A night of Dragons.
In the northern part of our fair Garden State, the Hockey North America Ice Dragons played our final game of the season, tied for first in the division but lacking the tie-breaker with a game in hand. We needed a win or a tie to clinch our first-ever division title and a #1 seed going into the annual playoffs. This isn’t just about pride, or a feeling of accomplishment to put you on hockey cruise control through the summer; it’s about a trip to Toronto for the HNA Tournament.
With such dramatic backdrop, eight guys came to play last night, along with a goalie we borrowed from another team (thanks, Laurie!). It was a night of double shifts, of double shifts that may have turned into triple shifts because staying in one place at the blue line was easier than skating back to the bench for a change. My contributions for the night consisted of setting a screen for our second goal, and chasing after one of our opponent’s truly large defenseman, who has a slapshot that could crack concrete. I needed neither oxygen nor a stretcher, both big wins.
But not as big as coming up on the long side of a 3-2 score. Fortunately we had a 3-0 lead early in the first to work from, and then we basically held on for the next 30 minutes of hockey. The imperative to hang on, sloopy may not have worked for the Buckeyes (twice) this year, but it landed the Dragons the top spot in the slot.
Further south, in the city where the only thing taller than William Penn’s hat is the pile of complaints about the Flyers, the Devils clinched another Atlantic Division title, one game earlier and without any help (compared to last year’s dependence on Rangers misery). A big game for Brodeur, who set the single-season record for wins, breaking the mark held by Bernie Parent (who was in the building to see it happen!). And a big game for NJ native Jim Dowd, who scored the game-winner, short-handed, about halfway through the third.
Nhl.com had just run an article on short-handed goals, focusing on John Madden, but this year it’s been Dowd with the fast feet on the penalty kill. What’s the connection? Jim Dowd played his high school hockey in Brick, NJ, home of the Green Dragons.
Enter the dragons, professional and amateur, into the playoffs.