Sunday afternoon the Flames returned to home ice, hosting the 1st place (GSL) NH East Eagles. This NH East club has proven over the years to be well coached and very stingy on the defensive end of the ice. In early November they shut out the Flames 3-0, allowing just 12 shots in the game. In GSL play, the Eagles had allowed just 14 goals in 10 games played. And so it was entering play on Sunday. The Eagles, 7-1-1 and in 1st place coming to town for a game with the Flames who just recently started playing like a unit, like a team. Shall we?
1st Period: The first period looked like so many battles with these Eagles in prior meetings, not much open ice, few chances, and the visitors getting the only goal of the period. The Flames iced the puck four times in the first period just to stay within reach. And the period ended with NH East leading 1-0 and holding an 8-5 advantage in shots.
2nd Period: Something changed in the second period, even though no goals were scored. The Flames skated harder, with more purpose. The Flames even drew a couple of penalties, and even though they didn’t score, they clearly had the better chances to score. Better chances, even though they did allow a few odd man rushes, but Keenan Alnahas and Anders Lindberg were equal to the task, and then some. After two periods, the Flames trailed 1-0, were being outshot 16-10, but showed hope. Actually, late in the period it looked like the Flames had tied the game when Sam Hebert made some precision moves in tight and rang a shot of the nearside post. The puck came out from the post at an angle, hit off the goaltenders pads and appeared to cross the goal line while spinning and wobbling like the lid of a jar of strawberry jelly hastily opened. I had a pretty good view from 100 feet away, but the referee blew the whistle, announcing, “no goal”.
3rd Period: Just when it looked like the Flames would be bitten by the ‘too many trips without getting a shot, let alone a goal’ bug; Sam Hebert scored. Sam’s goal tied the game at one apiece. The play was set up with hustle from Zachary Bayer, and the long reach and passing ability of Brendan Courtney. Hebert let the shot rip, and there you have it, tie game with 8:08 to play. The Flames were outshot in the third period too, but this was different, somehow. They possessed the puck, and cycled the puck well, not always getting shots, but making the Eagles work to defend their end. Ultimately this type of play led to the game winning goal. It’s probably a goal the Eagles would like to have back because it looked barely a tick above harmless, but a goal is a goal. The Flames had cycled the puck well for a full shift and the Eagles finally had a chance at a free clearing pass. But Jackson Puzzo had other ideas, swiping the pass and getting the puck to Sam Hebert. Hebert finished the play, scoring the go ahead goal with just 1:47 to play. Sam would take a penalty 57 seconds later when the Flames were struggling to clear the puck out of their own end. NH East had an offensive zone face off, a power play, and an extra attacker in lieu of their goalie, and the puck on a stick, wide open, in the slot. They shot, point blank, and Anders Lindberg made a brilliant save, being the best penalty killer when he had to be. That was the game. The Flames killed the next several seconds of penalty time before Wil Hebert drew a penalty by working hard and refusing to give up the puck while alone in the corner of his offensive end as Eagles players tried getting the puck loose to rush up ice one more time. The final buzzer sounded, and the Eagles, looking like they weren’t sure how to react, were shocked, and the Flames were elated with the win, the two points, and the fruits of their labor. The final score was 2-1, in favor of the Flames, despite being outshot 22-13. Lindberg played 41+ minutes on the weekend and made 24 saves against 24 shots. The Flames have been recipients of outstanding goal-tending from Alnahas and Lindberg all season. These two have certainly been major contributors to the Flames success.
Happy New Year !!!!