining in regulation.
Tough to say when, or why, it all started. The game was billed as a showdown between two of the top teams in town league currently with Kochevar’s undefeated and in first place and Bliss not far behind in third place with just one loss. Furthermore, Bliss has the league’s leading scorer in Billy Watson with Kochevar’s Sam Reaman one point behind.
Bliss got on the board first as Watson took a pass from Mason Miller and carried it up ice to pick the far corner with his shot for a 1-0 Bliss lead.
Jason Keener continued to keep the Bliss engine running full throttle with his attacks on net but when Watson broke free to goal and was taken down from behind slamming into the boards face first, things got a little heated. Penalties ensued and while Watson and the assailant sat in their respective boxes, they made peace and all seemed well.
The situation did cast a shadow on the rink though and the remainder of the first period was relatively mundane as both teams and the crowd seemed simply relieved that no one was hurt.
Both teams got back to business in the second period and we had the makings of a great midseason showdown between two of the top teams. Reaman looked to tie the game up in the opening minute, but Bliss goalie Nicholas Mikeska shut him down on the near post. Bliss returned the favor with a surge of their own but the frantic effort of Eric DiMarco in net held them at bay. The work of Sam Evans at the blue line for Kochevar’s helped keep the pressure on in Bliss’ zone and the work paid off when Connor Mog picked the near post with his wooden hockey stick circa 1983 to tie the game 1-1.
Maybe it was his excessive celebration that rekindled the ire between the two teams, maybe it was just a bad day at work for everyone before the game, but inklings of the game unraveling started to seep onto the ice.
Bliss picked up two penalties leaving Kochevar’s with a five on three powerplay and they made the most of it. While the lone three Bliss players, led by the effort of Thomas Mclean held off Kochevar’s at first, once Kochevar’s settled down and set up in the offensive zone, Reaman and Taylor Reeves both scored for a 3-1 Kochevar’s lead.
The game remained relatively civil though as Bliss responded two minutes later when Watson’s effort around the Kochevar’s goal set up Jake Laramie, but Kochevar’s had the last say of the second period. With Bliss pressing looking to tie the game up, Evans skated up ice to take a pass from Andrew Billmeyer and beat Mikeska one-on-one in the final minute for a 4-2 Kochevar’s lead.
Kochevar’s then tacked on a fifth goal in the opening minute of the third period when Reaman scooped up a loose puck and picked the far post for a 5-2 Kochevar’s lead. A couple more penalties were doled out soon after the early strike but once that cleared up, Bliss was looking to make a late game surge. They started to take control of the ice three minutes into the third and were surging only to have their efforts dashed as Evans fed Ryan Fitzsimmons for a 6-2 Kochevar’s lead bringing yet more frustration to the ice.
Ninety seconds later the game unraveled for good as contact in the corner between Reaman and a Bliss player immediately turned into a multi-player fracas at which point the officials decided enough was enough and ended the game with six minutes remaining on the clock leaving Kochevar’s with the 6-2 win.