The United Hockey League Colonial Cup series between the Kalamazoo K-Wings and the Rockford IceHogs returns to Rockford for game five today with the series tied. But how to capture the spirit of the thing? Two Gordie Howe Hat Tricks; two goalies given penalties for leaving the crease; 154 minutes of penalties, including two game misconducts on Tyler Willis and four other game misconducts; three goals scored within a 91 second stretch; two broken pieces of Plexiglas and two goals; one an empty net goal and the other a shortie, within 24 seconds to finish the game.
Clearly words are not enough. Thank god for pictures!
The K-Wings returned home dropping two games to the IceHogs in Rockford. The discussion in Rockford was the team was going to sweep the defending champions in K-Wings stadium. That didn’t work out. A K-Wing team, rejuvenated by home town crowds, won game three. Now, Saturday night and game four. Kory Karlander breaks away from an IceHog attack on the K-Wing goal with the puck. Alone, he faces Frederic Cloutier and scores at 4:25. Mike McLean then scores 32 seconds later and 59 seconds after that it was the turn of Nick Bootland. Leading 3-0 the K-Wing stadium is going nuts.
Another attack. As god is my witness it would have been 4-0. Unfortunately, god intervened, cracking a piece of Plexiglas where an earlier body check had occurred. In the perhaps twenty minutes it took Mo, Larry and Curly to replace the glass, the momentum slipped away from the K-Wings.
After turning aside a 5:3 Rockford power play that at one point went 6:3, they finish the frame up 3-0. Three penalties for the K-Wings, compared to one for the Hogs.
The K-Wings start the frame with Karlander getting his second goal of the night, making the score 4-0. Then Rockford rallies. Nathan Lutz scores a goal unassisted, followed by Jason Notermann and a power play softy by Benoit Doucet to bring the score to 4-3 Kzoo. The attack continues but a fourth goal by the Hogs is not allowed as they push Ryan Nie, the Kalamazoo goalie, into the net with the puck, ending a 5:3 power play. On a power play of their own, the K-Wings open the lead again, when Ryan Mahrle scores a goal. And, the period is marked by roughing penalties. Fourteen minutes of roughing penalties out of 18 total.
Final period of play. The K-Wings have opened the lead to 5-3. Another Ryan, Ryan Gillis this time, puts the K-Wings on the defense for a double minor at 7:47. Seconds after he exits the sin bin Ryan Mahrle enters. In fact the only Ryan not to see sin bin time in the game turns out to be the rookie that helped win game three for the K-Wings, Derek Ryan. What is it with the name Ryan?
The Hogs score three seconds after the penalty on Ryan, Mahrle that is, expires. Once again the Hogs are within one. With about 88 seconds remaining the Hogs pull Frederic Cloutier and put a 6:5 advantage on the ice. That doesn’t work well as Tyler Willis breaks away with the puck and scores on the empty net. Before the celebration has even gotten started, every player on the ice starts fighting, including Cloutier who skates to center ice and drops his equipment. Ryan Nie is held back by the linesman. However, both goalies have left their crease and receive penalties. The new goalie for the Hogs, Jake Moreland, he skates to center ice during the cleanup of the debris and attempts to call Nie out too.
At this point the ref, Jim Hawthorne, hands out 105 minutes of penalties, including five game misconducts, two to the goal scorer, Willis, and two to Kaleb Betts. This results in that true rarity of hockey. Not only was there almost a goalie fight, but Tyler Willis, with a goal, an assist, two game misconducts, a fighting major and a roughing call for a total of 27 penalty minutes receives a Gordie Howe Hat Trick. In addition, a second Gordie Howe Hat Trick was awarded to Nick Bootland. He scored a goal, two assists, a game misconduct, a fighting major, and a roughing penalty good for seventeen minutes of penalties.
An honorable mention must be given to Cloutier for attempting to call Nie out for a dance.
At this point, with just 65 seconds remaining on the clock and the K-Wings leading by two, most people would call the game. Thankfully that didn’t happen, because it was at this point the ref noticed that another sheet of Plexiglas had cracked at the site of the altercation. Instead of delaying the end of this event further as Mo, Larry and Curly once again tackled the tricky problem of glass replacement, the crew decided they could patch something together temporarily.
And so, with a patch on the broken Plexiglas, play resumed. Beside for losing their goalie, the IceHogs also couldn’t play Betts, Preston Mizzi and Jason Notermann. The K-Wings had lost three players too. Shorthanded, the Hogs managed to score a final goal with 41 seconds left, officially a short handed goal. Making the final score K-Wings 6, IceHogs 5.
Nie received the win, stopping 26 shots on goal. Cloutier received the loss, stopping 20 shots. Jake Moreland was credited with playing 33 seconds in the Rockford goal.
The two teams are now tied in the best of seven Colonial Cup championship series. The series was set-up in a 2-2-1-1-1 format. It moves back to Rockford, today, for game five at 5:05 PM local (Central) time. Game six is scheduled for Kalamazoo Tuesday at 7:00 PM local (Eastern) time and game seven, if necessary, will be played in Rockford Thursday night at 7:30 PM.
If the IceHogs win the championship, a different team would enjoy the banner raising as none of the current players are likely to be playing for the Blackhawk and American Hockey League affiliated team next season. If the K-Wings win, it would mark a repeat of their championship from last season. Good tickets are still available. Fun for the whole family.