AHA B3/C1/C2 Spiders Team History
The history of the B3/C1/C2 Spiders hockey club, an ice hockey team of the Adult Hockey Association (AHA), a Twin Cities-based amateur adult no-check hockey association. For Spiders’ history prior to 2007–08, see D2/D1/C3 Spiders Team History.
Back row: (L to R) Doug Thorson, Greg Lindsley, Jim Green, Jack Delsing.
Middle row: Bob Harnett, Shawn Tromiczak, Chris Smith, Tim Forcelle, Chris Stalpes, Josh Cagle.
Front row: John Trentor, Dave Schliesman, Lee Martini, Jim Maietta, Bruce Gustafson, Brad Butalla.
Photo: Brian Dow
A core group of Spiders again put together a summer team, this time as the Predators, to compete, and get schooled, in level 3 (D1/C2 equivalent), finishing with a 1–11 record, good for a comfortable lock on last place.
Then, as the Winter season plans were being formulated, the AHA announced that it was recalibrating the definition of its C and D tiers, so that old D2 is the new D1, old D1 is the new C2, etc., thus allowing D2 to become what would’ve been a level D3.
Moreover, as part of the AHA’s ongoing effort to enforce parity, the Spiders were faced with splitting the team, with Dave Schliesman, Lee Martini, Doug Thorson, Bruce Gustafson and Jim Maietta being moved up to C2. Just one night after this announcement, scouts showed up at Wakota Arena and were on the Spiders like stink on elbow pads. With contracts being waved in front of them, these hockey hoboes nearly signed on to the squad that would eventually become the Blizzard. Instead, it was decided that what this world needed was an additional Spiders team. And already having jerseys and the Greatest Website In The AHA™ factored in as well. And thus, a second Spiders team was born.
Within a few days, the core of the C2 Spiders came together as Schliesman became team captain with Maietta and Martini as assistants. Former D1 Spiders Thorson and Gustafson committed immediately and the team then inked summer teammates Josh Cagle, Greg Lindsley and Chris Smith to contracts. Open tryouts were held for friends and co-workers and, by the beginning of the season, the roster was full with Chad Sande in net and Brad Butalla, Jack Delsing, Tim Forcelle, Jim Green, Bob Harnett, Chris Stalpes, John Trentor and Shawn Tromiczak skating out.
The C2 Spiders started the season with a dominating 6–2 win over the Lakers, who went on to finish the regular season 18–2–0. The Spiders continued their strong start with a 5–1–2 record by the end of December.
One of those ties was a 2–2 game against the last-place Snowmen. The game was notable as the Spiders got their first look at future goalie Brian Dow as he stood on his head and made 29 saves. It was only a glimpse of what was to come. The Spiders won the second game against the Snowmen 3–2 despite a 40-save performance by Dow. Weeks later he was in net for the Spartans and made 23 saves as the Spiders went down 3–2 in overtime. That’s a 1–1–1 record with 2.33 GAA and a .929 save percentage.
It was an eventful season with short benches, absent goalies, broken Tuuks, a capacity crowd (for the high school game on the next sheet over) and a great time. The Spiders stayed in contention for a playoff berth for most of the season but faded late with a 1–4–1 record over the last 6 games to finish a respectable 8–8–3–1.
Back row (L to R): Bob Harnett, John Trentor, Tim Stalpes, Mark Bortnem, Doug Thorson, Jack Delsing, Dave Schliesman, Tim Forcelle, Greg Lindsley.
Middle row: Shawn Tromiczak, Bruce Gustafson, Jim Maietta, Brad Butalla, Josh Cagle, Chris Stalpes.
Front row: Brian Dow.
