Spiders thaw Ice Gators 6–1 in final playoff game

The Spiders headed into this afternoon’s final round-robin game knowing that if they wanted any chance of extending the post-season, they needed to reverse their goal deficit in the previous two playoff games so that the #4 tiebreaker could fall their way in case of a Royals loss vs. the Chaos. The Pool B #4 seed Spiders did their part, dismantling the Pool B #3 seed Ice Gators through three periods of shutdown D1 hockey.

The Spiders came out ready to play in front of the at-capacity (32!) SLP E bleachers, with Chris “I didn’t get a warmup” Pettengill opening up both the shooting and the scoring from the point 1:42 in, assist to Mike Armel. The Ice Gators answered back 2 1/2 minutes later with their second shot on goal, on a broken play at the blueline, with the Gators’ P. Maiers exhibiting a 35-foot backhand clinic from the goal line along the boards, tying the game. The beaten defenseman Herman came off the ice, muttering, “Yeah, I knew that was going to happen.”

At 10:26, the Spiders committed (or were at least called for) only their second too-many-men penalty of the season (down from three in 2008–09, and six in 2007–08), going on the PK. At 9:59, Flannery would go in the box with his dancing partner, offsetting, so still at 5-on-4. The remainder of the first had the Ice Gators forechecking like their season depended on it, hemming in the Spiders in their own zone on shift after shift. But Obermoller was solid on all 9 shots (for 11 total in the first). The Spiders generated only four more until the waning seconds of the first, when Schlais found Johnson to grab the lead with 36 seconds left in the period. Spiders 2–1.

The second opened with the Ice Gators again getting the jump, trying to retake the lead. At 12:07, they drew a Herman roughing call, which was effectively killed. Back at full strength, Herman, apparently fully rested, snapped one from the point to put the Spiders up 3–1, assist to Flannery. At 4:13, Yard was inexplicably called for interference. The refs did finally find their whistles for the Ice Gators, handing out a roughing call at 1:10 remaining. The Spiders finished out the middle frame with 10 shots, to the Gators’ 11, including one stopped by a sprawled Pettengill in front of the net next to Obermoller.

The third opened much like the first, with Chris “I’m warmed up now” Pettengill getting his second blueline goal at 15:36, assist from a Pellicci drop, and Spiders now leading 4–1. Flannery then found his way back to the box at 9:44 for interference. Back at full strength, the Spiders continued to command the chances, and at 6:27, with a too-fancy play at the D-zone boards, Litton cross-iced to Heitzman, who got it up Flannery, who beat the netminder Jackson in close to put the Spiders up 5–1. Realizing that Flannery had already been in the box twice, Herman also gave it a try, getting called for a hook at 5:09. But just 10 seconds after he was sprung, the Gators’ Gomer went in for interference, giving the Spiders a man-advantage for all but a minute left of the game. Thus began the chants of “one more,” from the SLP bleachers and Spider bench coaching crew, knowing that the Spiders needed to maximize their goal-differential chances if they wanted the chance to play again Saturday night for the Pool title. The Spiders didn’t find the twine during the power play, but with just 32 seconds remaining, a Baker breakaway turned into the Spiders’ 6th marker, making the final score 6–1.

The Spiders were outshot 30–26, with the Gators coming out strong, but fading in the third (11, 11, 8). The Spiders had their usual slow start, but turned up the heat in the second and third (6, 10, 10). Obermoller was rock-solid as usual, stopping 29, with the flukiest goal of the year representing the lone goal.

With the five-goal advantage in the win, the Spiders headed to the dressing room (yes, they had an actual dressing room after the game, unlike Thursday) frantically checking the AHA playoff scoreboard for an update, though the Chaos/Royals score had yet to be published. Instead, it was AHA scorekeeper (and one-time Spider sub goalie) Sarah Thuriot who had the pleasure of breaking the news to the Spider dressing room: “You’re eliminated.” Indeed, the Chaos and Royals skated to an improbable 4–4 tie. A tie! Meaning the Royals grab one more point than the Spiders, thus knocking the Spiders out to the summer. The dressing room erupted, and the reaction palpably incredulous.

When the laughter died down, the Spiders congratulated themselves on reviving their season from a dismal 2–6 start to not only get beyond .500 in the regular season (10–8–2), but to steal a playoff spot to get to the post-season.

Playoffs D1 Pool B Standings (as of April 10)
Chaos D1 3 2 0 1 0 5 11 7 16
Royals D1 3 1 0 2 0 4 8 7 6
Spiders D1 3 1 1 1 0 3 10 7 32
Ice Gators 3 0 3 0 0 0 3 11 18

The Spiders finish the playoffs in third place in Pool B, with a 1–1–1 record and three points. They did come in first place in their usual category: PIM. At 32, they ended today with 14 more PIMs than any other D1 team, in just three games. Congrats, Spiders!

Next up, cheering on the C2 Spiders, then summer hockey (and some golf)!

For details, see the box score and game summary.

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