Premier League - Grand Final - Game 1
Falcons 8 - Redwings 7
Andrew Zolotarev (17) scores the third goal for the Adelaide Falcons, against Adelaide Redwings goalie Andrew Glass (35) in Game One of the Premier League Grand Final last Saturday. [PHOTO - Ian Thurston]
The Adelaide Falcons jumped out to a comfortable three goal lead after the opening period, but in the end it took a little help from the hockey gods for them to salvage a hard fought 8 - 7 win over the Adelaide Redwings in Game One of the Premier League Grand Final, last Saturday.
Following an emotional semi-final win over the Tigers a week earlier, the Falcons came out firing in the opening game, their first championship appearance in seven years. Leading 5 - 2 and then 6 - 4 after the first two periods, Big Blue were rolling toward an easy victory, only to have the Wings rally late in the game, setting up an exciting finish.
Wings captain Trevor Walsh unleashed two booming slap shots in a last minute Wings drive to tie, only to hit the cross bar twice and be denied the equaliser. Time finally ran out and the Falcons skated off with the Game One win.
In the first period, the Falcons fired 21 shots at the Wings goal, scoring five. Falcon tallies to import stars Cameron Critchlow and Cole MacMillan were answered each time by the Wings, first from Dave Gal and then Marcel McGuiness, before the Falcons added three more to the scoresheet.
Big Blue regained the lead late in the period, when Andrew Zolotarev scored on a setup from MacMillan and Critchlow. Then straight off the centre ice faceoff, Quenton Tombleson grabbed a pass from Joe Rezek and skated in around the Wings goal and poked the puck past goalie Andrew Glass on a wrap-around move.
Tombleson’s sassy play rattled Glass and the Wings, and then adding more insult to their sudden calamity, sharp shooter Rezek scored a sleeper with 0:50 left in the first, shooting from deep in the corner and finding a hole on the short side. The Falcons went to the break pumped and leading 5 - 2.
Both teams continued their fast paced play in the middle period, but the tide shifted somewhat with the Redwings outshooting the Falcons 16 - 11 and edging them 2 - 1 on the scoreboard.
Steve Best hustled down the left side to blast home a shot that beat the Falcons' goalie Ian Hunter to the glove side, reducing the margin to two. The Falcons clawed back only 20 seconds later when the free-wheeling Critchlow motored through the Wings defense, scoring the Falcons' sixth marker, and reclaiming the three goal spread.
Remy McGuiness then reduced the score to a two goal difference when he beat Hunter on a play from Best and Morgan McNeill.
McNeill, was impressive on the Wings defense, assisting on both McGuiness brother's goals and orchestrating several Wings rushes.
Play was physical throughout the match, with emotions getting heated near the midway point when Best hooked Rezek who, then retaliated with a slash. Both players went to the box, but from that point onward the play became more intense.
The Falcons went to the second intermission leading 6 - 4.
In the third period Ales Kratoska put the Falcons in front 7 - 4, on a play from Zolotarev and MacMillan. Then Marcel McGuiness scored his second of the night, allowing the Wings to stay within reach.
Tombleson, who played one of his best games of the season, scored his second goal of the evening, assisted by Jarred Chester and Rezek, and with the Falcons maintaining a three goal lead many in the stands thought that might be it for the Wings.
But Walsh and the Wings refused to roll over and die and when the Captain scored at the 3:17 mark on a play from Tyler Leeming and Gal, the scenario got interesting.
Leeming, the IHSA Premier League scoring champ, was a late starter for the Wings, having played a championship lacrosse game earlier in the day, and joining his team with the game in progress.
With 1:14 showing on the scoreboard clock, the multi-sport star took a pass from Gal and then beat Hunter to make it a one goal game.
Shortly after the faceoff and with the puck in the Falcons end, the Wings opted to go with an extra skater. Glass raced to the bench and with their net empty the Red Shirts fought like dogs in the offensive end.
The Falcons defended just as hard, with Hunter making a couple of crucial saves in amongst the ferocious scrambles in the goal mouth. Try as they did the Falcons couldn't clear the puck out of their zone, allowing the Wings a couple of face off opportunities and the chance to mentally regroup.
On the first feed back to the point, Walsh hit the corner of the cross bar, and then with less than 30 seconds on the clock he unleashed a one timer that whizzed by everyone and rang the cross bar loud enough to be heard down on South Road.
