Spiders narrowly avoid victory

The rematch with the Black Ice ended exactly the same as the first: a tie.

The Spiders would’ve needed all the points they could get to preserve any glimmer of hope to make the playoff cutoff. But at a Tragic Number of 1, a tie with the Black Ice, might technically keep that window open, but makes it even easier for the four other teams well ahead of the Spiders and ready to claim the fourth and final C3 West spot.

With the Black Ice’s leading scorer (in three of four categories: 17 P, 12 G, 63 PIM), suspended sandbagger Jason Knoll spent the night sipping coffee from his New Hope bench coach’s perch, egging on his soon-to-be-former teammates to “play the body.” But the Spiders, at least at first, avoided the checks and got on the board first, with Mike Johnson netting his fifth of the season, from Pappone.

Thus began the referee-controlled portion of the evening, with six consecutive penalties called against the Spiders. Some questionable, some textbook incorrect, and all ignoring the body checking game dressed in white that was ripe for the whistle.

The second period was all Black Ice, with an early goal to tie it up, and a go-ahead goal halfway through.

The third, besides penalties, was quiet until the 5:33 mark, with a highlight-reel setup from Johnson to Schuster on one hash across to Pappone at the other hash, and Jon didn’t miss, making it a tie game (unofficially, a shorthanded goal). Though the Black Ice would tie it back up on the following faceoff. Listed as a power play goal though no penalty noted at the time, the only thing sloppier than the refs was the game scoresheet. After Pappone’s marker, they seemed to spend plenty of time on video review. They’d do the same after the lone penalty called against the most penalized team at C3 (third overall in the AHA thanks to Knoll’s six-game byes). That whistle ended up a double minor for “whining” according to the ref.

On the first power play, the New Hope S crowd saw the return of the Flying ‘V,’ as Cory Vandenberghe displayed his pirouette skills on a breakaway, somehow potting it into the net while helicoperting.

On the second segment of the power play, the refs realized they hadn’t whistled a red jersey in over seven minutes, and promptly wiped out the power play. That didn’t faze Vandenberghe, who fought off a hook to Flying ‘V’ it again and give the Spiders the lead with just under two minutes to go.

The one-goal lead promptly set off the bench jinx. And with the goalie pulled and 13 seconds on the clock for a defensive-zone faceoff, the Black Ice made a perfect low-to-high setup and wristed it past McCormick to tie the game with six seconds to go. To the shock of no one.

After having spent precious icetime minutes on endless penalties and scorekeeper deliberations, the refs informed at least one captain there would be no overtime due to the ice time running out, despite the fact that it was the final game on the ice sheet that night. Advantage to the Spiders, who were able to avoid overtime and get to Pub 42 for last call.

Final score: 4–4. Final 2016–17 series standings: 0–0–2–0 for both squads.

2016–17 C3 West Standings (Week 17)
  • y = clinched division
  • x = clinched playoff berth
Les Etoiles du Nord –x 17 13 1 1 2 29 76 38 50
Arctic Wolves 17 10 3 4 0 24 80 50 84
Black Ice 17 9 5 3 0 21 54 50 155
Icedogs 17 9 6 2 0 20 59 45 120
Shame On Ice 17 9 7 1 0 19 58 48 100
Silverbacks 17 7 6 3 1 18 53 48 72
Blade Runners 17 8 9 0 0 16 58 61 144
Spiders 17 6 9 2 0 14 55 63 126
Gold Rush 17 5 10 1 1 12 44 76 84
Scarlet Rebellion 17 0 16 1 0 1 28 86 76

The tie gives the Spiders a single point to try to make up three games with three games remaining (6–9–2–0; 14 pts), to catch not only the Ice Dogs in fourth with 20 points, but the Shame On Ice (19pts), Silverbacks (18) and Blade Runners (16), all while avoiding tiebreakers that fall the other teams’ way.

Next for the Spiders, the second-place Arctic Wolves (10–3–4; 24pts). Previous game went to the Wolves 5–2 on Dec. 30. This one will start at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Eden Prairie.

For details, see the box score and game summary.

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