Dead River has clearly made some strides over the past couple of months as they have already upset the Whalers and nearly just took the powerhouse Gamblers down as well. A beaut of a game to watch as the sheer hustle and determination of Dead River outweighs any lack of talent they may have. That's not to say that Dead River doesn't have any talent, but when stacked up against the Gamblers on paper, this is an easy blowout for the Gamblers.
With 5 players in the top 10 in scoring, the Gamblers are a dynamo. Dead River only has 1 player in the top 25. The Gamblers have scored over THREE TIMES more goals than Dead River this season, 78 goals for the G-Men and only 25 for Dead River. The Gamblers have only let up 43 goals to Dead River's 77.
So how can Dead River hang on and play the Gamblers so tough? Sheer will, determination, a deep bench, a little luck, a little skill and a whole lot of hustle.
Dead River busted their asses every shift and wanted it more than the Gamblers. They were outshot 40-32 and their goaltender Matty "Tazzy" Albertazzi was spectacular, but the Gambler's Zach "The Legend" Lary was also called upon quite often to make some huge saves.
The Dead Riverian's got things started when Ray "Spritely" Sprague beat Lary 5-hole for his 2nd goal of the season almost half way through the first. Matty "The Milkman" Marrazzo then put on a clinic with a pair of goals to put the Gamblers up 2-1. The first came as he raced down the far boards and cut to the middle along the top of the circles and onto his forehand. He let a snapper goal that beat Albertazzi high glove.
Dead River was outshot 15-6 in that first period and Albertazzi was a beast.
Topo "Thing 1" LaCroix took a perfect pass from Josh Robinson and broke in on a partial breakaway with 4:21 gone in the second period. Thing 1 cut low and hard through the crease and roofed the puck over Albertazzi to put his team up by 2 goals. That was the only goal of the 2nd but Dead River was alive and awake as they made Zach Lary turn away 14 shots including a James "Han" Solon breakaway with 12:16 to play in the 2nd after Solon stripped Marrazzo in the neutral zone. Solon was being chased by Marrazzo who tapped his stick trying to trick him(I hate that!) but Solon didn't fall for that foolishness and ripped a high snapper on Lary who snagged it with his mit. Great save.
Marrazzo went to the box @ 9:21 of the third period sending Dead River to the power play. Dead River managed some pressure but it took over 80 seconds for them to generate a scoring chance when Spencer Zaha let a blast from the point go. Lary made the save, but Solon pulled the puck around him, below the goal line and then tucked it back in for a goal. It was a 1 goal game and the Gamblers seemed a bit nervous. Han Solon tied the game up with 5:58 to play after taking a nice pass from Loren "The Leper" Lunt and burst down the near boards. He then cut between 2 defenders down low and onto his backhand and scooped a shot wide that went off the defenseman's shin pad and in to the net. To think that Solon was going to leave earlier in the game to head to work...had he not, he wouldn't have scored the 2 biggest goals of his UVHL career.
Solon would have been the hero of the game, had it not been for Thing 1 yet again on another breakaway. This time he took a beaut of a pass from Ryan "The Boogeyman" Bergeron cut hard through the crease and slipped a backhander past Albertazzi, great pass, great move and great finish.
Dead River pulled their goaltender with 45 seconds left, got an offensive faceoff, took a time out but couldn't tie the game. One big note is that Dan "The Danimal" Ammel had an empty netter that he botched with 5 seconds left. Just fun to point those things out.
Great game by both teams. Clean, fast, fun. Only 1 penalty.