Time to exhale after a busy couple of nights at the Snake Pit. Tonight was one of the biggest victories I've seen in 9 seasons covering the teams.
Of course, April 1, 2005 ranks right up there with April 14, 2012. Two SPHL championships are nothing to sneeze at. Jerome's retirement was pretty awesome as was the raising of his, Craig's and Frankie's banners. Lots of thrilling victories, both regular season and playoff. But tonight two great Snakes got their due...
Orrin Hergott and I have spent 9 seasons together. He has always been completely approachable, honest and cooperative. Only once in 9 years were his answers not well thought out and articulate. That night was when his good friend Craig Stahl retired. Orrin was on the ice with Craig as the horn sounded. After the game, Craig was too emotional to come out and talk to me, which I completely expected and understood, so his pal Orrin choked out a few words.
Other than that night, even after the toughest losses, Orrin spent all the time he needed to without once rushing me or answering any question halfway.
This has been a horrible season for Orrin. After raising the cup last April, Orrin and his wife Fonda took all summer before making the joint decision that he'd give it one more go. It lasted 11 games...UGH. Orrin's concussion suffered the day before Thanksgiving ended a remarkable run. 9 minor league seasons in one place? Doesn't happen often.
This isn't how Orrin wanted to go out. He doesn't want to be remembered as the concussion guy...haha. I told him over and over that what everyone will remember is the sight of him streaking down the ice, 1-on-4 or 5 and somehow scoring a goal...:) We'll remember him getting popped against the boards and, somehow, jumping up and continuing to play.
I'll remember early in year one of his SPHL career where Orrin took a stick to the face, left the ice, got stitched up and came right back to play. My first post-game interview with little black things sticking out of somebody's face. Ahhhhh.
I'll remember a player who busted his butt for every shift, every game. A good leader and teammate. Thanks so much for the memories, Orrin!!
This was a big night for Ian Vigier, too. Since Ian got stuck on win number 99 a month ago today, he and his teammates have tried and failed to grab the elusive, but important 100th career W. Tonight, they came out there and gave it their all for both Orrin and Ian.
As the 1-1 game headed into OT, I thought to myself (didn't even want to say it out loud to Miss Flit and Joe): this is going to be the ultimate thrill of victory/agony of defeat moment. I HATE OT (believe I've said this a time or two...). One mistake by either team, one breakway, somebody falls down, a bad pass...boom. Game over.
This place will come apart if the good guys light the lamp. It'll be a huge disappointment for the guys if it goes the other way. As OT approached its midpoint, Sammy Bowles, Orrin's co-captain and teammate for 11 and 40 for 5 seasons, gets the breakaway chance...and buries it!! Just as I knew it would, the Pit erupts in a scene very much like a championship winner...minus the equipment flung everywhere...haha.
The guys mob Ian...and you'll probably have no problem guessing who gets there first and wraps him in a big bear hug. Yep...Andrew Loewen. Theirs is a wonderful study in being both friends and teammates. Both want to play all 56 games and will freely admit it. But the team comes first and whoever's in net has the other as his number one cheerleader.
I couldn't be happier for Ian. He's struggled this season and been slowed by injuries. But he is the ultimate pro and, just like Orrin, works hard every single day. A leader and a gentleman...and owner of 100 wins...congrats, Ian!!
The guys did what they told me they would do. Started their playoffs on Thursday and reeled off three straight wins. They did this despite one of their best offensive and defensive players watching from the stands. Tom Maldonado and Jordan Braid are injured. Several other players are playing through injuries as Jerome tries to figure out his playoff roster. I don't envy him.
To put it simply, they need Tom and Jordan out there. Both are keys to the team's playoff success. In a short series, best of 3, anything can happen. Tom's steady leadership and skill on the blue line are vital. Jordan's chemistry and timing with John Sullivan and Matt Gingera on the gold line are...well, golden. That line needs to be reunited pronto! :)
It was awesome to see Debbie and John Sullivan, Sr. at the Pit this weekend. I just heard they were able to get John's St. Patrick's Day jersey at the auction!! YAY. Those were great looking jerseys and I know this one is special to the Sullivans. Thanks to Debbie and John for stopping by to say hello.
Hate it that Peggy and Jon came to town to see Tom not play...UGH. Of course, mom-to-mom, Peggy and I discussed the importance of putting Tom's health first, but I know he and they were disappointed. Matt Gingera had family in town but I didn't get to meet them. Guess Dave Kessler needs to tell Matt the rule...family members are supposed to stop by and introduce themselves. My pal Danny Spencer was given a pass for tonight. He had a good excuse as his son's baseball team was in a big tournament. You missed a great night, Danny!!
Now it's playoff time. How far will this team go? Will it raise the Cup again? Until this weekend, I had my doubts. But let me refresh the memories of some and let others in on a little secret...
The 2004-2005 SPHL champions were the fifth seed. They were the first team to record a playoff sweep and currently only one of 2. Both teams wear a snake head on their sweaters...