Phantoms, Warriors take each other to the limit; Phantoms going to Finals
Buffalo Phantoms forward Sidney Crosby tallied two goals and six assists for eight points in a series that will never be forgotten.
“It’s surreal right now,” Phantoms forward Sidney Crosby said while wearing a T-shirt that was drenched in champagne. “It’s still fresh, but it’s something you work for your entire life and it’s going to be fun to go to the Finals with this group of guys.”
For the second straight year, the first-seeded North Bay Warriors fell one victory short of going to the Finals.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep tonight,” Warriors coach Mike Brunetta said. “We should have won this series. I’m stunned right now. I really don’t know how to explain it. We should have won. I guess it is what it is. It’s done now.”
Brunetta also said he firmly believed the Warriors were the better team coming into the series.
“Even on paper we have the better team,” Brunetta said. “We had tons of chances in this matchup. We had about 30 or 40 shifts where we were in their end and we just threw everything at them. We missed a lot of freaking chances, but that’s the name of the game — you’ve got to bury them. Obviously we have to give the Phantoms credit, but that’s on us. I think we had the chances, the looks, and didn’t put it in.”
Even Phantoms coach Daryn Beckman was surprised with the result.
“I gotta be honest, I thought the odds were against us in a matchup with the first place Warriors,” Beckman said. “So for us to overcome those odds and actually beat them, it feels incredible and I can use all the words everyone uses; incredible, unbelievable, fantastic. We found a way to win. I’m sure everybody else’s blood pressure was up — ours was too. But, we’ve just got such great character on this team. We got it done.”
As much as the Phantoms and their fans are feeling a sense of accomplishment, Buffalo still needs one more win to achieve its ultimate goal.
“Like [Firestorm coach] Gates [Imbeau] said to the media after the victory over Victoria, we got one more win we got to go get,” Beckman said. “So enjoy this but then let’s get back to work on Monday.”
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ROUND TWO RECAP: Hamilton Firestorm (3) vs. Victoria Vipers (7)
Beat-up Vipers don’t give Firestorm enough of a fight; Firestorm will play for the Cup
When Hamilton Firestorm general manager Gates Imbeau stepped to the podium less than 12 hours after the organization celebrated it’s victory over the Victoria Vipers and subsequent berth to the Stanley Cup finals, he looked weary.
But as soon as he started to discuss the players and their accomplishments, the GM took a swig of water, placed his elbows on the table, broke into a big smile and talked about what it’s been like since the Firestorm dismissed the Vipers on Sunday night in a roller coaster hockey game.
“Well, obviously there was happiness when the time expired,” Imbeau said of the win. “You look over and see the ice, see these guys and watch how they celebrate, how emotional they are. You felt good for them, you really felt good for them.”
During Sunday’s celebration, it didn’t take long for Imbeau, who is in his first season as the club’s GM, to realize the significance of what the 2011-12 team had just accomplished.
“Then immediately after that feeling passed, I realized that we have a chance to win the Stanley Cup. And I’m still feeling that today as we prepare for Game 1,” he said. “It’s a great feeling. It’s a feeling of anticipation and excitement.”
“It feels unbelievable,” said Firestorm forward Brad Richards, who scored a goal and two assists in the series. “To go to the Stanley Cup Final is a dream come true, and to do it with this group of guys — our core has been great this season working toward something special and we have a huge opportunity in front of us.”
The Vipers got off to a good start and had the lead, but could not put away the Firestorm.
“We knocked off the second seeded Deer Park Chiefs but couldn’t knock off the third-seeded Hamilton Firestorm,” said Vipers coach Chris Hartley. “Just goes to show how close of a league it is. It came down to the wire and it only took a couple good plays in the end for them to get the win and advance.”
It was quite a disappointment for Hartley and the Vipers, but Hartley told his players not to hang their heads.
“It’s tough to swallow right now but the Vipers came a long way since finishing 15th last year,” Hartley said of the players on his team. “I don’t think anybody would have thought we’d be one win shy of making our first Stanley Cup appearance this year. But I think we’re all happy about the fact that we got our franchise’s first playoff win against the Chiefs in the last round.”
Firestorm forward Daniel Briere said the Vipers put up a good fight and won’t be suprised to see them take the next step in 2012-13.
“I have to commend them,” Briere said. “They’re a young team that played great hockey. They generated lots of chances and had several opportunities. In the end, I think we had a little more gas in the tank than they had.”
Now Hamilton faces the Buffalo Phantoms in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. Game 1 is Monday in Hamilton.