The Fall of 2008 brought optimism for the Spiders as they returned the nucleus of the team from the previous season. Lee Martini stepped back to a substitute role due to family obligations, Chris Smith defected to a newly formed C2 squad, “Big” Jim Green moved to Colorado, and goaltender Chad Sande decided to dedicate more time to his sporting goods business. Still having flashbacks from facing Brian Dow the previous season, captain Dave Schliesman paid him a visit at midnight on the first day of free agency and signed him to a multi-year contract. Jim Maietta was quoted as saying, “The best part of having Brian on our team is that we don’t have to play against him.” Also joining the Spiders were Tim Stalpes and Mark Bortnem. Josh Cagle also inherited the assistant captain “A” from Lee Martini. Tim Stalpes is the brother of Chris Stalpes and brought much-needed skill to the blue line, and Mark Bortnem returned after a year off from the C2 division.
The season started poorly with an ugly 6–2 loss to the Blizzard. Apparently, it only served to infuriate the Spiders as they then reeled off eight straight wins, including a heart-stopping 4–3 OT win over the Sled Dogs. With two games remaining in the regular season, the Spiders were in the driver’s seat for the East division title, but a 4–3 OT loss to the lowly Admirals relegated the Spiders to the bridesmaid position. In the last regular season game, the Spiders were down 3–1 late in the third period. A rousing speech by assistant captain Jim Maietta inspired the Spiders and two quick goals followed, including the tying goal by captain Dave Schliesman with only 15 ticks on the clock. At that point, it was only a formality as the comeback was completed with Schliesman scoring the OT game winner to send the Spiders into the playoffs with some momentum.
That momentum was immediately wasted as the Spiders dropped their first playoff game to the Thunder Chickens by a 5–3 score. Luckily, the Spiders came back and dominated the Diablos by a 6–2 score to set up a must-win game against the Zephyrs. The Spiders prevailed 3–2 in a game of epic intensity. The win set up a loser-leaves-town rematch a short six hours later for the pool championship. It was a gutsy effort all-around, but no one exemplified this more than defenseman Tim Stalpes. Stalpes took a slap shot off the leg in the first Zephyrs game, but gutted it out and played an additional five periods on what later proved to be a broken ankle. In the end, the Zephyrs were the better team and reversed the results of the first game to win 3–2 in the rematch.
The Zephyrs won the pool with a 3–1 record but were shut out of the championship game as only the top two pool champions (Bulls and Jets at 3–0–1) advanced to the championship game. The Bulls, along with former Spider Chris Smith, came away with the C2 championship. For the record, the Spiders beat the Bulls 6–0 and 6–1 in the regular season.
Back row (L to R): Mark Bortnem, Bob Harnett, Doug Thorson, Jay Hilden, Aaron Bedessem, Greg Lindsley, Brian Armagost, Shawn Tromiczak, Dave Schliesman.
Front row: Jim Maietta, Brian Dow, Josh Cagle, Tim Stalpes, Brad Butalla, Bruce Gustafson.
While the 2008–09 season was a success, the 2009–10 season promised even greater things. D1 all-stars Aaron Bedessem, Jay Hilden and Brian Armagost got called up to the big squad while Tim Forcelle and Jack Delsing stepped back to sub status, and John Trentor hung up the skates.
Who would have known the fourth game of the season would be (in the end) the only one that would matter? Despite the Spiders dominating on shots, time of possession, manliness, and all measures other than the score, the Sled Dogs jumped out to a 3–0 lead on the cozy Augsburg B rink ice. The Spiders fought back to 3–1 at the end of the second period, and a Maietta goal made it 3–2 early in the third. Then, with goaltender Brian Dow experiencing enhanced relaxation on the bench (as opposed to his normal vacation provided by the 54–19 pro-Spiders shot differential ), Chris Stalpes pounded a rebound past Sled Dog keeper Charlie Beattie to tie the game at 3-all. Overtime was scoreless and the Spiders escaped, celebrated, and grieved all at the same time. The next two Spiders/Sled Dogs games resulted in a 4–3 win and a 5–3 loss. At the end of the season, the Spiders won the division with 33 points and a 16–3–1 record with the Sled Dogs at 15–3–2 and 32 points.
The Spiders were determined not to have a letdown similar to the first game of the 2009 playoffs and followed through with a 4–0 win over the Muskies. The second game against the Royals proved to be a bare-knuckled street fight. The Royals scored early in the second period to go up 3–2 and the Spiders turned up the pressure. The Spiders dominated the third period, as shown by the 12–1 advantage in shots, but couldn’t get the equalizer.
