It was only day two of the Thorne Cup Finals but the two
games that comprised the day put an end to championship hopes for two proud
In the opening game, the regular season champions were upset
by the "Cinderella" team of the tournament (it is March Madness) while the host
El Paso Rhinos were bested in front of the home crowd by the heavy favorite
Idaho Jr. Steelheads in the second game of the evening.
Game One: Fresno
Monsters (Western Division Champions) vs. Dallas Ice Jets (Western Division
The underdog Ice Jets were at it again on Friday afternoon, still
playing with a chip on their shoulder as the only non-division winner in the
After two convincing wins over two tough opponents, the Ice
Jets have flipped the tournament upside down and proven they more than belong.
With their backs against the wall, Fresno started strong in
the opening period and jumped out to a 3-0 lead after just 20 minutes of play.
The first two goals were almost identical to one another and
very uncharacteristic of Ice Jets' goaltender Michael Baldwin, as both came from off-angles.
3:21 in, Jason
Beisinger continued his amazing playoff production by putting home his
eighth goal of the post-season, throwing the puck off of Baldwin and in from
below the goal line.
Just 44 seconds later, Marc
Haaf, who assisted on the first marker, picked up a loose puck and threw it
in off of Baldwin again, giving the Monsters an early 2-0 lead.
The Ice Jets would settle things down toward the middle of
the period but Fresno would extend the lead to three with under a minute to go,
as their constant pressure broke down the Dallas defense.
It came with just 40 seconds left before the intermission, as
veteran Don Coyle banged home a shot
off a perfect feed from line mate Justin
Plate, who was moved up a line in place of the injured Rob Kolander.
In all, Fresno outshot Dallas 17-5 over the opening 20
minutes in a dominating effort, seemingly rebounding from a rough game against
Idaho the day before.
As one-sided as the opening period was, the second was even more
so but it was the Ice Jets playing the aggressor this time around.
The first half of the period was relatively even but from
the middle of the period on, it was all Ice Jets.
got the scoring started for Dallas with 9:54 left in the period, on a great
Dallas' leading scorer in the playoffs broke down the wing
with speed and cut around a Fresno defenseman, before one-handing the puck
between the pads of Fresno goaltender Marcus
At the 12:27 mark of the period, Dallas pulled within a
goal, as things were quickly unraveling for the Monsters.
Again, Dallas' speed upon entry into the zone was the key contributor
in the goal, as Joey Matyaszek
backed off the defense before ringing his shot off the post. The rebound sat
untouched in the crease and Emilio
Mayagoitia put it back.
Just as Fresno did in the opening frame, Dallas scored their
third goal of the period with under a minute remaining, as Elsborg found twine
for the second time in the period.
The Ice Jets dodged a bullet just before the goal but were
bailed out on a smart play by goaltender Michael Baldwin.
While on the power play, the Ice Jets turned the puck over
in the neutral zone, springing Fresno forward Josiah Nikkel in all alone against Baldwin. Nikkel, couldn't fully
corral the loose puck however and Baldwin came charging out of his crease,
sliding on his side near the blue line to knock the puck away.
The risky move paid off just seconds later, as at the other
end, Marcus Harbison turned away Richard
Bohan's shot but the rebound
bounced off of Elsborg's body and into the net.
The two squads would go to the third period tied at three, after
Dallas answered Fresno's three first period goals with three of their own in
the second, while also outshooting the Monsters 16-3.
Harbison had to be good for Fresno early in the third, as he
turned away a couple of great Dallas opportunities.
With 16:10 left in the third however, he misplayed a puck
behind his own net and Dallas' Jefferson Wright threw the puck toward the goal
from outside the circle, beating Harbison, who couldn't get back in goal in
After the fourth straight Ice Jets' goal, Fresno looked like
a defeated team and failed to muster much attack the rest of the way.
controversial goal just a few minutes later sealed the deal, putting Dallas up
Azurdia used his speed to go wide into the Monsters' zone
and crashed the crease with the puck, bowling over Harbison in the process, as
the biscuit trickled over the line.
After conversing with his linesmen, the referee ruled that
Azurdia was pushed into Harbison by a Fresno player and the goal stood, further
incensing the Monsters' bench.
A late empty-netter made it look more like a blowout, as the
Ice Jets shocked the tournament and moved to 2-0, while Fresno dropped to 0-2
and will be void of a Thorne Cup yet again, after three fantastic regular
seasons in a row.
Baldwin started off slow in net for Dallas but picked up his
game late, taking the win in net for the Ice Jets, while stopping 30 of 33.
Harbison was hit with his first regulation loss of the
regular season and playoffs, struggling to find his zone and allowing five
goals on 29 shots.
If Idaho could take down El Paso in the nightcap, the
underdog Ice Jets would be playing for the title on Sunday against Idaho (whom
they also matchup with Saturday.)
