|For Thursday - Week 16 - Bruins vs. Avalanche - The Championship|
AMHL Thursday Spring 2004 Championship: Donut Delivery and the Contrite Concordian
Thirty some years ago, a seven-year old Chris Howell put on hockey skates for the first time then skated with his family on an outdoor rink at a park near his home in Concord, New Hampshire. A year later, he played his first organized hockey game as a member of a Concord house league team. But he never dreamed of making it to National Hockey League. He never wanted to be a Bruin.
“I didn’t really have a favorite pro team,” Howell said last year. “In fact, since all my friends were Bruins fans, I used to root for the other teams…I used to try to do whatever I could to not go with the flow in terms of the Bruins.”
Fast-forward to the 2004 AMHL Spring season. Howell is bleeding Black and Gold.
Six weeks into the season, Howell suffered what Bruins officials described an “upper thumb injury.” A team doctor requesting anonymity inserted screws in the afflicted area then directed Howell to wear a cast, which limited the AMHL Director of Donut Procurement to, well, procuring donuts.
Six weeks later, the same doctor removed the hardware from Howell’s thumb. Howell plotted his comeback, setting the target date for his return on the ice for the playoffs.
Yesterday, he skated on Rink One, preparing himself for the Championship against the Avalanche.
It was going to be a great story: the child who had denied his allegiance to the Bruins would skate onto the ice, proudly wearing the Black and Gold. With a fully functional thumb, Howell would score the game-winning goal then wave to his forgiving fans….
“…I can’t shoot or pass,” says Howell, dressed in street clothes, ten minutes before the start of the game. At least his kids got to bring the screws to school for Show and Tell.
Good for them; bad for the story line.
Without Howell in the Bruins line-up, what players will rise to the occasion?
Bruin goalie Dan Barros is still in Japan, trying out for the Japanese Olympic team. John “Sinister” Saner, who plays his best hockey in the playoffs, is filling in for Barros.
Maybe Avalanche forward Scott “A-Train” Arnold, sporting former Bruin Lyndon “L.B.” Byer’s autograph on his Avs jersey will get the game-winner? (*Byers, often noted for his goonery, recorded the last goal scored by a Bruin in a Cup final.)
Who’ll be the hero this morning?
Let’s get on with the game as Howell tends to the donuts and Bruin defenseman Dean Banfield steps onto the ice…
The first period is fast-paced, but neither team can generate many high-quality scoring chances.
With eight minutes left in the first period, Avalanche defenseman Allen “Boom Boom” Canning moves to the top of the circle to Saner’s right, feigns a slap shot then sidesteps a Bruin defenseman. He unloads his cannon on Saner. The Sinister One sticks the shot aside.
In the second period, Bruin super center David “Mr. Hockey” Losier backhands a soft shot from the high slot at goaltender Mitch “Edel” Weiss. Kevin “Wiley” Reilly tips the shot past the Ancient One, giving the B’s the first lead at 5:10.
Bruin forward Dave “DaVinci” Krinsky blocks an Avalanche shot from the left point, retrieves the bounding puck then darts, uncontested, toward Weiss. The Creative One decides against a dipsy doodle deke, opting to paint a shot on goal. The shot splats off the glass behind Weiss, and the Bruin squander a chance to bolster their lead.
With about eight minutes on the scoreboard, the play gets chippy. Bruin blue-liner John Swoyer tries to derail the A-Train. The LB wannabe pushes back. No whistle.
Four minutes later, the Bruins most ferocious fore-checker John Greszczuk is whistled for tripping.
On the ensuing power play, Jim Glode’s shot screams past Saner. 1-1 with one period of regulation play pending.
“Pick your heads up! Pick ‘em up!” hollers Avalanche Aaron “Time Bomb” Sherman, trying to pump up the Home team during the intermission.
Less than a minute into the third period, Arnold intercepts a Swoyer breakout pass then shoots the puck on net. Saner stymies the shot with a butterfly save.
At 5:10, Bruin defenseman Mike DeLeo slides to the ice, interrupting a shot on goal.
At 8:50, Avalanche sniper and scorekeeper favorite Doug Wight notches his sixth goal this season. Wight’s towheaded son leaps to his feet then gleefully adds a goal for the Home team. After the game, the elder Wight will describe the goal giving his Avs a 2-1 lead, “I turned around, ripped a shot; it got through, unlike on my other tries. I had nothin’ goin’ on.”
“Get off the ice, you…hack,” yells a Bruin player after Byers’ new best buddy decks DeLeo.
Arnold heads for the holding cell to serve his two-minute sentence. He seats himself then watches teammate Sherman sneak a short-handed shot past Saner. Eight minutes left in the season. 3-1
Mr. Hockey won’t quit. Neither will DeLeo and Reilly. The trio teams up for the Bruin’s second goal. 3-2.
Saner sits on the Visitor bench, hoping Mr. Hockey and the five other attackers can force the game into Overtime.
Howell can’t help. He can only watch Canning score an empty-net goal, demolishing the contrite Concordian’s Cup-lifting dreams of sweet self-redemption. Howell must wait at least another year to hoist the Koffey Cup on behalf of his beloved Bruins.
Oh well, at least the Bruins won a playoff series. And Howell delivered the donuts.
The Dunkin Donut Three Stars, as voted by the media…
3. John Saner (fantastic job backing up Barros)
2. Mitch Weiss (two championship wins in one week; the Popcorn Kid is proud of him)
And the Number One Star of the Game goes to the guy who played both playoff games with what Bruins officials called an “upper wrist injury” and of whom teammate Ken MacLeod says,
1. “Don’t let anyone fool you. Allen Canning is the MVP of this team. Whenever we needed a lift this season, he came through for us.”
…Also receiving votes:
Aaron Sherman (you can’t stop him; you can only hope he doesn’t blow up on you)
Brion Bickerton (earns his eighth AMHL championship)