Coach Bill inspires Spider comeback, but wisely leaves before Spiders cough up buzzer beater goal to end in tie

Spiders come back in the third with two Schuster goals, only to give up a power play goal to the Spartans with six seconds on the clock.

The Spider dressing room/sauna at Northeast Ice Arena got a surprise visitor before the game, Spider goaltender Bill McCormick, who is unfortunately still on the Spider IR list. Bill stuck around to catch — and coach — the first two periods, including making a bench save on a wayward puck! Thankfully not a “goalie mask save” this time.

2019–20 AHA C3 Spiders

Filling in Bill’s net was Dan Schultz again, newly informed by the AHA that he’d gotten a pay raise, or at least a bump in eligibility. Nonetheless, he was cleared for skating due to the short notice.

Facing the second-place Spartans for the third time this season, the previous game only just over two weeks ago — and incidentally Bill’s last game — was a close one, ending 3–2, as the Spiders couldn’t complete the comeback.

Tonight, the short-benched Spiders waited until the waning minutes of the third period to show some offense, following what should’ve been a scoreless first two periods, but an out-of-position ref called a puck stuck on the goal line a good goal, while the Spiders pleaded for video review with the ref (a ref the Spiders last saw in the Miracle on Ice game in 2018). On nearly identical plays, Schuster from Freed and Andres with six minutes to go tied it up, forcing the Spartans to call a timeout at the 4-minute mark, just as the Troopers did on Saturday. But at the 2 and change mark, it was Schuster from Freed and Pappone to give the Spiders an unlikely lead, begging the question as to whether the Spiders could successfully defend a lead for 158 seconds.

For 144 seconds, the Spartans possessed the puck with their goalie pulled, drawing a hooking call that sent Pappone to the box with just 14 ticks on the clock.

A beautiful — especially for C3 — passing play off the faceoff found the Spartans’ #67 J. Valento (who was kind enough to take the Spider team picture before the game) getting his favor returned camped at the back door of the net and easily tapped the puck in for the six-on-four power play game-tying goal, with just six seconds remaining in regulation.

On the ensuing faceoff, the sagging Spiders almost gave up the loser point as the Spartans crashed through and barely missed the net.

In the OT, the third extra frame of the season, the Spiders had some chances, but the Spartan goalie Kaler was having none of it. A body check in the offensive zone called on Schroeder with 8 seconds to go killed off the rest of the runtime clock, and the game ended 2–2.

Each team gets a point, and the season series slightly narrows to 2–0–1 with the Spartans.

Playoff Watch

2019–20 C3 West Standings (Week 16)
Hooligans –x 15 13 1 1 0 27 88 28 111
Spartans –x 16 11 3 1 1 24 54 29 86
Blade Runners 16 10 5 1 0 21 65 59 126
Troopers 15 9 4 1 1 20 54 41 58
Wildcats 15 6 7 2 0 14 49 59 103
Spiders 16 5 8 2 1 13 53 61 120
Nordeasters 15 4 9 2 0 10 38 68 72
Ice Hawks 15 4 11 0 0 8 39 69 82
Flying Hellfish 15 2 13 0 0 4 37 63 78
  • y = clinched division
  • x = clinched playoff berth

That lone point won’t do much for the Spiders’ post-season chances given the teams the sixth-place Spiders (5–8–2–1; 13 pts.) could catch all have a game in hand. The Spiders can no longer catch the third-place Blade Runners, who sit at 21 and hold the tiebreaker over the Spiders. While the Spiders split the season series with the Troopers, who hold the fourth and final spot, they have a seven-point lead on the Spiders and a game in hand. The Spiders also sit a point behind the fifth-place Wildcats, who also have five games left, and are coming off a 4–2 win over the Ice Hawks, the Spiders’ next opponent. And the Nordeasters, in seventh and could still tie the Troopers in points, lost out on that tiebreaker by getting shut out 7-zip on Tuesday ... by the Troopers. So while stranger things have happened thanks to AHA math, the Spiders’ tragic number now sits at half a game … 1 point.

Next up, the eighth-place Ice Hawks (4–11–0–0). The previous game, Christmas Eve-Eve, was the Spiders’ third win of the season, beating the Ice Hawks 6–4.

The Spiders return to a more “normal” AHA puck drop time of 9:30, Sunday night, March 1, at Richfield.

For details, see the box score and game summary.

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