Once again we announced the starting lineup for both teams loud enough I could actually hear it (for the most part), so hurray! For the Ice Wolves we have Center Alex Dominique (#21), Left Wing Griffen Sanom (#17), Right Wing Spencer Rudrud (#7), Defense Logan Martinson (#22), Defense Keenan Johnson (#79), Goalie Garrett Mackay (#35). For the Brown Bears the starting lineup is (Center was garbled but I could swear they said #3 but the only Forward would be #23, so I’m going with it) Center Max Helgeson (#23), Left Wing Brandon Lajoie (#6), Right Wing Skylar Gutierrez (#17), Defense Michael Spinner (#20), Defense Preston Weeks (#25), Goalie Landon Pavlisin (#1).
We started the evening with the captain of one of the youth teams singing the anthem. The crowd joined in when he sounded a little nervous and it was actually a really sweet and touching moment that I enjoyed wholeheartedly. A+ Albuquerque.
If I thought we were fighting for it last night, I was incredibly wrong because tonight was absolutely on fire. We got our first goal so quickly I sat there gaping at it for a few seconds before managing to get on my feet and toss my squishy wolf over the boards and onto the ice (like you’re supposed to if you donated to get them). With only 19:38 on the clock Spenser Rudrud (#7) sank one in, completely unassisted. The crowd went bananas. I grinned so hard my face hurt. It was fantastic and for three games in a row now I’ve watched these boys be at peak performance and lord, there’s so much here I hope we keep even in the off-season. I hope they don’t tear us apart and try to rebuild something that they’ve worked so hard to create and this and the two previous games proves what we can be. I’ve said it before, but every time I say it, it becomes more and more true. I only wish the 99’s could stay. (Those with a 99 birth year have to leave at the end of this season as they age out of this league. I’ll be so sad to see them go, but I hope they’re on the path upward to something huge.)
The Brown Bears got one in past Mackay at 8:03, Peter Morgan (#22) managed it with an assist from both Porter Schachle (#11) and Cody Moline (#19). Unfortunately it was a missed pass from our side that they picked up to get that goal, but that’s life. I’ve been watching NHL games recently and you see it there, too. Just a part of the game as far as I’m concerned.
The rest of that period was intense, constant back and forth across the ice, repeated gasps from the audience. It was just amazing. We ended the first 1:1 and the crowd was buzzing.
With the second period under way, we did something I’ve never seen us do except at the end of the third period. We pulled our goalie from the net and left it empty to give us an additional man on the ice. I guess the Brown Bears took exception to this tactic as they started a lovely fight with our guys. The result was penalties for their guys: Michael Spinner (#20) and Preston Weeks (#25) and one for our side: Alex Dominique (#21). After that, we kept our goalie in the net. (Possibly unrelated but hilarious to think that may have been the cause of it.)
They put in a goal at 11:11, completely wiping out Mackay and another of our players, pitching them both into the net. There was an entire pile of people in and around the goal and the play was called as a goal for the Brown Bears, Laudon Poellinger (#10) unassisted. Interestingly no one in the crowd seemed bothered to try to be angry about it, which was a new one for the crowd. Instead we just kind of watched the cluster fuck that was the pile at the net try to unwrap itself while the Brown Bears fans cheered. (Speaking of the fans, there were a hell of a lot for an Alaska team all the way out here in New Mexico. We found out later that the guy sitting beside us was actually an announcer for the team when they were at home, so that was really cool.)
We picked back up the tie at 9:19 with Alex Gomez (#74) sinking the puck, assisted by Alex Dominique (#21) and Brandon Holt (#5) and they pulled ahead once more by the end of the period while they were on the power play. Max Helgeson (#23) slipped it in on Mackay’s left side, utterly blindsiding him with it. He was assisted by Zach Krajnik (#24) leaving us down one going into the third period. Again, the audience seemed to think this was fine, no one grousing and that somewhat distraught silence never falling. The absolutely packed house was still thrumming.
Right out of the gates in the third period, the Brown Bears decided to duplicate our first period out of the gates success because at 19:47 Skylar Gutierrez (#17) put one in, assisted by Brandon Lajoie (#6). But we would not be had and that score was just not going to stand with us. At 13:48 Emil Gabrielson (#18) slammed one in, assisted by Drew Lorinchak (#20) and it was absolutely glorious, the whole play picture-perfect.
We scored again at 11:32, Joe Prouty (#71) assisted again by Drew Lorinchak (#20) with yet another beautiful play. Nothing dicey about anything happening out there on the ice and I can only imagine how our podcast guys were fairing up there in the box, their excitement probably as huge as ours down in the bleachers. (Can we keep Prouty, please? He’s an Affiliate and sometimes he’s not there but I’ve seen him play in person three times now and lands… someone get him out of the hellhole of Affiliate status and let us keep him forever.)
Determined to make this a night where we said ‘no’ to the other team very loudly and aggressively, we put in another goal at 6:02, this time Alex Gomez (#74) netting one with assists from Mitchell Becker (#2) and Jackson Wille (#23). Apparently the Brown Bears were not nearly so thrilled by this development because what our announcer would have called ‘chippy’ turned rapidly into more than that. At 3:52 a fight developed and by a fight I mean several in a small space. I also don’t mean like the tiny tiffs that happen all the time where someone’s cooler head prevails and everyone gets separated and talked to instead of assessed a penalty. Nope, I mean a beatdown. (Okay, not a Keenan level beatdown, because that one on New Years was epic and I don’t even mean a Frisk level beatdown because… wow no one has topped that one to date! But one, regardless.) Tristan Rand (#19) ended up leaving the game since he got assessed 4 minutes of penalty with less than that on the clock. Their guy, Presten Weeks (#25) got 2 minutes. Another scuffle at 3:21 resulted in another of theirs in the box, though I didn’t catch the jersey number, but he got himself 2 minutes in the sin bin for tripping.
At 2:23 we sank another one in, Philip Ekberg (#9) assisted by Emil Gabrielson (#18) putting us 6:4 and we could all see how the game was going to end from there. The Brown Bears managed another goal at 1:11, going up high on the net to get it in past Mackay who’d made his move down low already. No one announced who scored that goal but our app says it was Logan Richie (#7). The Brown Bears tried to tie it up, even yanked their goalie in the final minute, but it proved futile as we polished off the game 6:5 in our favor. The crowd could not be contained. The team grinned ear to ear out there on the ice, even all the way through their center ice lineup to say goodnight to us.
I won’t lie, I spent the whole third period absolutely yelling my usual array of commentary. I ran out of foam wolves to throw and since I sit in the front row, I’d hop up and bang on the Plexi for the boys instead. Up and down the front row people did the same. Wolves were sparse on the ice, enthusiasm was at an all time high. I’ve been to concerts quieter than we were during the third period every time we scored. My throat hurt the rest of the evening from how loud I was and how much I yelled when we scored. It felt like heaven and I slept like a baby.
My heart aches that I’ll not be seeing them again this month. They start a four week road stretch and I’ll be honest, I’m debating a month of HockeyTV even at $29.99 just to see these guys keep rollin’. They’re heading to Alaska to face the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and then the Kenai River Brown Bears again.
I took my close friend to the game when one of my other friends ended up not being able to go and despite this particular friend stating he doesn’t like sports and didn’t want to go to any of the games no matter how much I pestered, he appeared to actually be having fun. He may have even grudgingly admitted to not hating it by the end of the night. Don’t worry, I’ll convert him yet! I should thank the guys for a spectacular show all around for pushing him a little bit more toward accepting hockey as the superior sport. 😉
Onwards to a million photos I want to share!