Pool play wrapped up with a commanding 4–1 win over the Roadrunners and the Spiders sat back and waited for results to determine if they advanced to the single-elimination phase of the playoffs. The playoff structure allowed for the three pool champions and the top pool runner-up to advance to the single-elimination stage of the tournament. The Spiders’ 2–1 record was good enough to advance to a semi-final game with the 3–0 Aces.
Just minutes into the game, assistant captain Josh Cagle remarked, “I thought they would be better…” The Spiders won a comfortable 3–1 decision over the Aces with a 40–15 shot advantage. With the Royals shoot-out win over the defending-champion Bulls, the championship would be a rematch of the epic pool-play match-up.
A crowd of 100+ Spiders faithful showed up to cheer them against the Royals. Unfortunately, the Royals were the better team and beat the Spiders handily by a 4–0 score. The Spiders downfall can be attributed to an 0–7 rate on the power play as the Royals collapsed to the front of the net and didn’t allow many shots on goal.
(L to R) Back row: Doug Thorson, Matt Adelmann, Jay Hilden, Dave Schliesman, Brian Armagost, Greg Lindsley, Aaron Bedessem, Cody Yard, Tim Stalpes, Chris Stalpes.
Front row: Mark Bortnem, Bruce Gustafson, Brian Dow, Josh Cagle, Brad Butalla.
With the loss in the C2 championship just 6 months earlier, the Spiders re-grouped for the 2010–11 season full of confidence. Gone from the runner-up squad was former all-star Shawn Tromiczak. Filling his slot on the blue line would be Matt Adelmann, who came recommended by Jay Hilden and Aaron Bedessem.
The season didn’t start as planned as the Roadrunners scored four unanswered third period goals to deal the Spiders a 4–1 loss. Brian Dow saved the Spiders from an 0–2 start by making 38 saves in a 1–0 robbery from the Fighting Piranhas.
Momentum was on the Spiders’ side as they rolled off consecutive victories over the Muskies, Warriors, Admirals and Roadrunners. Add in two postponed games, one for The Blizzard Of 2010 and the other for ice problems at Breck, and the Spiders rolled into the new year with a record of 5–1 and on a five-game win streak.
January brought the second game of the Fighting Piranha trilogy. The Spiders got the better of the play but the worst of the bounces and officiating and took a 2–1 loss.
Six more wins in a row and the Spiders entered the rubber match with the Fighting Piranhas with a stellar 11–2 record. It was a memorable game including a goal waved off because the goalie kicked the net off the post, two quick Piranha goals, three consecutive Spider goals to take the lead, a critical late Spider penalty kill, the refs allowing the tying Piranha goal after the whistle, and the Piranha ringer scoring the game winner in OT off a sick toe drag.
The Spiders finished the regular season with a 15–3–1–1 record, good for 32 points and a tie with the Fighting Piranhas for best in the C2 West. Based on the head-to-head tiebreaker, the Fighting Piranhas took the division title and the #1 seed in the playoffs.
The playoff format was the same as the previous year with three pools of four teams each. The three pool winners and the second place team with the best record would advance to the single-elimination phase of the tournament.
The Spiders were placed into a pool with the North division champion Thunder Chickens, and the Royals and Bulls.
The first game was a rematch of the previous season’s championship game against the Royals. The Royals went up 5–1 in the third period before the Spiders made an epic comeback to escape with a 6–6 tie. A 4–0 whopping of the Bulls led to a winner-takes-all (or at least the pool) showdown with the Thunder Chickens. Unfortunately, the Chickens got the better of it and sent the Spiders home with a 3–2 loss.
For perpetuity, the Blizzard beat the Chickens 6–3 in the first semifinal while the M’s beat surprise semifinalist Rack Attack 4–2 in the second. In the championship game, the M’s were victorious in a game that was decided in a shootout.