Player of the Game:
Christian Elsborg (Forward, Dallas Ice Jets)
Game Two: El Paso
Rhinos (Mid-West Division Champions) vs. Idaho Jr. Steelheads (Mountain
The sellout crowd for the late game was treated to the most
entertaining contest of the tournament thus far.
Although it was fun for the capacity crowd, both coaches
won't want to see video of it anytime soon, as neither team played to their
Idaho started the game off red-hot, scoring four times in
the opening frame and taking that lead into the second period.
Ben Hanus' goal
just 30 seconds in quieted the crowd and began the Idaho onslaught.
Just about two minutes later, Tyler Smith's shot from the point beat a screened Trent Caspar over the glove and it was
quickly 2-0 for the visitors.
In the next few minutes after the second goal, El Paso
temporarily slowed the Idaho attack by picking up their physical play.
With 7:50 left in the opening frame however, Idaho extended
their lead to three thanks to a great play by Stefan Brucato.
Their leading scorer in the regular season fought off two
defenders after taking a beating in front of the El Paso net and sent a sweet
backhand feed to Matt Sanford in the
slot, who beat Casper blocker-side.
While on a five-on-three power play late in the period, Justin Videen put a shot off the bar
and in, officially opening up the floodgates and handing Idaho a 4-0 lead.
Rhinos' Head Coach Cory Herman made a goaltending change to
begin the second period, as Trent
DiCarlo took over for Caspar in net and it seemed to work early on.
After the first few minutes of the period went scoreless, El
Paso scored consecutive goals, both coming while on a two-man advantage, to get
back into the game and awake the crowd.
At 7:11, defenseman Travis
Oddy got the Rhinos on the board, beating Jordyn Kaufer with a shot from the point. Just about three minutes
later, Oddy's shot from the same spot missed the net but took a big bounce off
of the end board and onto the stick of Tomas
Stastny, who put it home, making it 4-2 Idaho.
Sensing a collapse, Idaho coach John Olver called a timeout
and ripped into his team and it worked wonders.
Just seconds later, Idaho successfully killed off another
penalty and broke into the El Paso zone three-on-one. Brucato fed Skyler McKnight at the side of the net
who's original shot was stopped by DiCarlo but he stopped up and put back the
Exactly one minute later the momentum was officially gone,
as Tyler Kruenegel wristed one home,
making it 6-2 Steelies.
The ups and downs continued late into the period however and
El Paso scored twice with under a minute left before the intermission to make a
game of it yet again.
Idaho began retaliating to the physicality of the Rhinos and
quickly found themselves cutting a rut to the penalty box.
With 33 seconds left, Kyle
Stephens' point shot found it's way home and Stastny picked up his second
of the period just 16 seconds later on a nice wrist shot off a beauty of a feed
from Trey Hughes.
El Paso scored all four of their goals in the period while
on the power play and outshot the Jr. Steelheads 14-4 and were feeling good
coming off the ice to end the period.
The momentum swings continued into the third, as Jake Webber's goal 1:44 into the period
put Idaho back up by three, before Stastny completed his hat-trick just a few
minutes later for El Paso.
Idaho's defense was that of a "bend but don't break"
mentality and were consistently picked up by their offense, as Sanford's second
of the game at the 7:21 mark handed them back the three goal lead.
John Morales gave
El Paso a little hope, finding twine with 4:20 left in regulation but Kruenegel's
second of the game just 13 seconds later would end the scoring, as Idaho took
the win by a score of 9-6.
It wasn't pretty and Olver didn't look happy after the game
but Idaho found a way to continually answer the Rhinos' attack and now find
themselves defending their Thorne Cup Title on Sunday against Dallas.
Jordyn Kaufer remained perfect in regulation on the season,
stopping 28 of the 34 shots he faced in net for Idaho.
Trent Caspar only played a period but took the loss for El
Paso, allowing four goals on 19 shots.
The host Rhinos played their usual physical brand of hockey
but were hit where it hurts by Idaho, on the scoreboard. It seemed every time
they inched closer, Idaho stuck a dagger deeper into them.
El Paso will face Fresno, Saturday at 7:30 PM MST, in a contest
with nothing but pride on the line.
Idaho and Dallas will get a little preview of one another at
2 PM MST on Saturday, before meeting again on Sunday with the Thorne Cup on the
line at 4:30 PM MST.
Player of the Game:
Stefan Brucato (Forward, Idaho Jr. Steelheads)
With the title matchup set after two great days of hockey both
games tomorrow will carry no real significance, at least as far as the
standings are concerned.
2 PM MST: Idaho Jr.
Steelheads (2-0-0) vs. Dallas Ice Jets (2-0-0)
7:30 PM MST: El Paso
Rhinos (0-2-0) vs. Fresno Monsters (0-2-0)