Spiders’ puck luck runs out, season ends in 4–1 loss to Lumberjacks in D1 title game

But just as in the season opener, there’s not much we can report about it; League reports scoresheet was ‘misplaced’

The Spiders’ puck luck ran out as the incredible 2010–11 season comes to an end. Only, just as the season opened vs. the Chaos, there’s not much we can report about the game. As Spider fans will recall, the AHA changed its scorekeeping policy this season to no longer distribute paper copies of scoresheets, meaning the Spiders’ five-year run of up-to-the-minute, insomnia-inducing post-game stats had come to an end. The policy impact came full circle on Sunday, as the league administrators “misplaced” the Spiders/Lumberjacks scoresheet after the game. And with no copies given to the teams, the stats are likely sitting in the bottom of a Summit-soaked BIG Dumpster. Conspiracy? Sabotage? Or a fortunate turn of mercy on the Spiders’ season penalty stats? Regardless, attempts to reschedule the game and give the Spiders a “do-over” to make the game “official” have been denied, and the 4–1 loss, even if there are no supporting stats, is in the books.

Onto the game. After having been denied a chance at the D1 trophy for three consecutive years, the D1 North-leading Lumberjacks proved beyond a shadow of a doubt it was their year. The Spiders’ momentum — and puck luck — that carried them through the long AHA Hockey Weekend in Bloomington was nowhere to be found on the BIG 1 rink in front of a giant, cowbell-rattling crowd of at least 90 pumped up by AHA scorekeeper/DJ Paul McWithey.

If you had documented the Spiders’ game plan all week, it appeared that it was to give up the first goal or two early, just to keep the crowd on the edge of its seats. Only this time, the plan went a little awry, as by the time the first intermission buzzer sounded, the Spiders found themselves down 3-zip. Even though the Spiders had chances, the first was all Lumberjacks.

And has seemed to be the Spiders’ other game plan throughout their playoff history, the injuries pile up in the post-season. While RW Cory Vandenberghe was lost for the season in Saturday morning’s game (and goaltender Fransen was also almost pulled due to an injury sustained in the Diablos game), today, it was Chris Pettengill going out of the game in the second after taking a check in the high slot, going down hard with a “lower body” injury.

Plus, now that the season’s over, Spider management can disclose the full list of injuries sustained this week:

  • Travis Fransen – Upper body
  • Mike Johnson – Upper body
  • Jeremy Litton – Lower body
  • Chris Pettengill – Lower body
  • Eric Schlais – Upper body
  • Mike Schroeder – Lower body
  • David Schuster – Lower body, and Lower body
  • Cory Vandenberghe – Lower body
  • Cody Yard – Lower body

No further details were disclosed, as per team policy, but team physician Dr. Droullard will be available for questions in the Spider front office all week.

In the second, the Spiders seemed to find some energy, and generated a succession of chances. Only it was Lumberjack netminder Paul Fee in their way, who had an answer for everything the Spiders sent on, near, above or behind the net, post, helmet or otherwise. The Lumberjacks’ offense had a different answer, putting up the backbreaker to go up 4–0.

In the third, the Spiders still made headway, controlling the puck for a couple long stretches in the Jack zone, but the weary legs and minds from the long weekend led to potentially costly turnovers in the defensive zone, with the Spiders barely able to regroup in the neutral zone before giveaways. A few highlight breakaways had Spider fans’ hopes up, but Fee — or the crossbar — was good for all of them. Finally, as the season ticked away, making a last-ditch shorthanded steal at the Jack blueline, RW Mike Johnson got the Spiders on the board, grinding in and lifting the puck over Fee to erase the shutout.

But with just minutes left, hopes of a comeback had seemed to have already faded.

A late third-period trip in front of the Spider net by C Tim Wahlberg saved a goal but led to a Lumberjack penalty shot. Not quite the “fan favorite” of the shootout from the night before, but Fransen had seen this kind of thing recently, and made the stop.

Even with the benefit of a few more Lumberjack penalties, committed mostly by D1 PIM king contender Hargreaves, and drawn mostly by RW Mike “Hustle” Johnson, RW Dave “Why does this keep happening to me” Schuster, Eric “I’ll just make myself at home in the net” Schlais, and D Jeremy “Punching Bag” Litton, the clock moved as though it was on running time. Inevitably, the Spiders were called again by marquee USAH ref Jack Carlson, and finished the game out shorthanded.

Unlike two years ago, today it was the Lumberjacks who spilled to the ice and celebrated their championship in style, and the Spiders got to witness it from the other side.

Congratulations to the Lumberjacks, not only on finally making it to the final after three seasons of playoff berths, but to finding a way to skate through the exhaustion of four games in 42 hours, and come out the other side with some hardware.

Lifetime, the Lumberjacks increase their advantage, with the Spiders now 2–4–1.

As was said earlier during the Spiders’ undefeated run in the regular season, “You don’t want your first loss to be in your last game.” In the end, it wasn’t the first, but it was the one that counted. The Spiders finish off an incredible season, going 19–0–1 in the regular season, and 3–2 in the post-season, stealing games from behind all week, and somehow finding their way back to the D1 Championship. Though the pucks didn’t bounce the Spiders’ way today, it was an unforgettable season, one for the history books that won’t likely soon be repeated.

Thank you to the incredible fans who came out en masse all week to cheer on the Spiders, cowbells in hand and Spider gear displayed proudly.

The Spiders will rest their aches and pains, and head back to BIG 3 (Olympic ice, of course) in the morning for a mandatory team practice and bag skate.

For details, see the box score and game summary.

Game media

Video: Spiders draw a penalty, or two:

And some game photos:

Spiders vs. Lumberjacks, April 10, 2011, D1 Championship
Spiders vs. Lumberjacks, April 10, 2011, D1 Championship
Spiders vs. Lumberjacks, April 10, 2011, D1 Championship
Spiders vs. Lumberjacks, April 10, 2011, D1 Championship
Spiders vs. Lumberjacks, April 10, 2011, D1 Championship
Spiders vs. Lumberjacks, April 10, 2011, D1 Championship
Spiders vs. Lumberjacks, April 10, 2011, D1 Championship
Spiders vs. Lumberjacks, April 10, 2011, D1 Championship
Spiders vs. Lumberjacks, April 10, 2011, D1 Championship

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