If you were to ask any hockey fan, they would agree that there is something innately different about the playoffs. The energy shifts and the fandom gets a dose of adrenaline with a pinch of insanity. The players too, though poised (most of the time), play with a new sense of urgency. Friday’s game was the perfect combination of premier hockey and grit.
After a high scoring first period (2-2), it was apparent very early on that the Admirals were not going to let their Calder aspirations go without a fight. Constantly pushing, rushing the net and circling, the Griffins were hard-pressed for breathing room. Dominating the neutral zone for the better part of the second period, the Admiral’s determination paid off with a short-handed goal. Ending the third period on top of the Griffins by one, the crowd grew restless and the fate of the game rested in the hand of the netminders. With only moments to spare in the third period, the Griffins mounted one last assault to tie the game in regulation, forcing overtime. High above the ice, in my usual perch, I felt the energy surge through the crowd. The hope for a playoff opener victory was still alive.
Heavy coast-to-coast play ensued for the better half of overtime. Maintaining his poise and control, Admirals goalie, Mazanec, challenged each Griffins’ attempt and battled between the pipes to defend his crease. Watching him play, left no question in my mind why they had made into the playoffs – this team was a force to be reckoned with and was going to prove it on every level. The Griffins however, weren’t about to let the Admirals’ challenge go unanswered. As the crowd held their breath, Tomas Nosek relieved the pressure, netting the game winner.
Words cannot adequately describe the joy of playoff victory. If game one is any indication, this series is bound to leave a few scratches and inevitably – broken hearts. Every fan and every team knows that the road to the Calder is riddled with victory, defeat, blood and tears. There is only room for one champion. The battle for the Calder has officially begun.