Eckman, Fricke Lead Diablos Over Fighting Saints
In their most impressive game to date, the D1 Diablos thoroughly dominated the Fighting Saints at both ends of the ice and secured a 5-1 victory on Sunday evening. Coming off a disappointing loss to the Royals, the Diablos made several changes to their game plan that seemed to pay big dividends.
One of the biggest changes from last week was the Diablos' commitment to the 'other side of the puck'. In the first 3 games of the season, the Diablos played very well but seemed to suffer the consequences of some very costly defensive mistakes. They seem to have finally righted the ship, however, as they managed to all but completely shut down the Saints for three periods. All three forward lines were backchecking hard all night long, and along with the stellar play of the Diablos defensemen, made it impossible for the Saints to create any offense.
The Unholy Trinity of Steinbach opened the scoring at 11:08 of the first period. Shane Steinbach, who has been snakebitten along with his brothers lately, scored his second goal of the season on the kind of beautiful passing play the Steinbachs are becoming known for.
While all 3 lines generated a number of scoring chances throughout the game, it was the Destruction Line that surprised everyone (including themselves) by exploding for 4 of the team's 5 goals. Peter Sinesio increased the Diablo lead to 2-0 about a minute later when Shawn Fricke redirected a cross-ice pass from Larry Eckman right onto his tape in the slot.
Larry “Tomahawk” Eckman, known more for being “experienced” than anything else, was exceptionally impressive in registering 2 goals and 1 assist. On his first goal, he capped off the first period scoring for the Diablos when he skillfully banked the puck into the net off of the Saints' defender in a way that only a wily veteran can. Then, in the third period, Eckman did a wonderful impression of Sidney Crosby by collecting a lead pass from LW Shawn Fricke, who won a puck battle in the defensive zone. As he skated up the ice, Eckman accelerated to an incredible speed, beat the lone Saints' defender to the outside, and then tapped the puck in the net on a beautiful rendition of the forehand-to-backhand breakaway move pioneered last season by a certain former D1 Diablo who now runs a certain Satanic hockey blog. When asked about his performance, Eckman said, "Hopefully these damn whippersnappers will finally realize that I'm not 'older' than they are...I'm just 'wiser.' OK, I guess I'm older too...but still..."
Shawn "Clutch" Fricke was also exceptional, putting up 3 points of his own (1 goal, 2 assists). He assisted on Eckman's first goal by just plain outworking the Saints down low in the offensive zone, and also scored a very pretty goal right after an offensive zone faceoff. He beat several Saints to a loose puck and fired a snapshot into a puck-sized hole between the goalie's pad and the left post at 7:56 of the second period. Fricke now leads all Diablos with 6 points in 4 games.
Late in the second period, newfound enforcer Cory Steinbach, who currently leads the D1 Diablos and the D1 East Division with 8 PIMs, got into some (undeserved) penalty trouble as the refs decided to give their whistles a workout. He would again decide to take a 2 minute break at the start of the third period, but luckily the Diablos PK unit prevented the Saints from building any real momentum. After the game, Cory declined to comment on the officiating, saying only that he felt his opinion would not be appreciated by league officials.
The Power Line of Groth, Schaefer, and Lindquist, though they were held off the official score sheet, managed to create several scoring chances that could easily have been goals while maintaining their outstanding defensive play. Dean "Machine" Groth set the example with several unbelievable backchecking efforts. All three played a very smart game and took away the Saints' time and space all night.
In fact, the Saints got so frustrated with the Power Line that they felt the need to take a run at Dean in the third period. In an effort to slow him down, one of the Saints skaters put him in the proverbial "trolley tracks" and ran him hard into the boards. It didn't work, however, and the Diablos thoroughly enjoyed the ensuing power play. Dean is just fine, and after the game said "What? Oh, I'm totally fine...I just needed to skate it off, that's all." Apparently, they don’t call him “The Machine” for nothing.
Diablos goalie Todd Latterner faced 18 shots and continued to impress with his quick reflexes and great positioning. He played well enough to earn his first shutout of the season, but was denied when the Diablos were outnumbered at the top of the crease in the third period, and the Saints managed to score off a rebound on the power play.
In all, it was a much-needed victory for the Diablos, who are now in a 3-way tie for 2nd place in the D1 East Division. They will take on the surging Wolf Pack back
at West Side arena on Sunday 11/23/08 at 4:50 PM. Catch it! Official AHA Scoresheet
By the Numbers:
-Larry Eckman, rumored to be the great-grand-uncle of goaltending legend Terry Sawchuck, has a Kovalchuk-like 4 goals in the past 4 games.
-Every D1 Diablo skater who has played in all 4 games this season has at least 1 point.
-The Diablos had a total of 48 shots on goal, 22 of which were in the third period. The Fighting Saints had only 20.