Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The 10 most memorable games of my coaching career

Looking back at the past 9 seasons there are certain games that have stood out. Here is my list of the 10 most memorable games.

10. Storm 3 Kitchener 0 - 2004 Sarnia Tournament

We had a poor start to the Sarnia Tournament that year with losses to Elmhurst and Strothroy in the first two games. There were tears in the dressing room after game 2 when it had sunk in that we had already been eliminated. Bruce and I joked around with players berating them that there's no crying in hockey. The next thing you know the entire team is chanting "There's no crying in hockey!" When the scores were posted later on I realized that if we won our game against Kitchener by 3 goals or more later that day we would actually move on. Well the mood for the game was much improved and the girls were still chanting "There's no crying in hockey" during the warm up despite strange looks from others in the arena. They came out hard in the first period and jumped into a 2-0 lead. But as the game went on the couldn't get the third goals. With about 2 minutes remaining and still leading by a score of 2-0 we pulled our goalie. The other team was in shock, no doubt not realizing why a team would pull a goalie with the lead. With less than a minute remaining we got goal 3 and moved on the the semi-finals.

9. Storm 0 Orangeville 1 - 2002 regular season game

In the 2001-02 season, my first as a coach, Orangeville had a powerful team. They finished the season 20-0-2 and early in the season had blown us away 9-0. It was a late season game and we had only 8 skaters and a goalie to start the game. It looked really bleak. I walked into the dressing room and announced that we were going to play the West German trap today to the puzzlement of the players in the room. I explained we would line up five players on our blue line and force Orangeville to dump it in our end. The defense would get it and just dump it in the neutral zone. We would only send one player to chase the puck in their end. Well everyone went along and it worked like a charm. The Orangeville skaters tried to carry the puck into our end but couldn't because there wasn't enough skating room with everyone on the blue line. It just kept getting clogged up. It was still 0-0 at the end of the second period and the Orangeville coach was conducting quite an animated discussion at the break. In the third they became more aggressive and began dumping and chasing the puck but our defense just lifted it out to the neutral zone. Then with just over 3 minutes remaining Orangeville took a penalty. I told the girls that we would go with our regular powerplay and try to win the game. It almost worked but out top player Michelle Kerr hit the post. When the penalty was over Orangeville poured it on and put tremendous pressure on us. They finally scored with 2.8 seconds. But the Storm players got a standing ovation from everyone in the arena including the officials.

8. Storm 4 Peterborough 3 - 2008 Clarington Tournament Finals

It's been 6 years since the last time the team won a tournament. The Storm defeated the Peterborough Ice Kats by a score on 4-3 to win the Clarington Tournament. The Peterborough team was a powerhouse last season wining the LLFHL East Division and a bronze at the Championships. It was the first of two tournament wins and a final that season. It was a classic see saw battle that went down to the wire. However, the Storm pulled out the win with a terrific scoring play. From behind her own net, Lauren Novak threw the puck up to Amanda Tam at the blue line who found Mari Galloway alone in neutral ice. Mari went in for a breakaway and beat the goalie high with less than 3 minutes remaining. The Ice Kats pulled their goalie but couldn't penetrate the Storm defense which was employing the now famous West German trap. Mari finished the game 2 goals and an assist. She scored many key goals that season and went on to score 52 points in 53 games.

7. Storm 6 Mississauga 0 - 2009 regular season game

Over the years Mississauga had been the nemesis of the Storm. But this season it was different. It was late January and first place was at stake. It wasn't even close as the Storm crushed the Chiefs 6-0. The game was the start of a 3-game shutout steak to close the season. The team did not stop skating from the opening faceoff. They backchecked ferociously and picked up every stray puck. It was one of finest games I have ever seen the Storm play. The Storm finishes the season with a remarkable 13 wins and 30 points. They also scored 54 goals which topped the entire tier.

6. Storm 2 Mississauga 1 (SO) - 2007 North Metro Bronze Medal Game

This game goes on my list because it had the greatest goaltending display in my coaching history. Alisha Cattelin literally stole this game from Mississauga. She had Mississauga's number all season long. The Chiefs hadn't lost all season going 17-0-3. All three ties were 1-1 games against the Storm. The Storm scored the first goal at in the 2nd period on a goal by Heather Saffery. That lead held until early in the 3rd period when Mississauga finally scored while on the powerplay. From that point on the Storm team was on the ropes for the remainder of the game and into overtime although there were several times when it looked like the game could have been won. During the shootout, Jasmine Kakuk was the first shooter and tried to shoot through the goalies legs but got her in the pads. The Mississauga shooter tried to deke but Alisha covered up down low and made the save. Next shooter up was Heather who cut to the goalie's blocker side and lifted the puck over her shoulder. Again, Alisha stopped the Mississauga player as the Storm spilled onto the ice to celebrate the 2-1 victory. The only losses during the season for Mississauga were in the North Metro Championships. As a result they went home empty handed.

5. Storm 3 Buffalo 1 - 2010 Erie Tournament Semi Finals

This year's Erie Tournament featured the best hockey the Storm had played during the season. In the preliminary round the Storm played a Buffalo team with a player that was all-state. She was virtually unstoppable and finished the game with 3 goals as the Storm went down 7-2. We were matched up with them again in the semi-finals but this time we were ready. Caitlin Gourley and Genevieve Harvey were assigned the task of shadowing their stud player. They literally stuck to her like glue. The strategy worked and she registered only two weak shots on net and no goals. Caitlin took time out from her shadowing duties to break down the wing and fire a wrist shot just under the crossbar for the second goal of the game. Then the frustration set in. Five penalties in the third period pretty much took Buffalo out of the game. The final score was 3-1 with an empty net goal by Paitra van Bilsen with just 31 seconds left.

