In the 32 years, I have been covering the Hellcats Hockey Club, there have been few heartbreaks as dire as the one the Hellcats Monday and their fans faced last night.
The Hellcats Monday had a difficult regular season filled with injuries and unavailable players. The team came together at the beginning of August and few knew that they might be the team to go from the last place in the regular season to their second consecutive appearance in the finals, and third appearance in four years.
The Championship game started frustratingly for the Hellcats who outshot the Kingfish 13 to 7 in the first period but found themselves down 2 to 1 at the first intermission. Kingfish standout Scott Woods provided a goal and an assist in the period and later provided another assist to lead all players.
The second period saw one-time Hellcat, Kyle Katanka, scored and the Kingfish took what appeared to be an insurmountable 3 to 0 lead. But, as in the first period, the Hellcats still continued to own the majority of possession and outshot the Kingfish 10 to 5 in the second frame.
The Hellcats powers of redemption showed themselves halfway in the third period when senior squad member Karel Mimoza tucked away the first goal giving the large crow of Hellcats fans a reason for hope.
Kyle Mooney then provided with another Hellcats goal with 2:28 left in the game swing the momentum and raising a roar from the fans to the rafters. 45 seconds later the Hellcats took a timeout to rest their hottest line and after a play drawn up by the injured player, now manager Jason Silva, the Hellcats forged another deep possession in the Kingfish zone and finally produced the equalizing goal via a tap-in from Doug Dunbar with 1:21 left in the game.
The momentum was with the Hellcats and the game appeared to be heading to an overtime period when the Kingfish were able to get a face-off to the right of Matt Kaczkowski, the Hellcats goalkeeper. After the face-off, the Hellcats were able to win possession in the corner and with time running out Assistant Captain Alex Bernstein wrapped a hard puck from the right corner around the boards.
If this old reporter could go back in time, he would have brought his cordless drill down at the second intermission and tightened the board flashing on the Zamboni doors. For the old War Memorial played its cruel part as the Zamboni doors deflected the puck off the dasher five feet and directly into the wheelhouse of Kingfish defensemen who one-timed an arrow through three players into the top left corner with 2.7 seconds left for the win, and the 2017 Summer Season Gold A Championship.
Olli Bemidji, The Hellcats Hockey Club President was quoted as saying “That sucks.”
Ladies and gentlemen, for this reporter there isn’t a harder way to lose. The ‘Cats had demonstrated dominance in the Kingfish zone all night long. Their final dominance in shot totals of 32 to 20 masked numerous stretches of total possession.
It was a cruel outcome for a team that was able to come from the last place to the division to the brink of winning another Championship. The team and their fans should heed to words of this reporter, it was a cruel outcome to a valorous display. They will be back.
The 2018-2019 Winter Season is a week away, season ticket packages and select game tickets are still available.