It's on this famous phrase of Bruce Buffer, UFC and boxing announcer, that I initiate the news this week. Indeed, those who attended yesterday's games were able to hear the announcer of the evening David Proulx Sénécal, also occasional substitute in the league, animate the crowd in the way of the Buffer's brothers. We heard him announce goals and penalties with enthusiasm, which added to the ambiance of the series just like the music mixed by the talented Jean-François DesBois.
The atmosphere in the stands was excellent, and several players from the Elite League who held its playoff games before those of the LFA stayed to watch the first game of the evening who opposed the Vipers to the Avengers. Again, the Vipers came to the party with the intention of getting away with the win. For their part, the Avengers were unable to prepare adequately because several players were delayed by the incredible traffic there was in Montreal yesterday. As everyone knows, to be competitive in playoffs, all players must be physically and mentally ready to begin the match several minutes before jumping on the ice. When your goalkeeper is still putting its equipment during the war-up, there is clearly a problem. This is what appeared on the ice: the Avengers seemed completely disorganized and unable to counter pressure from the Vipers, who have once again played an excellent game as a team. They played with patience and confidence and forced the Avengers to take desperate penalties. In summary, it was a match to forget for the Avengers and another victory for the surprising Vipers.
The second match of the evening saw the Loggers and Czechers compete in an intense match from beginning to end. After having taken an early 3-0 lead, the Czechers seemed to miss the energy and concentration to contain the attacks of the black team. The result of this relaxation and Loggers consolidation is a strong comeback from Eric 'Bubbly' 'Champagne's men to bring the score 3-3. In the third, the two teams exchanged one goal and at the end of three periods, we had a score of 4-4. In the shootouts, the Czechers began the show with a clear goal of Pierre-Luc Aspirot, through the legs of the Logger's goaltender. José Pascual took the next run but the Czechers goalie made the save. The second grey player to challenge Michael Anthony Gabriel was Marc-André Lavoie, who surprised the goalie with a masterful slap shot deke followed by a backhand shot that left no chance to the goalie. Ryan Bergen had to score in order to keep hopes alive for the Loggers. He did just that with a superb deke that made the Czechers goaltender look bad. Marc-André Saint-Hilaire could give the victory to his team with a goal but unfortunately he was never able to fully control the puck and it was an easy stop for M-A. Gabriel. The last Logger to appear at center ice was none other than the top scorer of the regular season, Patrice Vichier. The left-hander came in the zone on the right, and made a nice change of speed to surprise George Athanasopoulos to the left ... and miss the open net by an in extremis stick save by the Czechers goalie! The surprise was visible on the faces of both sides, but for the Czechers it was joy mixed with surprise and relief after a game where the Loggers went close on several occasions to score goals that would have hurt the men in grey. It seems to habe been the most exciting game to watch according to the post-match comments. (Very objectively, isn't it Arnaud "Skrudland" Guertin? ;)
The last match of the evening featured two teams who experienced the most trouble in the playoffs. The Shamrocks came to the game with a record of one win in overtime and a tough 7-2 loss last week. Meanwhile, the Tomahawks came in with two tight defeats. Both teams wanted to offer no chance for the opponent to open the scoring in the first period, which offered a more conservative game than usual. Nevertheless, the Tomahawks were able to impose a rhythm to their advantage and their passing game was much better than in previous weeks. The Shamrocks had difficulty establishing their team play, even though it was their trademark during the regular season. The will to win seemed to miss them, because when they took possession of the puck, the players in green slowed instead of accelerating and non-carriers of the puck were slow to come support their teammate. Yet despite the strong play of the Tomahawks, the Shamrocks score 3 beautiful goals, one by Dennis Boivin on an individual play in the way of Paul Coffey and two goals from the always hard working Sébastien Mainville. This however was not enough to overcome the men of Michael Wees who thereby collected their first win of the series.
As in all sports, some players are more dedicated to their team than others. Some do not seem to understand that you must show commitment and preparation to be successful in playoffs. Arriving early for your game is only one example among many, but that still doesn't seem to be understood.
Victory is always sweeter than defeat, but endlessly rehashing old problems on which you have no control rather than focusing on your game and your team doesn't help to find the way to victory. In playoffs, each player must give the best of himself and be humble in order to stay on the right path towards the LFA Cup. With two games to play, all teams can hope to qualify for the semifinals.
Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to play hockey !!!
See you in a week !!!