4. Storm 4 Etobicoke 1 (SO) - 2009 LLFHL round 2 playoffs

An intense rivalry had been going on between the Storm and Dolphins for two seasons which carried into the playoffs. The two teams met in the second round of the LLFHL playoffs. The first game was a scoreless tie. In the second game the Storm played a lacklustre game and were shutout 3-0. The loss meant that the Storm had to beat Etobicoke in game 3 just to tie up the series. The two teams would then have to to into overtime to decide the series. It turned out to be one of the most tense games I've ever witnessed. It was a war out there. There were 12 penalties handed out in the third period and overtime. The Storm were determined not to be shutout again but it wasn't until late in the second period that Jackie Vanek finally found the back of the Dolphin net to give the Storm a one goal lead. Incredibly they had been held off the scoresheet for 81 straight minutes. At one point in the second period Mari Galloway hobbled off the ice with a broken skate blade. She was able to return to the game in the third period on borrowed skates that were a size or two too large. The Storm won the game 3-1 which set up the overtime. After the scoreless overtime period the game went into shootout. First shooter for Etobicoke scored. Lauren Novak shot first for the Storm and also scored. Shootout was tied 1-1. The next Etobicoke shooter also scored but Jackie tried deking the goalie and her shot missed the net. Etobicoke was up 2-1. The third Etobicoke shooter was stopped by Bianca Granicolo. Mari was the final Storm shooter and she beat the goalie to tie the shootout at 2-2. At this point the shootout becomes a sudden death match. The next Dolphin shooter also was stopped by Bianca. Amanda Tam was the next Storm shooter and she flew in on net and fired a high backhand past the Dolphin goalie to win the shootout 3-2 and win the series. Ironically, the following season the same two teams once again went into a shootout in game 3 but this time the Dolphins prevailed.

3. Storm 3 Cambridge 2 - 2003 Provincial Championship Gold Medal Game

The Storm were quite tired going into the gold medal game after playing almost 2 overtime periods in the semi finals (see #1 below). Our opponents, Cambridge had played into the fourth overtime period to win their semi final game. The Storm hadn't scored more than 2 goals in any of the previous games and had to rely on some stellar goaltending from Jennifer Santos and Krysta Graovac. This game was no different than the previous ones, low scoring and tight checking. The game was tied 2-2 going into the 3rd period on goals by Jessica Prisor and Karen Dillane. With 6 minutes remaining in regulation time Karen scored again and the team hung on to win 3-2 and take the gold medal. An incredible accomplishment for a season that began so poorly. The star of the series was Jessica who scored 6 of the 12 goals scored by the team in the 5 games played.

2. Storm 3 Kingston 2 - 2002 Provincial Championship Quarter Finals

When Bruce and I met back in the spring of 2001 and agreed to work together we had a hard time convincing players to come to our team. I had brought my daughter Sarah and a few of her former teammates. Bruce brought his daughter Lindsay and a few of her friends. We had about 4 players walk in from the Forest Hill houseleague. The remainder were players who couldn't find anywhere else to play. We weren't anyone's first destination. But this ragtag group turned out to be pretty good and battled all the way to the Provincial Championships. We had one outstanding player, Michelle Kerr who at times carried the team. In the preliminary round at Provincials we played well enough (1-1-1) to finish second in the pool and move onto the quarter finals. We were up against a pretty good team from Kingston but managed to hang in through grit and some decent goaltending. Going into the 3rd period we were down 2-1 but early in that period we got a goal from Meghan O'Reilly (niece of former Bruin Terry O'Reilly) to tie up the score. The rest of the game we were pretty much on our heals but hanging on. With about 20 seconds remaining Michelle picked off a pass at the Kingston blue line for a breakaway and beat the goalie between her legs to win the game with just 12 seconds remaining on the clock. The bench was euphoric. I couldn't believe it myself. The team that no one wanted to play for was now just one of 4 teams still standing in the province. Who would have ever thought? Sadly the girls literally ran out of gas and did not win their semi final game or the bronze medal game. Yet none of us had ever gotten that deep in Provincials, until the following season.

1. Storm 2 Belmont 1 (OT) - 2003 Provincial Semi Finals

In the 2002-03 season we had what I would call a slow start. We got our first goal in game 5 and our first win in game 12 of the season. As the season went on we got better and got into Provincials with a bye. In the preliminary round we finished in a 3-way tie for for first place in our Pool and qualified for the semi-final game on the 5th tie breaker - fewest penalty minutes. We faced Belmont who was first in the other pool and was undefeated in the preliminary round. Belmont scored early in the game and hung onto that one goal lead right to the final minute. With the goalie pulled, Sharifa Mohamed beat the goalie with 33 seconds remaining. Our goalie, Jennifer Santos, had an unorthodox style. She didn't go into a butterfly but did the splits with her pads spread from post to post. In the first overtime period we made a terrible line change and Belmont had a breakaway. At the bench we had our fingers crossed that the forward would try to deke rather than shoot. She did deke and Jennifer did the splits and smothered the puck in her pads. The first overtime period remained scoreless. In the second overtime period, Belmont who had shortened their bench began to fade. We continued to throw out our regular three lines. With less than 3 minutes left in the period Mallory Bey beat a Belmont defenseman to the puck in the corner. She threw the puck in front of the net where Melissa Bruno was waiting and Melissa just one timed it into the net. It was Melissa's first goal of the season. It was the biggest goal of the season and sent us into the gold medal game. That game was almost anti-climatic in comparison.