So close ... Spiders come up short against Spartans 3–2

Bookeneded goals not enough against C3 West second-place Spartans

A rare 6 p.m. game on Sunday meant families (well, at least one … the Longs) filled the Richfield rink 2 bleachers to take in the Spider brand of hockey.

The Spiders defied expectations just 72 seconds into the game, with Eric Grotbeck sneaking the puck past the GoPro-wearing Spartans goalie #69 J. Kaler, playing in what appears to be his first game of the season, as the Spartans have been relying on a stable of subs all winter. Assist to Farner.

The Spartan response came just 78 seconds later, off a waved-off icing, to tie the game back at 1, and led to a relatively even first period, with shots at 9 to 7 for the Spartans.

The second was also relatively even, if you didn’t look at the scoreboard. At 6:51, the Spartans’ leading scorer #35 Bean finished a tic-tac-toe play in front of the Spider net to give the Spartans a lead. But the Spiders were awarded a power play on the next shift, which almost immediately turned into a 4-on-4 after D Litton let a puck get by the blue line and had to clean up his mistake on the ensuing breakaway.

And thus began the questionable officiating portion of the evening. First, the Spiders iced the puck with 2:13 on the clock. The Spartans’ penalty, set to expire at 2:10, meant the scorekeeper was manning the penalty box gate for the exiting player. By the time the scorekeeper returned to her post to stop the clock, it was 2:07, meaning the penalty had “expired,” giving the Spartans a power play faceoff in the offensive zone.

Then, in the last minute of the period, back at even strength, a pass from the Spider D-zone to the blue line saw the Spartan lift the Spider forward’s stick preventing him from playing the puck. The stripes called icing anyway. Another offensive zone faceoff. And this time, the stripes gave the Spartans a brief man advantage by swallowing their whistles on a check from behind in the corner (Rag Doll, of course), and the ensuing Spartan overload in the Spider slot ended with the puck in the Spider net. 3–1 Spartans.

Early in the third, the Spiders got one back, on a Hockey Night In Canada highlight reel play, Vandenberghe (#56?) in the corner to Long at the far faceoff dot, to a very audibly called-out pass to Schroeder at the other hashmarks, who one-timed it home past the Spartan goalie. Beauty. And it was a one-goal game.

However, the striped crew wasn’t done for the evening. Midway through the third, the Spiders were called for too many men while having just four skaters on the ice. The ref (understandably) kept an eye on the puck and saw a player come off the bench and play the puck during a change. But simultaneously the D corps was already changing and was fully off the ice during the play. Meaning the Spiders got called for Too Many Players with just four actual players on the ice.

Just 15 seconds later, Long was called for a (“legitimate”) hook, and the Spiders now had to kill off a 5-on-3 for a minute and 45 seconds. Which they did.

And as the clock wore down and the Spartans’ goalie turned away all Spider chances, the Spiders called timeout with 1:40 to go. Following a neutral zone faceoff, and a pulled goalie, the Spiders ended being called for playing the puck with a high stick, forcing McCormick back in his net for the defensive zone faceoff. On the ensuing draw, Spartan center #30 Kishel was called for his second bin sit of the night after committing faceoff interference by tripping Johnson off the draw. The Spiders had 53 seconds to mount the comeback. But the Spartans had 53 seconds of no-icing zone clears at their disposal. At least refs were accurate on those icing calls.

Final score: Spartans 3, Spiders 2

2019–20 C3 West Standings (Week 13)
Hooligans 13 12 1 0 0 24 73 21 97
Spartans 13 9 3 0 1 19 44 23 72
Troopers 12 7 3 1 1 16 41 35 54
Blade Runners 13 8 5 0 0 16 50 47 100
Wildcats 12 5 5 2 0 12 41 49 93
Nordeasters 12 4 6 2 0 10 35 48 48
Spiders 13 4 7 1 1 10 43 52 112
Ice Hawks 13 4 9 0 0 8 35 60 74
Flying Hellfish 13 1 12 0 0 2 30 57 68

With both teams short-benched, the Spiders played a solid game, and were in it to the end, against the second place C3 West team (9–3–0–1). Shots ended very even as well, at 30 to 29 (though Bill counted 33, but none off his helmet this game!).

Unfortunately, the Spiders (4–7–1–1) come away with zero points for the fourth consecutive game. And while the losing bug seems to have spread like the flu virus to the other middle-of-the-pack C3 West teams, the prospect of gaining ground to the fourth and final spot seems ever dimmer, let alone getting back to a .500 record.

Next up, the Spiders have an opportunity to directly gain that ground — and a tiebreaker — in a rematch with the fourth-place Blade Runners (8–5–0–0). The previous game in December at least earned the Spiders a point, as it ended (quickly) in OT.

It’s an even more family-friendly start time than this week, with a 4:30 p.m. Saturday puck drop at Highland.

For details, see the box score and game summary.

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