Spiders beat Ligers at Woog … oh my

What a difference 9 weeks makes.

Aaron Forsman’s buzzer-beating goal to end the second period, and goaltender Greg Buell’s best performance of the season boosted the suddenly streaking B1 Spiders to a 2-1 victory against the division-leading Ligers on Tuesday in South St. Paul.

The win snapped the Ligers (12-2-3) 12-game unbeaten streak and handed them only their second loss of the season. It also extended the Spiders (8-8-1) hopes of nabbing a playoff spot (more on that later) that didn’t seem possible just eight weeks ago.

The emotionally-charged contest felt nothing like the first matchup between these two teams, when, on a dark December night in Golden Valley, a short-benched B1 Spiders – mired in the middle of a six-game losing streak – surrendered 72 shots over 51 minutes in a 9-3 loss.

In Tuesday’s rematch at Woog Ice Arena, the Spiders (8-8-1) not only outscored the Ligers. They outshot them 28-27. They also never trailed in a battle where each team had their faire share of scoring chances, only to be snuffed out by excellent goaltending on both ends.

In the end, Aaron Forsman’s two goals – one to end the second period, the other just 1:41 into the third (assisted by Dominic Forsman and Hank Long) – proved to be the difference makers. But after the game, Forsman deflected credit to the Spiders’ blue liners.

“We made great breakout passes, we played hard through the neutral zone, and we were aggressive on their blue line holding the zone,” Forsman said in a locker-room interview.

“I think we are finally gelling,” fellow winger George Forsman said.

Through two nearly (emphasis on the word nearly) scoreless periods the Spiders outshot the Ligers 22-13 and seemed to be the team controlling the flow. But Ligers goaltender A. Nelson (who leads B1 with a 2.44 GAA) kept the Spiders off the board. Until he didn’t.

With precious seconds ticking away at the tail end of the second period, a scrum in front of the Ligers net squirted a loose puck onto Aaron Forsman’s forehand. As the clock was approaching zero, the Spider’s leading scorer patiently pulled the puck back and then beat goaltender Nelson as the buzzer sounded. The refs were resolute that the shot beat the buzzer, despite a mild protest from the Ligers.

The Spiders then took a 2-0 lead less than two minutes into the third when Long picked off a shot attempt from the blue line to hit Dominic Forsman in transition. Dominic led a 2-on-1 into the offensive zone then dished to brother Aaron to give the Spiders an important insurance goal.

The Ligers answered with their only goal of the game just 23 seconds later after what appeared to be an icing call that was waved off. Forward D. Pahluniak won a race to the puck as it rung around the boards and fed S. Kellog, who slid a shot past a sprawled Buell. But only after the goaltender lost his stick after successfully dive blocking a wrap-around attempt.

The next 15 minutes of hockey had the Spiders fending off a Liger’s relentless attack, but Buell stood tall to help his team earn quite possibly their best win of the season.

PLAYOFF POSSIBILITIES

The Red-and-Black are now 5-1-1 over the last seven games to start the second half of their inaugural campaign. They need the third-place Piranhas (10-6-1) to lose at least one of their next two games in order to have a shot to make the playoffs in the regular season finale against, who else, but the Piranhas. The Piranhas will face the Ligers and then the Grizzlies over the next two weeks. The Spiders square off against the Grizzlies this Sunday at St. Thomas Academy.

For details, see the box score and game summary.

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