Congratulations boys for an outstanding season. It was truly an amazing run. Many folks doubted the season would get off. But yes, it did. What was so incredulous that it took 44 games in our division to declare the Divisional champion. It all came down to yesterday’s game to determine the Champion. Now that is what makes the Florida Division so competitive. Indeed, the Eels had to lay everything on the ice over the past week. They had a critical game against Tampa last Thursday and it was a must win. And indeed, the boys went to Tampa with one mission and that was to defeat Tampa. And that is what they did. The Eels won by a clear and convincing effort 8-3.
Despite that win their job was far from complete. In order to take 1st place in there Division they would have to hand a loss to their cross town rivals the Junior Blades and then once again defeat Tampa at home on Sunday. Downing the Blades was not an easy task. The Blades would be fighting to stay alive. That game would be one of the toughest all year. The Blades were facing elimination. Their entire season was on the line. If they lost Atlanta was in. The Blades came and threw everything at the Eels. It was a hard fought battle for every inch of ice and every shift was played like it was the last minute in the season. That game brought incredible notoriety to the USPHL and the Eels. Here is how it played out:
The Blades scored 3 goals in the first period. It looked like they would be on their way to earning a playoff spot. But never count out the Eels. They took their experience and skill and regrouped and came storming back with 3 goals of their own in the 2nd period to tie things up. The Eels scored to take the lead, but the Blades would not quit. They had life in them and wanted it bad. They scored their 4th to tie it all up ½ way through the 3rdperiod. It was a shooters duel from that point the game was up and down. But the Eels found life again and notched their 5th to regain the lead.
The Eels were hit with a penalty at the 19:23 mark of the 3rd period and the Blades were on a power play. Oh my God. If that wasn’t bad the Eels committed another infraction at 19:35 remaining and they were down by 2. The Blades pulled their goalie. It was 6 against 3. This is when it all happened. The Eels goalie Alex Caron took the puck, and we all know his puck handling skills and sent it 180 feet and scored. The place went wild. 500+ folks in the building and the roof went off. The Eels killed off the remaining time and went on to win. A huge effort. The clip went viral a “Goalie Goal”
Well, that was two wins needed but Tampa was very much in it and the Eels were tied for 1st. No question the Eels were spent. Every ounce of energies both mentally and physically were laid out in that game. Tampa on the other hand was well rested and poised to go. Again, many thought the Eels would not have anything left. But that was indeed very wrong. You have to remember winning first place was NOT the primary goal and mission of the Eels. It would be nice no question. But from day one of training camp, from each shift of each game from the beginning of the year to each showcase throughout the Hub and this past weekend it was all about the Big Picture. Keep our eyes on the big picture coach Frankie Scarpaci would echo” We all know the big picture – Nationals. It order to get there we have to win each game and that requires winning each shift take not shifts off. To be first on the fore-check, second on support, retrieve pucks drive hard to the net, no cheating for offense, play equally hard on the back check smothering and suffocating their team on defense…..” It is great we won the First Place in our Division but keep our eye on the big picture” That precept kept us going.
Against Tampa rather than coming out flat we came out on fire. Coach Scarpaci knew his team had to establish their presence and score first. And that is what they did. They struck for the 1st 3 goals. But Tampa is a very good team with highly talented players who are fast and can score as well. They are extremely well coached and won’t quit. They came back to answer the Eels with 3 goals of their own in the 2nd period. Going into the 3rd period the Eels knew it was their time. This was their game. They have trained 3-5 hours every day from the beginning of the year. And they found the back of the net 2 more times to cradle the win! This was back stopped by another incredible performance by netminder Alex Caron.
Fabulous job guys we are so proud of you. It shows in their faces. Incredible season and more to come. Our job is not done says Coach Scarpaci. We have to keep our eye on the big picture. We will not take playoffs for granted. We play Atlanta. They are a solid club, and we need to come out with two wins. Back to work this week. The players will have Monday through Friday to prepare as playoffs start this Saturday and the Eels host them at the Fort Myers Skatium.