In junior hockey, ice rinks are hit or miss. Some places are run better than others. Some are barns and some can be a pleasant place to watch a game. They can be like Gump's box of chocolates. Let me set the scenario for you. I'm not going to call out teams, locations, or ice rinks in this one because I don't want to sound like I'm coming down on anyone in particular. So, puck drop is scheduled for 9:30pm EST. Alas, the first problem. 9:30 at night? Seriously? I could understand if there were some sort of tournament going on that weekend and that was the absolute earliest the game could start, but you get to the arena and there is not a soul on the playing ice, including the guy who drives the cool truck that makes the ice shiny (put a pin in that, it may be relevant later). If you've been around junior hockey long enough you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that more often than not the start time is merely a suggestion. A time to be missed more often than hit. So the teams finally make it out to warm-ups around 9:20ish, but It was not because the teams were not ready to get on the ice. Remember our friend the Zamboni driver? Yep, a little late to start cutting ice. So slide that start time out about another 20 minutes. During warm ups, it's discovered that there is a piece of glass along the boards that is looking a little suspect. The men in stripes confer with the rink manager and decide the glass should be fine and we proceed.
I'd be willing to bet you can't guess what happens next. Go on, take a shot. (Ha, puns). Puck drops at 9:50 and 45 seconds into the game there is a huge collision into the glass and boards. That suspect portion of the glass was the key recipient of said collision. The glass proceeds to fall out and the brace that held the glass in place literally snaps in half. After a 10 minute process to determine if the brace is indeed broken, the admission is made by staff that there is no replacement glass in the building. However, the solution that has been agreed upon is that they will take a piece of glass and brace from the other rink in the building. So, public skate on the other side is now put on hold as the glass is swapped out. They will be greeted with an excellent view of a piece of 5/8"s T&G plywood.
Puck drops and we continue with 19:15 left to go in the first. 10:30pm.
The game was a funeral procession. Whistles blew every 45 seconds. Penalties, saves, you name it. The game is close but slow. So close, in fact, that it goes to overtime! Yay!
Overtime started around Midnight. Thankfully, the game was put away fairly early into the extra period. Once I get in the car to go home, I check the time 12:35am and after an hour long car ride back to the house, I was able to slide into bed just shy of 2am. Much to the extreme delight of Mrs Mack who reminds me that in the morning we still have our weekly meeting with the Almighty in the morning. And his start time, unlike hockey, is not subject to change. I don't want to sound like I'm complaining even though I absolutely am. I love hockey and the game was captivating, even thought the pace was half the speed of smell. But, hey folks, that's junior hockey for you and I wouldn't have it any other way.
NA3HL Playoff Predictions
I know I promised this in my post last week, but it appears TDC beat me to the punch (Editors Note: Yeah I beat him, but 2 is better than 1 am I right?). So, I'll run through this rather quickly.
Yes, in the first round just go straight chalk. Yes, I know the Peoria Mustangs beat Coulee Region Chill last night. Doesn't phase me. The gap between the 2 seed teams and the 3 seeds teams in pretty sizable with the exception of one, maybe two, match-ups. The top seed games vs the 4 seed games should be forgone conclusions. (Yes, I see you Peoria). So without further rambling here's my picks:
(1) Coulee Region Chill bests (4) Peoria Mustangs in 3 games.
Last nights game was close and with a pretty nasty pair of goals by #14 Austin Kell for Peoria, we will see if Coulee Region bounces back. They will.
(2) St. Louis. Jr Blues beat (3) Milwaukee Power
Goal differentials. That is all. St. Louis scores and doesn't let the other team score. Isn't that the key to it all?
(1) L/A Nordiques clobber (4) Long Beach Sharks
One team has 43 wins, the other has 15. Nordiques sweep and it won't be close.
(2) Northeast Generals beat (3) New England Stars
This one will be close. The closest thing we'll see to a coin flip in the first round. In all honesty though, this will just decide which team is the sacrificial lamb set at L/A's feet.
(1) Helena Bighorns Blast (4) Missoula Jr Bruins
Bruins have 1000+ penalty minutes on the season, while Helena is one of the least penalized teams in the league.
(2) Great Falls Americans Over (3) Bozeman Icedogs
Great falls fell 1 point shy of being the top seed in the division. And they won 10 more games than Bozeman in the regular season.
(1) Binghamton Jr Senators over (4) Niagara Falls Power Hawks
(Insert cry/laughing emoji) This will be a blood bath. Niagara falls won two games all year. None were against Binghamton. The last two times these teams met? Last weekend. Scores? 24-0 and 15-0.
(2) Oswego Stampede dethrone (3) Skyland Kings
Give me the stampede. The only one of the two teams with an above .500 record and a positive goal differential. All that said, this is Binghamton's Division.
(1) Texas Jr Brahmas beat (4) Mid-cities Jr Stars
Texas is big, they are good, and they don't commit penalties. Texas has been the class of the division all year.
(2) Louisiana Drillers take down (3) Atlanta Capitals
This is probably the next closest thing to a coin flip. These two teams play each other very close every time they play. For some reason though the Drillers always manage to come out on top. Atlanta has shored up its goaltending with a mid season addition. They also lost one of their top scorers to another league since these two last played. The other top scorer? Plagued by concussions all year. The games will be close and chippy. These guys hate each other. Drillers in 3.
(1) Granite City Lumberjacks weather the (4) Alexandria Blizzard
Congrats Granite City! You broke North Iowa's streak. For a prize you get.... to play them in the next round of the playoffs. Lumberjacks sweep.
(2) North Iowa Bulls beat (3) Rochester Grizzlies
Its North Iowa. I don't expect them to get bounced in the first round. Could be wrong, but probably not. Bulls Sweep.
We shall revisit this in a week.