HOCKEY CITY U.S.A. - All season long, the AHA Diablos played the underdog role. They were in their first year of existence as a club with many players who were in their first or second season of adult hockey. Therefore it was a new experience to be the favorite for last Saturday night's matchup against the established and successful Ak Bars Hockey Club. The Diablos entered the game being ahead in the points standings with two games to go. A win would give the Diablos a D1 West title and a #1 seed in the upcoming playoffs.
If there was a change in circumstances, the Diablos didn't seem to be aware of it. They put together one of their best efforts of the season and defeated the Ak Bars 4 - 2. The win clinches the AHA D1 West division title by way of tiebreakers, but they can win outright next week against the Ice Gators.
The Diablos and Ak Bars were able to get the early game at Pleasant Arena which meant no fishhouse dressing rooms. The chillers were turned down to 18 degrees to firm up the sheet and after an extended warmup, the puck dropped and we were skating.
The first period scoring started at 11:07 with C - Peter Sinesio received a pass from LW - John Blasingame and threw the puck towards the net through traffic. The shot went threw the defender's leg and past the glove of goaltender Trey Cain for the first tally of the night. RW - Dean Groth was able to pick up a loose puck and was able to streak down past the Ak Bar blueliners. At 8:53 he buried the puck past Cain and the Diablos had a 2 - 0 lead.
The Ak Bars answered back early in second period with a shorthanded goal at 11:55. The rest of the second period and the beginning of the third were tense, but LW - John Driscoll slammed home a goal at 11:33 of the third to increase the lead to 3 - 1. Driscoll continued his scoring tear with his third goal in three games and D - Mike Monroe added the helper. On the ensuing faceoff, Monroe was able to push the puck up the boards to Groth who danced his way into the Ak Bar zone and slide a backhander past Cain for Groth's second tally and Monroe's second apple.
The 4 - 1 lead would hold up until the Ak Bars pulled Cain for the extra attacker. They were able to put one past Diablo's netminder Justin Alderink at 15:54, but by that time, the game was over. The Diablos controlled the puck for the rest of the game and never allowed another Ak Bar opportunity.
The Diablos kept the Ak Bars to 18 shots which is a season low for the Diablos. Justin Alderink, used to thirty to forty shots a night, managed to have fun all the while. The Diablos were able to buzz the Ak Bar net with 36 shots of their own.
Afterwards, several Diablos were able to comment on the victory. "Everyone should be proud of the way we played as a team," said Steve Nelson. "This team has come a long way since our first JMS tourney." Jarrick Losey added, "It's been a blast". Alternate Captain John Blasingame hit the nail on the head when he said, "We played a great team game ... with everyone contributing."
The Diablos have the Ice Gators next Saturday at 7:00 at the Richfield Arena. Official AHA Scoresheet - TR
Since it was a 5:30pm start, the sun was still out. Therefore, it was the afternoon.