Saturday, February 22, 2014

Hawks Skate to 2-2 Tie with the Rams, Maintain Hold on First Place

The final week of the regular season is upon us in the winter sports season, and our guys are pushing through a fairly tough stretch on the ice.

This past Wednesday night they took on and defeated the-then first-place Mount, 4-1, which is never an easy task. Last night, the Hawks went up against our archrivals, LaSalle, on their Senior Night, a game that would've been filled with a certain degree of animosity merely as a result of the two squads being in the same building together, to say nothing of the emotional effect that their Senior Night had on the Rams. Both teams played hard, determined hockey, and each team left Thayer Arena with 2-2 overtime tie in its pocket. An account of the game follows shortly. 

Tonight, our guys take on Smithfield at Thayer at 9:00. The Sentinels have had a very good season and are, by any measure, a tough out; in fact, in the previous meeting between these two teams at Smithfield Municipal Hockey Rink, the Sentinels came out with a 3-2 overtime win. Tonight's contest will no doubt be a tough one. 

Next week, the Mount returns to Thayer to finish out the regular-season slate, a game that may well determine who finishes in first place in Division 1-Cimini. As of now, the Hawks clearly have an edge there, having already beaten the Mount twice this season.

Clearly, this is a situation that can be taken in several ways. First, one could argue that the rapid-fire challenges that the Hawks are facing over the next few days will certainly tune them up and sharpen their blades for the state playoffs that are quickly approaching. Holding on to that all-important #1 seed will also go a long way to setting the table for success in those playoffs. 

Second, their mental toughness and their ability to maintain focus will also be tested. During this stretch there won't be much rest for the weary, so it's going to be incumbent upon our guys to keep going, despite what any particular game situation may be. 

And, finally, it's important to remember that The Hawks are not the only team facing this general, end-of-the-season gauntlet. Because of all the snow this winter, there were quite a few postponements, games that are now being squeezed into the final week of action. Consequently, come playoff time, teams such as Mount and LaSalle may have to overcome the physical and mental strain as well. The team that is able to absorb these challenges may be the one that rises during the playoffs.

Last night's game against the Rams - broadcast live right here on The Network, with Cam Brennan and Stone Freeman doing their usual quality job of play-by-play and analysis - was hard-fought from the time the first puck was dropped. There were a lot of big hits, both in open-ice and along the boards, and at times the play even became somewhat chippy. There were two occasions when the teams were flagged for offsetting penalties, resulting in two minutes of four-on-four action; the Hawks even were able to work in a four-on-three power play for a short while, as the Rams were whistled for two separate penalties within a two-minute time frame. As the game was drawing near its end, there even were a couple of mild pushing-and-shoving bouts after play had been whistled dead around the net. 

But, I guess, that's just Hawks-Rams being Hawks-Rams.

The entire game can still be seen here.

Video streaming by Ustream

Video streaming by Ustream

Video streaming by Ustream

The game was scoreless until the eight minute mark of the first period, when the Hawks broke through first to take a 1-0 lead. 29 seconds later, however, the Rams evened things at one goal apiece when they also dented the net. With 2:40 remaining in the second period, the Hawks scored the goal that gave them the lead heading into the locker room.

The Rams once again tied the score, their second goal coming early in the third period. From there the two squads battled through the rest of regulation and overtime, but in the end nothing was settled. In fact, The Hawks had at least two golden opportunities to win in overtime. One of their clean shots clanged off the top crossbar (which everyone in the arena most likely heard), and the LaSalle goalie, Tyler Walsh, stood on his proverbial head on a couple of occasions to keep the puck out of the Rams' net. It was quite an overtime period. 

So tonight, the Hawks take on Smithfield at Thayer Arena at 9:00 and continue marching through this final week in order to get to March. The Network's broadcast team will be in the booth next for the game against Mount St. Charles.