It was a case of bad luck to the Wings, and thanks to the hockey heavens for Big Blue. The puck did eventually bounce back outside the blue line as the last seconds ticked away, giving the Falcons instant relief, and a well earned Game One victory in the Best of Three series.
"We knew it would be a close battle, and with their experience you can never just sit back on a lead.” said a happy Falcons coach John Botterill (pictured) after the game.
“I felt we played to a plan and we kept the upper hand for most of the game but with Leeming coming on in the third period, they seemed to gain confidence and in the last part of the third period we stopped doing what we had done all game with applying pressure and being aggressive. To their credit they took advantage and made a late period run at us.”
Unfortunately for the Falcons, import stars MacMillan and Critchlow will return to Canada and played their last game in Game One on Saturday night. MacMillan will return to his home in Prince Edward Island, while Critchlow will embark on a professional hockey career with the Jacksonville Ice Men, of the East Coast Hockey League.
“It was an exciting game for everyone, but it presents a new challenge for us” said Botts. “The extended schedule has left us without two of our best players. It’s very disappointing for us and for this Premier League competition”.
Over in the Redwings dressing room, the captain Trevor Walsh (pictured) while disappointed with the result, was quick to point out his club’s strong finish, and the fact they won both the second and third periods.
“It was a disappointing loss. Having three weeks off had us start a bit slow. They were a lot quicker on the puck and got out to an early lead.” he said.
“We kept our composure and found our legs in the second period. We outplayed them and out scored them in the last two periods even though we were missing some key players. (Jake O’Reilly, Nicola Pau, and Leeming).
“We hit two crossbars late in the third that would had made for a different outcome. I thought they were fortunate to hold on for the win. We'll be better in game two.”
The Falcons outshot the Wings 47 - 40, but the biggest margin was in the first period when Big Blue almost doubled the Wings 21-13. Both goalies were called upon to make several keys saves in the game. Hunter turned aside 33 to earn the win for the Falcons, while Glass stopped 39 in the loss.
Game Two of the Best of Three Premier League Grand Final will be this Saturday 16 September at 5:15pm. Game Three (if necessary) to be announced.
SCORING - Falcons -10:56 - Cameron Critchlow (A. Kratoska, C. MacMillan): Redwings - 8:54 - Dave Gal (A. Browne): Falcons - 7:50 - Cole MacMillan (M. Wegener): Redwings - 6:05 - Marcel McGuiness (M. Rivers, M. McNeil): Falcons - 3:16 - Andrew Zolotarev (C. MacMillan, C. Critchlow): Falcons - 3:02 - Quenton Tombleson (J. Rezek): Falcons - 0:55 - Joe Rezek (unassisted)
PENALTIES - Redwings -11:32 - Tom Tait (Hooking): Falcons - 0:01- Matt Wegener (Roughing): Redwings - 0:01 - Chris Carrison (Roughing)
SCORING - Redwings - 13:53 - Steve Best (unassisted): Falcons -13:36 - Cameron Critchlow (J.Rezek): Redwings - 2:47-Remy McGuiness (S. Best, M. McNeill)
PENALTIES - Redwings - 13:43 - Adam Wise (Hooking): Falcons - 12:42 - Andrew Zolotarev (Roughing): Redwings -11:14 - Steve Best (Hooking): Falcons -11:14 - Joe Rezek (Slashing): Falcons - 1:36 - Jarred Chester (Cross Checking)
SCORING - Falcons - 10:29 - Ales Kratoska (A. Zolotarev, C. MacMillan): Redwings - 9:03 - Marcel McGuiness (D. Gal, T. Walsh): Falcons - 4:56 - Quenton Tombleson (J. Chester, J. Rezek): Redwings -3:17 -Trevor Walsh (T. Leeming, D. Gal): Redwings - 1:14 - Tyler Leeming (D. Gal)
PENALTIES - Falcons - 8:19 - Jarred Chester (Roughing)
SHOTS ON GOAL 1st 2nd 3rd Total
Redwings 13 16 11 40
Falcons 21 11 14 46
GOALKEEPERS - Redwings - Andrew Glass: Falcons - Ian Hunter
GAME OFFICIALS - Referees - Damien Smith & Jamie Holland: Linesmen - Mitch Kelleher & Beth Bowshall
Scorer - Nicola Reese: Time Keeper - Claire Wise