Dateline: Springfield, Illinois
28 April 2012
Midwest Division Playoffs
Springfield Jr. Blues vs. St. Louis Bandits
Cinderella has her back against the wall. It’s crunch time for the Blue and Gold and we’ll be ecstatic to get on a bus tomorrow morning for the deciding game in Chesterfield if the Jr. Blues can take this game tonight. Everyone on the team knows exactly what needs to be done. It’s win or go home, period. A win means the season continues for at least one more game, a loss means the end of the season and the last time we’ll see many of these players ever again. So, I hope you cheer, and make noise while the game is played and I hope the guys in Blues uniforms catch fire and stick it to our bitterest rivals. We can only hope that each team gives their best effort and the on-ice officials don’t determine the outcome of the game. It’s the Division finals for crying out loud. Let’s Go Blues! Win or lose, tonight is the biggest game thus far in Springfield Jr. Blues history, with a win tonight, tomorrow’s game will be even bigger. You can count on both teams bringing their best efforts, and this year’s edition of the Jr. Blues can stay with these dreaded Bandits from the first puck drop to the final horn.
Big Mike Williams did in fact break his nose last night. We went to get it checked this morning and the X-Rays confirmed the fact. Most of his swelling though was from allergies so he got something for that and was told to contact the ENT doctor Monday. It hasn’t slowed him down any, but he will be wearing a cage in tonight’s game. Like a true hockey player, Mike came back to play last night after the injury, and no one in the stands knew he was playing with a broken nose.
Minnesota was getting rain this morning so a check with Tim and Lori Kohn found them on the road to Springfield for our game. They are Cody Kohn’s parents and make the long drive as often as they possibly can from New Ulm, Minnesota. We’ve gotten close with many of the parents and appreciate their sacrifices so we can enjoy their sons as they play hockey for the Jr. Blues. So to all the parents of our “Good Guys” – thank you so very much! You can be proud of your (and ours, as we adopt them during the season) kids for the job they do on the ice in Springfield.
It’s good to see, also, the Johnsons (J.J.), the Walters (Kevin), Mr. Kramer (Scooter), along with the Cooks (Cookie Monster) and Libby Bell (Stew) I hope I didn’t miss anyone that’s in house tonight. Parents, Billets and long-time fans are ready to cheer the home team to victory tonight, so once again, Let’s Go Blues! We need a win tonight, and tomorrow. Cinderella just ain’t dead yet! The Blues can do it, and I think they will too!! By the way, Stew Bell is celebrating his birthday tonight as well.
Each team played solid defense throughout the fast-paced first period. The Jr. Blues scored first at11:01 on a goal by Chris Sitler with assists by Kyle Cook and Josef Pontasch. The crowd went wild and the Bandit buckets were silent. The Bandits scored to tie the game just over three minutes later. Ryan Zehnder scored with help from Garrett Petersen at 14:19. Stew Bell celebrated his birthday during the first period by dropping the gloves with Charlie Hemstrom of the Bandits, and from our vantage point in the press box there was little doubt that Bell won this one. Bandit coach, Jeff Brown, was not happy with his player.
The Blues were in big trouble as they headed for the locker room and the second intermission. Dichiara scored at 3:18 to give the Bandits the lead at 2 – 1. Cookie scored at 11:55 with assists by Sitler and Pontasch to tie the score, but the Bandits scored again at 13:23 and just before the end of the stanza to take a 4 – 2 lead to the locker room. Once again the Blues have twice as many penalties as the Bandits. I made a prediction that it was gonna get ugly in the third period. Bandits fans, masquerading at Topeka fans were banging their buckets and blowing their horns when one of them went too far and blew a horn in another fans face. It looked for a minute as if they might come to blows, but the police responded and kept the scene under control.
The Blues came out and scored early to get back within a goal, and both teams fought hard throughout the rest third period. The Bandits kept their one goal lead until Joe Kalisz put the puck into an empty net. Final score was 5 – 3. Congratulations to the Bandits organization, we wish them luck as they play for the Robertson cup next week.
Congratulations to all the Jr. Blues who have brought so much joy to Springfield hockey fans. As many of “our” players age out and move on the next phase of their lives, we wish them well.
This brings one era of Jr. Blues hockey to an end as there will be an announcement Monday that the team has been sold to new owners, and a new era begins almost immediately. The King is dead, long live the King, or put another way, the Springfield Jr. Blues are dead, long live the Springfield Jr. Blues. The team will be back next year for the 20th season in Springfield. There will be changes to the organization, but the team will play before their long-time fans at the Franklin P. Nelson Center, better known as the “Nellie”. So, come back next year. We’ll kick off the new season with a lot of new faces, from the top down. It’s been a fun run, but the days are bright ahead. Sometimes things must change to get better, and that’s our hope for the team, the owners, management and all who love the game of hockey.