The core of the team will return for the 2011–12 season so the Spiders again have their sights set on a championship.
Coming off a third consecutive playoff berth and with a nearly intact roster, the Spiders were optimistic about the 2011–12 season. Doug Thorson and Mark Bortnem took a step back from full time to subbing. Their spots were taken by Cory Vandenberghe and Jim Green. Vandenberghe was a veteran of the D1/C3 squad who was looking for the challenge of the C2 level. Green, as some may remember, skated with the inaugural C2 squad in 2007–08 before work relocated him to Sacramento. Frequent planned trips back to Minnesota had him planning a return to the ice.
The Spiders were assigned to the C2 North division with some of the notable opponents being the Zephyrs, Warriors, and the defending champion M’s. There was much surprise about the return of the M’s to the C2 division as the team returned virtually all of their skaters from the championship team while also upgrading in net.
The season started smoothly with consecutive wins over the Chaos Black, Yellow Jackets, and the hated Zephyrs. A 4–1 loss to the Northern Horde and a 4–0 shutout by the M’s had the Spiders reeling through the Thanksgiving holiday. Six consecutive wins righted the ship leading into a rematch with the Zephyrs.
The Spiders sped out to a 3–0 lead before the Zephyrs goon squad was able to drag the game into the gutter to wrangle a 4–4 tie.
Shortly before Christmas, Jim Green found Delta had eliminated flights between Minneapolis and Sacramento, making it nearly impossible for him to make any games. To fill the roster spot, Jay Hilden recruited his father-in-law Dave Henke.
In late January, the league took the unprecedented step of eliminating the M’s from the C2 playoffs. The M’s had run roughshod over the division and looked to be head and shoulders above the competition. While many second-guessed the league’s decision to let them play in the C2 level at the start of the season, there was significant anger over the league’s handling of the situation. The league determined the M’s would play out the rest of their C2 schedule before moving up to C1 for the playoffs.
After the 4–0 shellacking at the hands of the M’s early in the season, the Spiders had the rematch circled on the calendars. A 40-save effort by Brian Dow led the Spiders to a 3–2 win over the seemingly unbeatable M’s. While the win didn’t mean much in the standings as the M’s were moving out, it certainly helped the team gain confidence.
The regular season ended with the Spiders in second place in the North division at 14–4–2–0. This placed the Spiders in playoff pool A with the East division champ Rack Attack (13–3–2–2), West third place Fighting Piranhas (14–4–1–1), and by the skin of their prominent teeth, the East fourth place Beavers (11–7–2–0).
The rivalry between the Spiders and Fighting Piranhas reached a fever pitch during the 2010–11 season as the Piranhas took two out of three games. Even without ringer Adam Smiglewski, the Piranhas were a talented team. Trailing 2–1 entering the third period, the Spiders used some strong goaltending and a few lucky breaks to take a 3–2 win.
Game two of the playoffs had slightly more breathing room but was still closely contested. Three goals in less than three minutes staked the Spiders to a lead that would never be threatened as they took a 4–2 win over the Beavers. The win set up a huge showdown with the defensively sound Rack Attack.
Led by superstar goaltender Bobby Stewart, the Rack Attack won their division and gave up the fewest goals in all of the C2 division. Similar to the Fighting Piranhas game, the Spiders fought back from a 2–1 third period deficit to win 3–2. The win clinched the pool A title and moved the Spiders into the semi-finals where they would play the goon squad Zephyrs.
Goals by Matt Adelmann and Doug Thorson got the Spiders off to a quick 2–0 Spider lead. The Zephyrs struck back with a carefully placed wrist shot and a lucky deflection off skates to tie the game. With just over four minutes left to go in the game, a misplayed puck behind the Spider net resulted in an easy Zephyr goal. With the desperation setting in, Brian Dow left the net for an extra attacker but a turnover led to an empty net goal, a 4–2 loss, and the start of the golfing and boating season.
