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Got a new Champion

Who Needs Cable Television

 

The NHL playoffs still has roughly 5 weeks left to go, but it will be hard to find more entertaining hockey than what the Knights and Yeti provided these last 2 weeks.   Game 1 went nearly 14 minutes into overtime before Ben Rossi scored to win the game for the Yeti.  We thought we had just seen the most entertaining championship game the league had seen in a long time.    Then there was the 3rd period of game 3 last night.  The Knights forced a game 3 by winning the 2nd game last week by a score of 4-2 and it looked like they were on their way to a 2nd straight win and a 2nd straight championship when they went up 7-3 with around 6 minutes to go in last night’s deciding game.  They were up 4-2 going into the 3rd period last night.  Right before the 3rd period started, I made a prediction.  Whoever scores the next goal will win.  Goes to show what I know about predicting games.  Andy Calvert appeared to put his team in a good position to win when he scored early in the 3rd period to make it 5-2.    They would later go up 6-2 (Calvert again I believe?) to make it 6-2.  I thought it would get worse considering the Yeti would have to take more offensive chances to try to get back into the game which would leave them more vulnerable on defense.  Dave Jewell scored his 2nd goal of the game with around 8 minutes left in the 3rd period to close the gap to 6-3 but the Knights would soon score again to go up 7-3.  Brandon Reiter scored 2, maybe 3 of his goals just seconds after the Yeti scored their goals.  Early in the game, Dave Jewell made it 1-0 but Reiter answered less than 20 seconds later.   With around 6 minutes to go, Zach Smith scored to close the gap to 7-4 and Derik Day skated past every Knight defender including Jake Kline (which is rare for anyone to do in this league) to close the gap to 7-5.  The Knights called a timeout to try to stop the momentum but it did not work.   The Yeti closed the gap to 7-6 when RJ scored on a nice set up pass (cant remember who made the pass) but it looked like the Knights got back in control when Brandon Reiter answered soon after again to make it 8-6 with a little over 3 minutes left to play.   The Yeti had a few good scoring chances turned down by Clint but they ended up getting a power play chance with a little over 2 minutes left to play in the game and were able to capitalize when Zach Smith scored with a little over a minute left to close the gap to 8-7.  It still looked like the Knights were in control considering the Yeti had to pull Adam McKinley from net to try to score a tying goal.  Empty nets often times lead to a lot of clinching goals for the opposing team, but with 16 seconds left to play, Dave Jewell scored his 3rd goal to send the game to overtime.   Both teams had some chances denied to start out overtime but Zach Smith skated past Knights defender Cory Schuckers with a little over 9 minutes left in overtime and snapped a good shot past Clint Lingenfelter to give the Yeti an improbable 9-8 championship game series win.  Considering how close games were between these 2 teams, it was no surprise to see the Yeti win this series, but how they won last night will go down as one of the biggest surprises we have seen in championship memory.  Was this the best championship the league has ever seen?  Its hard to top off 2 overtime games and needing to play 3 games to decide a winner.    We should have had someone saw the trophy in half when regulation ended last night.  The two teams could play 10 more times this season and split.  The league may have to consider best of 7 series going forward after watching these 2 teams play these last 2 weeks.  Congratulations to both teams on a great season.  It’s a shame someone had to lose.     It was Adam McKinley’s 7th championship, maybe 8th, he lost track.  3 with the Rogue, 3 with the Wolfpack and now 1 with the Yeti.  To make last nights win more special, he gets to celebrate it with a birthday today.  Ben Rossi and RJ have been a part of the league for a long time but never got to play on championship caliber teams.  They both contributed this series and throughout the season.  They will get their names on the trophy for the first time.  The biggest surprise of the night may have come before the game even started when Steve Kalgren was at the rink, dressed and ready to play.  He has played on some of Adam McKinley’s championship teams in the Rogue days and he got one with the Hooligans several years after the Rogue days.  He made good work of hoisting the xhl trophy last night.  Derik Day, Dave Jewell and Steve Pompeii were a part of some of those great Wolfpack teams.  Dave Jewell was also a part of some of those great Maniax teams that won back in the day along with Zach Smith who worked hard to develop himself into one of the league’s best players.  Smith had to start out on some of the league’s bottom teams way back in the day.  Back in the fall league season, Adam McKinley snagged  Zach Smith up for his team and looked ahead to the XHL season when asking Smith to join the Yeti.    If he wouldn’t have, the Knights would have probably been the team celebrating last night.  We have seen Zach Smith score a lot of goals, but none bigger than last night.

This championship series was so fitting on how well this season went.  I am not sure what the league will do for an encore in 2025. One thing is certain ------ we could not have asked for a better 2024 season.  Thanks to all who took part in it!


We will post interviews with Adam McKinley and Zach Smith as soon as they respond:


Bob sent me an interviews this morning:


Brian Anderson


1. The Yeti pulled out a pretty improbable come from behind overtime victory to seal the championship. They won both of their games in overtime. Can you recall a more even, competitive championship in XHL history?  I can’t.  I remember the Renegades and Knights played a 3 game series back in 2017 I believe but the first game was a blowout followed by a couple close games to end that series.   The Rogue and Contenders back in 03 may have been the most exciting series up until this one.  If I can remember right, those games went to overtime but it was a sweep.  It will be hard to top off this years championship series.

 

2. The Knights seemed to be unbeatable early in the season. The Yeti seemed to get better as the season went along though. Were you surprised that they were able to win this series?   I was not surprised they won the series but I was surprised at how they won last night.  I thought it was over when the Knights went up by 4 goals in the 3rd period.  I was looking for it to get worse.   It looked like the Knights let up or got tired at the end.   The Yeti had a perfect mix of star power and role players.  After what happened on opening night, I couldn’t picture them winning the way they did last night but I knew they would have a chance if they had their full team there each week. 

 

3. Another season is in the books. How do you think this season went overall?   I could not have been more pleased with it.  It didn’t feel like I had to do much.   Thanks to everyone who contributed to such a good season.  The biggest headache was probably trying to put the Jawas team together the night before the season started.  We only had 7 teams at that time but we put them together to avoid bye nights.  Everything worked out well.

 

4. Which team or player do you think improved the most this season?   I was honestly surprised at how quick the Yeti came together.  I remember we won 9-8 against them early in the season and it looked like they had some flaws that would prevent them from winning a championship.  It seemed like they took off after that game and never looked back.  They almost beat the Knights late in the season without Derik Day in the lineup and they beat the Eagles in the playoffs without Zach Smith and beat the Knights last week despite Zach not playing much due to an illness.  Ben Rossi played very well for them this season.  I wasn’t sure how he would fit in, but he was a great fit and contributed to their success all season.  It was also nice to see the walkers get a playoff win this season against the Jawas after having some tough years before and nice to see the Mayhem take a step forward this season.  Hopefully something to build on for some of the players on both those teams.

 

5. Do you anticipate making any changes to any league formats going forward? Do you have anything else cooking?  While I was very pleased with how fall league went and with how well xhl went, I plan to take a vacation for a little while, haha.   Brockway has hockey every Tuesday and Thursday during the summer so I don’t want to get into too much on Mondays.  I may try to put a few mini tournaments together in Reynoldsville if we get some rainy nights and cant play in Brockway.  The season went really well but I am ready for a break after 3 plus months of fall league and 4 months of XHL.  If someone wants to try to promote Monday night hockey in Reynoldsville or Brockway this summer on a regular basis, let me know.



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