Playoffs start now
[ by Than Acuff ]
I got an idea, as I often do. Why not AI refs, aka refbots, for town league hockey? I mean AI can now write papers for students, syllabus for professors, business plans for companies, buy and sell stocks and even write town league hockey articles.
But until then, it appears as if town league hockey will go with a hybrid team of officials as player Sam Kay joined a USA hockey certified official to cover the game between REG and Ska Brewing Monday night at Big Mine Ice Arena.
I don’t know if I would use the hybrid method for certain other match ups, but it seemed to work just fine in this particular instance.
And what a game it was as REG held off a late game surge from Ska Brewing to skate away with a 6-4 win.
Ska Brewing looked to establish puck possession early on the game and while their effort did open a couple of chances, REG’s compact defense did the job as they bided their time looking for the occasional odd man rush.
REG’s patience eventually paid off as Dodson Harper broke loose and turned on the after burners for a shot on net. Lucas McMullan stopped that shot but 30 seconds later, Michael Blunck carried the puck into the Ska Brewing zone and dropped it back to Ian Dethloff for a blistering wrister beating McMullan for a 1-0 REG lead.
Ska Brewing continued to dominate puck possession led by the effort of Oliver Houseman in the neutral zone but struggled to crack through the REG defense. Stu Jernigan skated behind the net to see if there were any openings to be found, but Eric DiMarco shut that off and any attempts on net in close.
Harper then broke free again as Ska Brewing pressed and this time made it count as he stuffed the puck up where mom keeps the peanut butter, and her meds, for a 2-0 REG lead.
Ska Brewing forward Cole Hanson skated free up the wing and cut inside to split the REG defense but they clamped down and shut him off as they held their lead through the rest of the first period.
REG tacked on a third goal seven minutes into the second period when a shot from Benjamin Barocas bounced up, down and around McMullan before trickling in the net. But as the period waned, REG eventually succumbed to the relentless pressure of Ska Brewing and while DiMarco was on point in net, Joey Otsuka finally broke through with a shot off the post to close the period with Ska’s first goal of the game.
It was obvious what the plan was for both teams as they took to the ice for the third and final period. While Ska’s chant consisted of “1-2-3 shots,” REG’s remained, “1-2-3 D” and there was a question whether or not holding on with defense would prove prudent.
Remarkably, staying the course did prove prudent as tight defense and big hustle paved the way for REG’s next goal as Harper stretched, scrambled and barreled to net to score for a 4-1 REG lead. Two minutes later Barocas won a face-off in Ska Brewing’s zone dropping the puck to Justin Blair for Blair to shoot and score for a 5-1 REG lead. Another two minutes passed before REG tacked on a sixth goal as Doug Collin poked the puck through during a melee in front of Ska’s net.
Game over? Sorta. Except all the work of Ska Brewing would start to pay off as they rattled off three goals in the span of 60 seconds. Jernigan finished off back-to-back assists from Hanson and then completed the hat trick scoring off an assist from Otsuka and with a little over three minutes left, a massive comeback was in the works.
The next goal needed to come in the next minute though and it never did and when Jeremy Herzog came up with a big defensive play for REG down the stretch, Ska’s hopes at a five-goal comeback were officially dashed securing the 6-4 REG win.
Playoffs open on Thursday, March 2 and with the single-elimination format, will be fast and furious. The finals are slated for Thursday, March 9 at 6:45 p.m.