MLK 3 – January 19: Flames 0 vs. Ice Cats 2

Saturday afternoon the Flames came to the ice sheet at West Side Arena for a game with the Green Machine Ice Cats in the 2nd Annual MLK Tournament. Tourney officials, referees, and fans alike, were billing this as the game of the tournament. The Concord Capitals team might have something to say about that, but they were less impressive in their first two games than either the Flames or the Ice Cats were. This battle would determine who would be the #1 or #2 seed and enter the playoff round undefeated. The Flames had not allowed a goal, and the Ice Cats had allowed just two goals. This game lived up to its hype as both teams played well at both ends of the ice.

1st Period: Having watched the Ice Cats play their first game on Friday night, I was ready for what they had to offer. So were the Flames. There were no goals scored in the opening period and only 9 total shots on goal. The Flames took the only two penalties that were called, but killed off both disadvantages. The chances were even, the ice was defended from end boards to end boards, and the play was fun to watch.

2nd Period: In the second period came the only goal of the game that got past a goaltender. Half way through the period, with the Flames scrambling a bit in their own end, the Ice Cats scored on a slap shot that hit the inside of the far post, where iron meets netting. Flames goalie, Anders Lindberg, was screened by a mass of bodies in front of him, and the Flames brain trust were questioning the referees about the cross check that had sent a Flames defender hurdling toward the ice as the puck passed through the chaos and struck the net. There was no call coming, other than a signal of a good goal. Despite raising their game in the second period, getting more shots, getting more chances, and pressuring the Ice Cats all over the ice, the Flames trailed 1-0 after two periods. Keenan Alnahas, the Flames second goaltender of the contest, held the deficit at 1-0 with a sparkling glove save on a point-blank chance by the Ice Cats.

3rd Period: In the third period it appeared that both teams were going to clog the areas in front of their net, hold on, and take chances only as deemed prudent. Only six shots on goal were taken, combined. The Flames had chances but could not get the tying goal. Alnahas came to the bench in favor of an extra attacker with 0:50 left in the game. Then with the clock counting down to 0:13.2 left to play, a puck slowly spun and slid through the neutral zone, across the blue line, and into the empty net. At that point the reality of the Flames losing this game really hit home. Until that point it was enthusiastically possible that the Flames would tie the game and by way of tie breaker slide into the #4 seed and play in the Championship semi-final. The Flames managed 16 shots on goal and allowed just 13 shots to reach their goaltenders. The Flames applied pressure to the Ice Cats that they had not seen in their previous two games, and the pressure put a damper on their odd man rushes up ice. To the Ice Cats’ credit, they held on, and beat the Flames in a great hockey game. The Ice Cats finished as the #2 seed, and the Flames dropped to #6, a spot behind Keene who also went 2-1 but allowed just one goal.

On Tap: The Flames play tomorrow (Sunday) in Tournament game #48, as follows:

Jan 20 Sun 5:30 PM WSA #6 Flames 00 #7 Conquistadors 01

The winner on Sunday will advance to play on Monday morning at 9:30am at St. A’s.

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