In the championship game, the Admirals beat the Zephyrs in a shootout with a final score of 5–4. The win capped off a Cinderella run by the Admirals. After winning their final six games of the regular season, the Admirals needed a tiebreaker of fewest penalty minutes to capture the final West division playoff berth. They then went 3–0 through pool play, beat the Royals 2–0 in the semi-finals, and then the Zephyrs in the championship.
(L to R) Back row: Dave Schliesman, Aaron Bedessem, Matt Adelmann, Jay Hilden, Chris Stalpes, Mark Bortnem, Cody Yard, Doug Thorson, Tim Stalpes.
Front row: Cody Buckalew, Bruce Gustafson, Josh Cagle, Brian Dow, Jim Maietta, Brian Armagost, Cory Vandenberghe.
The 2011–12 season saw a whopping 30 teams at the C2 level. Parity was very good at the top end with no team winning more than 15 games but several teams on the bottom end struggled, necessitating changes for the 2012–13 season. The tier formerly known as C1 became a newly created B3 tier and the previous C2 tier split to C2 and C1. The Spiders, as well as 16 other C2 teams moved to C1, joined by the Puck Hounds from C3 and the newly assembled Avengers.
While the opponents were not substantially changed, the level of play would increase with the elimination of the bottom teams. The Spiders’ lineup was nearly unchanged from the squad that advanced to the semi-finals the previous season.
After a season-opening 3–0 win over the Aces, the Spiders faced an early-season showdown with the Spider-killing Royals. The Spiders got out to a 2–0 lead before the Royals came charging back to take a 5–3 win.
The Spiders went 6–0–1 over the next seven games, setting up a rematch with the Royals. Included in the seven-game run was a 6–2 win over the Sled Dogs and hanging 10 on the Rack Attack. Unfortunately for the Spiders, the Royals ran out to a 3–0 lead en route to a 5–4 win.
At the midpoint of the season, the Spiders were in first place in the division at 7–2–1. Unfortunately, injuries were starting to pile up as Bob Harnett and Brad Butalla suffered season-ending illnesses or injuries. Then Cody Yard missed six weeks with an ankle injury. In early February, Tim Stalpes went on IR with a broken ankle.
The Spiders dug deep and rattled off four straight wins, including a 1–0 win over the Sled Dogs that included Dow stopping a penalty shot, giving the Spiders a 2½-game division lead.
Then the wheels fell off. First was a 7–5 disaster against the bottom-dwelling Rack Attack, and then a 6–2 beating at the hands of the Puck Hounds. After stopping the bleed with a win over the Aces, the Royals continued their dominance of the Spiders with a 5–1 win. The Royals improved to 3–0 in the season and 6–0–1 lifetime against the Spiders. The late-season tailspin reduced the division lead to a half game with games remaining against the Warriors and Thunder Chickens.
Cody Yard was the hero against the Warriors, scoring the go-ahead goal with just over a minute to play. With the division title in sight, the Spiders finished strong with an 8–2 win over the Thunder Chickens, which also knocked the Chickens out of the playoffs in favor of the Beavers. It wasn’t easy or pretty, but the Spiders claimed their second-ever division title with a 14–5–1–0 record.
The playoff seeding formula placed the Spiders in pool A with the Beavers, Nemesis and Avengers.
The playoffs opened with the Spiders facing off against the Beavers, whom they beat 5–2 and tied 1–1 in the regular season. A short bench, ineffective power play, and a hot goaltender combined to send the Spiders to a 6–1 loss. This loss seriously damaged the Spiders’ chances of winning the pool and advancing to the championship game. At this point, the Spiders needed to win their remaining games and get a lot of help.
The Nemesis took an early lead on the slow-starting Spiders in the second game. The Spiders started controlling play in the second period but Nemesis sub goalie Bobby Stewart was sharp. Spider fans may remember Stewart as the goaltender for the Rack Attack squad the Spiders beat in the 2011 playoffs to advance to the semi-finals. A goal by Dave Schliesman early in the third and a goal late by Matt Adelmann sealed the 2–1 win for the Spiders.
