TORHS PRO SERIES FINAL SIMPLY INCREDIBLE
SPIDERCOURT/TORHS PRO SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP RANKS AS TOP THREE ROLLER GAMES EVER
ROCHESTER, New York ? In what was arguably the best roller hockey game ever to be played the SpiderCourt/TORHS PRO Series concluded in historic fashion.
The entire PRO Series drew the most competitive games to date in roller hockey with everything from overtime dramatics, tons of fans, to unprecedented upsets which people will talk about for years and years to come.
The odds on favorite to win the prize money of $40,000.00 were the defending TORHS National Champions the Tour Mudcat?s. Led by CJ Yoder, Ron Tracy, Dan Costanza and countless other roller powerhouses, the Mudcat?s were at least a sure bet for the finals. But in what could be considered one of the largest upsets to date, the Buffalo Wings from Buffalo, NY knocked the Mudcat?s out of the running in the quarterfinals with a overtime win.
The entire quarterfinal game was a back and forth match that had the Wings winning with a one goal lead going into the final two minutes. Buffalo took a penalty and the Mudcat?s capitalized to tie the game. The Wings stretched the remainder of the time out and the two teams were headed for overtime.
Twenty seconds into the extra period however Josh Myers of the Wings got in one on one with a Mudcat ? walked him ? and then lifted a backhand shot over the glove of the Mudcat?s goalie for the win.
?I could not believe it. No one could. It was almost like-I don?t even know, it was an amazing feeling,? said Eric Haak a player on the Wings. ?I looked back at Jason (Ciesielski) and I don?t think I will ever forget the look on his face, it was incredible, what a terrific feeling, and the fans were going nuts because we were the underdog against them.?
Buffalo advanced on and was then in the finals to take on team Rink Rat who defeated the tough Can Am Stars out of Detroit, Michigan for their championship game birth.
The Championship game could not have been scripted any better and with as much on the line as was, the games intensity was undeniable.
Right from the drop of the puck both teams came out hard, though the physical play was not intense the early part of the game saw both teams focusing on the finesse. The Wings opened the scoring with a goal by Ryan Perkins at the 6:26 mark for the early 1-0 lead that brought the crowd of 2,500 to it?s feet.
Then just two minutes later Team Rink Rat got the score back to even when they tied it up at 4:35 with a rocket from just inside the Wings Zone that beat goalie Jason Flowers high glove side.
Both teams exchanged another goal apiece before the end of the first period, Buffalo scored at 2:08 and Team Rink Rat tied with :04 to go in the period for the 2-2 tie.
Much of the second period was a defensive battle between the two teams who scaled back the offense and played extremely conservative. Buffalo had developed a reputation of being a strong third period team and Rink Rat played against that conserving themselves for much of the second. In the final two minutes though the dearth of offense was ended as three goals were scored. Rink Rat tallied to take a 3-2 lead with 1:43 left to play in the second period. Then twenty seconds later Craig Charron equalized the score for the Wings at 3-3. Rink Rat kept rolling and jumped back into the lead with a goal at :44 of the period making it 4-3.
?The entire game was just an all out battle,? said Haak. ?We kept going back and forth with the score, it was an incredible game to be a part of.?
Going into the third period with $50,000.00 up for grabs the game was still anyone?s to be had and right out of the intermission the defensive style of the second period disappeared and the offense was immediately present again.
?They are a good team and we knew they would be very strong especially in the third so we wanted to come out with guns blazing and try and get some offense right away,? said Michael Hunt, player for Rink Rat and worldwide sales manager for Rink Rat Wheels.
The Wings lived up to their reputation of being a third period team though as they opened the scoring thirty-one seconds into the period on the tally by Bournazakis, his second of the game.
Team Rink Rat re-took a one-goal lead at 5:59 making it 5-4, but the Wings recovered and scored two quick goals to put them in the lead for only the second time of the game 6-5. Derek Hahn got the equalizer on a power play goal at 3:18 and then Chris Palmer scored the lead goal with 1:24 left to play.
Team Rink Rat pulled their goalie with a little over a minute to play in the game and applied some of the most intense offensive pressure in the tournament. With around three seconds left the puck slid into Buffalo?s corner to the right of their goaltender. Rink Rat made an outlet pass and a one timer from just atop the crease found it?s way through heavy traffic to tie the game with point five seconds on the clock. The entire crowd roared to its feet and Rink Rat exploded.
?We were devastated,? said Haak. ?We were all half off the boards ready to celebrate when that puck went into the corner with three seconds left. Then it went in and we felt that money disappear. You have to give Rink Rat so much credit. They are incredible team that never gave up and kept coming hard.?
Twenty seconds into the sudden death overtime Rink Rat scored to take the National Championship and the prize money of $40,000.00. The Buffalo Wings collected $10,000.00 for finishing as the runner up, but most definitely impressed the roller world with their effort.
?They (Buffalo) are a team to be reckoned with,? said Hunt. ?We knew they were one of the top three teams coming into this thing and had a great deal of respect for them even before the drop of the first puck. They are a great team that came together and was very good and very impressive.?
Rink Rat as well has now stepped further into the PRO spotlight with their win, and the way they did it. With world class players and a fun attitude they have now become the team to beat in PRO Roller hockey.
?We could not be happier to win at what we feel is one of the, if not the, best roller tournaments anywhere,? said Hunt. ?Everyone is so excited about what Tony and TORHS are doing and what the PRO series has developed into. The game was incredible, and so many people were here to see it. It does incredible things for the sport and for anyone involved in it. It was great to be a part of that.?
The Buffalo Wings found themselves in awe of the moment as well, despite loosing the National Championship, the moment was as powerful for them as a group.
?That game was arguably the best roller hockey game ever to played anywhere. With all that on the line to have it end the way it did was amazing. What a hockey game. That night I went home to go to bed and had the toughest time falling asleep, it was amazing,? said Haak.
What is next for the Wings is still up in the air, and believe it or not, whether they are around next summer is still a big question mark. Many of their players are former pros from all walks of hockey including the RHI and AHL, and some have families so the travel is greatly limited. Rink Rat will be competing for the next few weeks and then break for a few months this summer. Overall the TORHS PRO Series was an incredible addition to an already amazing event. Though the game stood out the brightest, everything from the entertainment to the pre and post game festivities made the PRO Championship a memorable event.
?The money was fantastic, a nice touch, but to be able to call yourself a National Champion after running the gamut and being undefeated in such a fiercely competitive event, well that?s far better than any dollar amount could ever equate to,? said Hunt.