Fatty’s wins A League hockey title in stunning fashion
BRECKENRIDGE – The Stephen C. West Arena was home to a red-hot championship game on Tuesday night, as the title decider of the Adult A Hockey League featured a come-from-behind, last-minute victory to go along with a total of 48 penalty minutes.It was a battle to the very end, and Geoff “Bub” Palmer’s goal with under a minute remaining gave Fatty’s Pizzeria a 3-2 triumph over Breckenridge Outfitters/Cala Inn.”It’s the Curse of First,” said Will “Hansen” Gosnell of Fatty’s, referring to the fact that the A League’s regular season first-place team traditionally hasn’t been able to win in the playoffs, as well. “It’s been going on for years.” Gosnell’s team fell victim to it last season, when Copper Mountain defeated Fatty’s in the finale. This time around, he was happy to have finished second in the standings.The two top teams split their previous meetings this season, with second-place Fatty’s handing first-place Outfitters their only loss. A passionate, burning rubber match for the title was only fitting.
The Outfitters/Cala claimed a 2-0 lead in the second period on power-play goals by Mike Woodward and Ryan Roberts. Woodward scored first, three minutes into the period, when he danced past two Fatty’s defenders and picked the far corner with a low wrister. A minute later, Outfitters’ Mike Ahlman started a tic-tac-toe passing play that saw Roberts finish with a one-timer for the two-goal lead. “When they got that second goal, I thought it might be over,” Fatty’s goalie Clark Evans said. “At the time, I knew if they scored again, it would be.”With his teammates reeling from the two quick goals, however, Evans refused to allow another puck past him. First he stuffed Chuck Oese on a breakaway, then he flashed a pad to reject Woodward’s point-blank shot halfway through the game.Fatty’s continued to sputter as the Outfitters proceeded to swarm. But with a flair for the dramatic, Palmer slammed home a rebound with 11 seconds to play in the middle period, cutting the lead in half and giving his team momentum into the third.In a game filled with penalties, the sin-bin at one point early in the third housed as many players as there were on the ice.”Ideally, the best games to referee are those in which no one notices you – when you don’t have to make any calls,” said Carlos Peña, one of the game’s two officials. “But in this game, I could feel something rising, like it was going to boil. It was caliente.”
Indeed, the game was sizzling at this point, and the temperature was still rising. With the scoreboard lit up like a Christmas tree, Palmer rushed behind the Outfitters’ goal and sent a pass to wide-open point man Karl Johnson. Johnson took advantage of the three-on-three time and space by winding up for a slapshot that blurred by goalie Ian Davis to tie the game at 2.”You really never have it (won) until that last whistle blows. I think we killed ourselves with penalties,” the Outfitters’ Woodward said. “We didn’t keep our composure and it just started snowballing.”Feisty Fatty’s forechecking kept the Outfitters’ power play bottled up, led by Summit High School hockey coach Colin Smith, his brother, Darrell Smith, and Gosnell.Then, like riding a see-saw, Fatty’s went from a man down to a man up when another Outfitters player found himself in the penalty box for the final two minutes of the game.Fatty’s team captain, Palmer, who coaches teams at various levels and runs his own hockey clinic, cashed in on the ensuing power play with a wrist shot from the slot that found twine with 33 seconds to go.
The Fatty’s faithful erupted.Tempers flared from there, when a collision resulted in a seven-player scuffle, delaying the inevitable celebration. But the story still was Fatty’s and its comeback.Remarkably, seven of the Fatty’s players have been with the team since its inception, nine years ago.”I really want to thank John Daisy of Fatty’s Pizzeria, our sponsor,” said Palmer. “He’s supported us since this place (Stephen C. West Arena) was just an outdoor rink.”Matthew Duffy covers rec sports for the Summit Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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