April 15th, 2013
Supermen edge out Vipers 7-3 to advance to Finals
Vipers coach Chris Hartley has seen his team grow, but by no means is he happy with the way their season ended.
Last night, his Vipers lost to the Supermen 7-4 in the second round of the playoffs, ending the Vipers’ season and sending the Supermen to the Stanley Cup finals against the IceHoles.
“I thought we gave them too many free ones,” Hartley told the media shortly after the loss. “Some [Viper] players were playing very tentative and that’s not the way our team plays. Our offense couldn’t get it done when it was needed, and our defense alongside Carey Price and Devan Dubnyk was subpar.”
Despite having the talent capable of doing so, for the second straight year, the Victoria Vipers fell one win short of a trip to the AFHL Stanley Cup Finals.
“We’re still a young club and we still have a quite a bit to learn as far as desperation,” Hartley said. “The second round, that isn’t good enough. We still have to find a way to win that round and get there. I don’t want this organization to sit still. We have to change our mind-set to continue trying to be the best and learn there’s a lot more hockey to play.”
At the final buzzer of what was an incredibly tight matchup from beginning to end, the five Viper players on the ice knelt around their net, frozen in dejection. The Manhattan Supermen pulled off another upset to knock out the Vipers and advance to the Finals for the first time in their franchise history.
“We’re going to the big dance,” Manhattan coach Tony Furino told a reporter after the Supermen knocked out the Vipers last night. “I’m proud of the players. It’s a hell of an accomplishment for them.”
The light went off in Furino’s head after a win against the Twin City Vikings in the second to last matchup of the regular season. It was then that he realized his team was championship-worthy.
“Throughout the season we had been spinning our wheels, not playing well, and we challenged the team before that matchup with the Vikings to really get on a roll to make the playoffs,” Furino said during a media conference call on Monday morning.
The Supermen responded by winning their final two matchups to close the regular season and their first two matchups in the playoffs.
“When we beat the Vikings in the first round, that was the first signal to me that the team was fully engaged and wanted to do something special,” Furino said. “Having said that, this last series with Victoria was everything we can handle, plus some. I don’t think anyone that watched us would have predicted us to be here.”
“Here” is the Stanley Cup Finals.
Manhattan goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who has a 1.25 GAA over his last eight starts, admitted the Supermen surprised themselves to a certain extent.
“We considered the Vipers to be one of the two best teams in the league and we played some great hockey against them,” Nabokov said. “We were fortunate to go through (the Vipers). It took guts and character. We’re better and more confident as a team because of that win.”
Furino knew they were a better team at the end of the regular season because of how they responded to his challenge.
“You go from not making the playoffs to all of a sudden you’re in the Stanley Cup Finals,” Furino said. “Things have come together at the right time for us. It’s one of those things where we are getting contributions from everyone. We’ve had different heroes on different nights, and that goes a long way. It has a snowball effect, and you don’t have to rely on the same guys each and every night.”
Manhattan has earned this trip to the Cup Finals after a hard fought series against a Vipers team that will certainly be back next year.
IceHoles heading to Finals after beating Red Devils 6-4
Midway through Jordan Carbone’s first year in the AFHL, he issued an order that nobody was to step on the Toronto Red Devils logo at its training site or at the home ice arena. The directive was supposed to instill a sense of pride and purpose in a franchise that became sort of a laughing stock when Carbone decided to rebuild the team just weeks after the AFHL’s inaugural draft.
His order seemed crazy, considering the large logo was embroidered into the rugs in tiny dressing rooms where the media massed after games. But nobody is giggling at the Red Devils these days, even after their second round ouster on Sunday night by the IceHoles.
The Red Devils made a hard, determined run this year. They came up short, though, and only a fool would bet on the team’s near or distant future.
“Ultimately I think our players should look back and feel good about a lot of the things that they accomplished this year,” Carbone said. “We have a lot of young players that this experience has been unbelievable for. Players like Steven Stamkos, Taylor Hall, Alex Pietrangelo, that this will help them grow, continue to strengthen our organization. I think we all recognize what Pekka Rinne has done for this organization over the years, giving us real stability at that position. The disappointment of losing, especially to our biggest rival, will go away and the improvements that will be made on this team for next year will start very soon.”
IceHoles fans chanted “We don’t like you!” in the waning moments of the intense second round series with the Red Devils, a poke at Carbone’s comments from about a year ago that he didn’t like GM Jason Briggs. But the testy series concluded with a peaceful handshake line and the IceHoles having a celebration in the Lakehead locker room.
The Lakehead IceHoles are heading to the AFHL Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in their franchise history.
“It’s really exciting,” said Briggs after the IceHoles knocked their biggest rival out of the playoffs. “I’m really happy for our fans and the city of Lakehead. I think we have a pretty rabid fan base. I think you’ll see more of that now.”
Despite getting some poor performances from their goaltenders last week, Lakehead’s offense remained hot and produced a total of 46 points in the series with Toronto.
“Of course I’m happy to help this team get to the Finals,” said IceHoles forward Teddy Purcell who led the offense with five points vs. Toronto. “There are a few guys in here that have been there and had the opportunity, but a lot of guys haven’t. This is what you play for.”
Added Purcell: “I’m so excited, but at the same time we’re going to celebrate tonight and enjoy it. Tomorrow, we’re right back at it. We’re in the Stanley Cup [Final]. That’s what we’ve dreamt of our whole lives and what we’ve worked for [since the] summer.”