Walking in to the arena last night, you could feel the pressure and the anticipation – players were chomping at the bit, just waiting to put it all on the line, jockeying for that last minute playoff seeding advantage. Well, last minute anyway – 15 min to game time and there were only 2 goalies and 4 runners in the arena – no point in getting there too early!

First game, Team Russ jumped out to a quick lead but Team Joe kept it close, trailing by 2 at the end of the 1st and tied at the end of 2. In the 3rd, the lead was exchanged a couple of times before Team Joe pulled ahead by 4 late in the period – a couple of quick, last minute goals by Team Russ made things a bit tense on the Team Joe bench but they were able to run out the time without further drama. Final score, Team Joe 15  –  Team Russ 13. Not a good start for either of the goalie’s last minute run at Justin’s lead in the GA average.

Team Joe’s win put them in to a temporary tie for 1st place and the arena was buzzing (flies?, A/C noise?, anticipation) for the upcoming final game of the regular season. Would Team Juniors be able to win and finish first decisively? Would Team Blair be able to climb out of the basement? Would MATH be required to figure out the final standings? Would the goalies be able to keep the scores in single digits? And that’s why we play the game – to answer these deep philosophical questions!

Team Juniors exploded out of the gate, getting to Gord early and often. But, as is so typical in LMLHL, any lead is only the same number of shots away from a tie game. Team Blair kept picking away in the 2nd and 3rd periods, getting close and then allowing the Juniors to extend their lead again. Momentum shifted back and forth and the crowd was going wild. A couple of injuries looked like they might be devastating as Ashmore and Platt hobbled off the floor but in true Bob Baun fashion, Ashmore dragged himself back on to try to will the Juniors to victory. As time started to get short, Team Blair scored to pull within 1 …BUT… it was a bank shot from behind the net – after conferring, the referees waved the goal off and awarded a penalty shot and penalty to the Juniors.  A goal on the penalty shot made it 13-10, but more controversy as the scorekeeper hadn’t un-recorded the illegal Team Blair goal – tempers were starting to fray! Another Team Blair goal, this time valid brought the score to 13-11 BUT in an interesting tactical move Team Blair took an Unsportsmanlike penalty on the way to the ensuing faceoff. Another penalty shot and 2 minutes shorthanded for the rest of the game! – (do they play better shorthanded, do they like the challenge of playing from behind, is this a new cutting edge LMLA coaching strategy….? Way above my coaching pay grade to have to try to comprehend). In any case, it almost worked – Gord denied the penalty shot and a shorthanded goal closed the gap to 1 with less than a minute to go. But, the deep strategy and high level planning was all for naught, Team Juniors scored one last time, with seconds to go, to put a stake through Team Blair’s comeback hopes – final result Team Juniors  14  –  Team Blair 12. An exciting end to the season and a good omen for the upcoming playoffs.

Two high scoring games that do nothing (good) for goalie GAA. I hope all of you appreciate the deep concern that the goalies have for your tender psyches – sacrificing our GAA, possibly damaging our chances at multi-year, mega$ contract re-negotiations by allowing so many goals to be scored to bolster the fragile self esteem(s) of the runners. Think of the wailing and crying if this week’s results had been 0-0 and 1-0, all the runners would quit in disgust at their inability to score.

With the victory, Team Juniors finish first overall and win the Bucket of Greasy Used Balls Trophy/Bucket/Cup. Team Blair after a strong start to the season, fade over the long term and finish last, but still get the Roll of Crumpled Up (3M) Tape Award (Participant ribbon version) and the coveted first round draft pick of incoming new registrations next year.

Upcoming next week, PLAYOFFS ROUND #1, August 20, 2014:

Team Joe(2nd)  vs.  Team Russ(3rd)     7:00pm

Team Juniors(1st)  vs.  Team Blair(4th)     8:15pm

FYI, for the playoffs, to leave it all up to each team’s scoring prowess (what COULD go worng?), we will be switching goalies at half time – team with the higher season standing chooses which goalie they get first. More thinking required so it could be interesting to see if we get more of the new cutting edge LAXthink showing up.

See you all next week.