Watched their Augusta Lynx (ECHL) defeat the Columbus Cottonmouths this weekend and here are my observations:
Hamerlik: Came into the game with an 0-3 record, 5.44 GAA and .840 save percentage...oi vay.
First Period- Hamerlik was dominant, stopping all 11 shots. Not many testers, but two were impressive pad saves that he made going side-to-side on 2-on-1 odd-man rushes by the Snakes. On one play, he came skating out to clear the puck up the boards, but a Snake player intercepted it and Hamerlik was caught in the no-man's land between the right half-boards and faceoff dot,with Columbus' John Morlang skating into the zone with nobody between himself and the 24 square feet of net. Somehow, Hamerlik turns on the jets and dives across the goalmouth, knocking the puck away from danger with his stick.
Second Period- Bad 20 minutes for "Hammer Time" His team let him down discipline-wise (and you thought Thornton took bad penalties) by giving Columbus a pair of two-man advantages that they cashed in on. On the first Columbus goal, Hamerlik overcommitted to the point shot and was down and out when the shot missed and hopped off the backboards to the opposite side of the net. J.F. Plourde was Johnny-on-the-spot to knock the puck into the open net.
The second goal Hamerlik allowed was a bad one- given up while his team was on the power play. When one of his D fell down at the point, the Snakes' Chris Legg raced in toward him. John Cronin did a nice job of getting back and forcing Legg to the outside, but he beat Hamerlik with a shortside wrister from a sharp angle at the right post. Ouch.
The third goal happened right off the faceoff in the Augusta zone when they took another penalty to give Columbus its second 5-on-3 of the period. The puck went back to the point, and the defenseman took a couple of strides, recognized his teammates setting up the screen in front of Hamerlik and blistered a high shot past him stick side to erase a 3-0 Augusta lead and pull the teams even. The bottom line: 3 goals allowed on 9 Columbus shots in the period.
Third period- Hamerlik slammed the door and was instrumental in the Lynx coming out with a 5-3 win. Columbus came out flying and tried to ge the go-ahead score, but Hamerlik's quick feet had people muttering in the stands. He turned aside three low shots from the slot in rapid succession and then gloved a fourth to get a faceoff. Hamerlik played great and you could see his team really pick up on the energy that his saves gave him. With less than 5 minutes left, there was a defensive breakdown that allowed a 2-on-1 for Augusta that they slammed home for the 4-3 lead, followed by an empty-netter to seal it.
Overall, Hamerlik was impressive even though he gave up two pretty shaky goals. He made some very difficult saves at crunch time and refused to let Columbus take the lead after blowing a 3-0 edge. He ended up with the game's second star after stopping 29 of 32 shots.
Robert Liscak- A very good game from Liscak, who saw a lot of ice time for the Lynx. He's a good skater who likes to go into traffic and has a nice touch on the puck. He assisted on Augusta's third goal in the second period, which chased Columbus starter (and Montreal prospect) Olivier Michaud from the nets after he allowed 3 goals on 11 shots in about 25 minutes of play. Liscak's assist was nice because he stole the puck from a Columbus player behind the net, got cross-checked for his effort, but stayed on his skates, wheeling around the right side and then sliding a pass out to the point to Wes Swinson, a former high-scoring OHL defenseman, who then blasted a slapper past Michaud.
Overall, Liscak looked decent, but this was an ECHL game, so you have to take it with a grain of salt. He was dominant, but showed some skill and wasn't afraid to take the hit to make the play. I don't see him ever developing into an impact NHL player, but he might make the show for a few games eventually. He's a nice player to have in the system.
John Cronin- Solid, but definitely nothing special. And from watching the game, it is easy to see why the B's didn't offer him a contract. He has good mobility and made a lot of safe plays, but also flubbed several passes and scoring chances that could've blown the game open, including fanning on a pass after he was wide-open in the slot with the Columbus goalie down and out after making a save and having one of his D dump an Augusta player on top of him.
Cronin is a decent ECHL talent, but based on this game, that looks to be about it.
Columbus is coached by former Bruins tough guy Brian Curran. For those of you who remember him, he was an intimidating force for the B's in the early 80's before being dealt to the NY Islanders. He was also Cam Neely's teammate on the '83 Memorial Cup champion Portland Winterhawks.
The Lynx featured one-time top-five CSS skater and top-15 draft pick (Coyotes- 99) Scott Kelman. Kelman did very little- he seemed to be a hunched-over, choppy skater, and was knocked off the puck pretty easily throughout the game. He did make a very nice pass on Augusta's first goal, but after watching him, I could see why the Coyotes never signed him, and why he will go down as one of the '99 draft's bigger busts.
Olivier Michaud impressed me the first time I saw him, but he was weak tonight. One shot he had no chance on, but the other two were just bad goals to give up. Brian Curran gave him the hook, and replacement Kristian Antilla played very well in relief. He had no chance on the winning goal.
All in all, a nice game to take in, and it was nice to see Hamerlik get a much-deserved first win of the season. I talked to Stan Drulia, who runs the Lynx and he was very high on him, saying that the goals he'd given up in the three losses weren't really his fault and more a product of poor team play overall.
How was the overall play? Where would you rate them against a division I school? What was the crowd like and the rink? I know when I got Tsongis rink its a great time and a very nice rink. I still haven't made it up to Manchester yet but Hubie McDonough is running it so we will get up there soon. I am also curious about the salaries of this league- is it gate or does the National Hockey League subsidize them at all?
I can imagine those games are a blast- and for those that don't remember Brian Curran, he was a 6th defenseman type in the mid-80's; very tall and lanky but one tough sob. His fighting style was somewhat unique in that he would get in close and throw quick and repetitve short jabs- he maintained good balance and stood upright. He also fought the best. He was a choppy skater and always seemed to be exerting alot of energy on the ice (I guess you could call it running around abit); but he did his job and was a memorable Bruin to me. He played in maybe the best era for hockey- but unfortunately I didn't realize it at the time. As I told Kirk, Brian scored one of the greatest and most unexpected goals I ever saw and never forgot it. It was in Quebec when the Nords had the Stantsny's, Hunter, Goulet, Ashton, Cloutier, Cote etc..and he barrelled out of the box (what else ) and on an almost penalty shot type play roofed one home.
Its akin to the goal LB scored in the famous "have another donut you fat pig" Koharski game. For those who don't remember that game- the Broons scored 3 goals early in the second period with LB scoring on a breakaway going high on Burke. LB later beat the crap out of Craig Wolanin and I had the picture of LB connecting to the face of Wolanin on my desk for years
I'm getting a bit misty eyed thinking of old time 80 hockey....hey, actually Kirk, somewhere in my house I have a zillion tapes and I swear part of the game against the Nords is on it with that goal I think? If I ever locate it you can give it to Brian since he did admit to you he remembered- maybe the only person better than me.
Next week I'm off to Hilton Head, SC and plan to take in an ECHL game.
South Carolina has a team in Charleston. I don't believe they're playing Augusta though. It would be good to see Lisak and Hamerlik.
Most of all, I'm curious to see how the league that contains the legendary Johnstown Chiefs ranks for entertainment. It is really not much of a developmental environment. Fun to watch crowd reaction in a southern city and how the fans perceive the game of hockey.
About five years a go the Missus and I were in Prague, and I dragged her to a game. Forget who was playing Praha Spartak, but I believe it was Rosie Ruziska's team. Fascinating contrast both in terms of fan reaction, arena "amemities" and on ice play.