Going into the final pool game against the Avengers, the Spiders needed a win and a loss by the Beavers to advance to the semi-finals. Matt Adelmann struck first, scoring less than two minutes into the game and the Spiders rolled to a 3–0 lead before a late Avengers goal made the final 3–1. With the Nemesis and Beavers playing immediately following the Spiders, the squad stuck around Richfield to learn their fate. It became evident quickly that Nemesis goalie Bobby Stewart was, at best, uninterested, and at worst, attempting the throw the game. The Nemesis had already been eliminated and his apparent dislike of the Spiders led him to assist the Beavers in advancing to the championship over the Spiders. It was such a blatant act of tanking that AHA management was called to the rink to observe. You’re a class act, Bobby Stewart! Luckily, his teammates didn’t cooperate as the Nemesis beat the Beavers 9–5 to send the Spiders to the final.
The final would pit the Spiders against the Fighting Piranhas. It was a tightly contested game that included Dow stopping a penalty shot. Despite a 39–25 advantage in shots, the Spiders couldn’t get one past Piranha goalie Bobby Osum and floater through a crowd eluded Dow to give the Piranhas a 1–0 win.
(L to R) Back row: Mark Bortnem, Tom Prausa, Shawn Tromiczak, Mike Townsend, Chris Stalpes, Aaron Bedessem, Bob Maietta, Brian Dow
Front row: Geoff Kuppe, Jay Hilden, Josh Cagle, Jim Maietta, Tim Stales, Brian Armagost.
Obviously impressed by the Spiders half-decade of excellence, the AHA promoted the Spiders to the B3 level for the 2013–14 season. Accompanying the Spiders to the B3 level were the Fighting Piranhas, Yellow Jackets, and Saints (from C2). Since the B3 level already included a Fighting Piranhas team, the promoted team would be referred to as the Fighting Piranhas Black while the existing team would be Fighting Piranhas Blue.
The B3 level included only a few teams familiar to the Spiders. The Lakers and Rack Attack were in the C2 level with the Spiders in the early years. The Mutiny were an offshoot of the Zephyrs team the Spiders played in a pair of intense games back in 2010.
In addition to the new opponents, the Spiders’ roster had quite a few new faces. Gone from the roster were Bruce Gustafson, Greg Lindsley, Bob Harnett, Brad Butalla, Tim Forcelle, Jack Delsing, Cody Buckalew and Cody Yard. Gustafson exited as the franchise leader in games played at 180 going back to the 2005–06 season. Lindsley, Harnett, Butalla, Forcelle and Delsing had all been with the Spiders since the birth of the C2 squad in 2007.
Joining the Spiders were Tom Prausa, Mike Townsend, Bob Maietta, Geoff Kuppe and Derk Jacobson. Shawn Tromiczak also re-joined the Spiders after going on hiatus following the 2010 season.
As would be expected, the Spiders took some time to adjust to the faster speed of play. After an opening 4–2 win over the Royals, the Spiders went 1–6 over the next seven games, including a humbling 10–3 loss to the Lakers.
Apparently the team New Year resolution was to play better hockey as the Spiders reeled off five straight wins after the first of the year. This included a 6–2 win over the front-running Battle Cats and a gutsy OT win over the Fighting Piranhas Blue. The streak brought the Spiders record to 7–6–0 and had the team looking at playoff possibilities. Those hopes were dashed over the next four games as losses to the powerful Lakers, mid-table Ice Hogs, and cellar dweller Gators had the Spiders all but mathematically eliminated. The remainder of the season brought a couple highlights with another win against the Battle Cats and a season-ending 12–3 domination of the short-benched Royals.
In the end, the Spiders finished with a nice even 10–10–0 record and 20 points, good for 5th place in the B3 West division. Only the top four advanced to the playoffs, making this the first season since the inaugural C2 season in 2007–08 that the Spiders hadn’t played in the postseason.
The Battle Cats came out victorious in the playoffs, taking a 1–0 nail biter over the Rack Attack. Those are the same Battle Cats that the Spiders beat 6–2 and 6–3. So with a year of experience at the level, the Spiders have reason for optimism going into the 2014–15 season.