Wolfpack wins semi-annual Alumni game
Written by Than Acuff
Wednesday, 02 January 2013
Alumni fail to back their smack
Once again current and former Wolfpack hockey players came together to share a little holiday cheer the best way they know how: on the ice.
The semi-annual Wolfpack-Alumni game on Friday, December 28 was a showcase of talent old and new and, for the first time in two years, actually happened.
Last year, a lack of ice forced cancellation of the game. Two years ago, a lack of discretion forced cancellation of the game.
This year, everything was intact and alumni were relatively tactful as the two teams took the ice at Big Mine Ice Arena on Friday, December 28.
The Alumni roster was stacked to say the least, with the three top scorers in Wolfpack history—John Tharpe, Sam Evans and Ben Reaman—on the bench as well as a host of former great defensemen and forwards from the past. In addition there was the odd collection of classic hockey smack talkers. Furthermore, they had the venerable Zach Van Dyke in net. All told, there were probably 25 players on the Alumni bench sharing ice time. Fresh legs can help but too many legs can hinder a team’s rhythm.
Prior to the game an arrangement was made whereby former scoring and non-traditional skate-style all star Robbie Holleran would join the current Wolfpack squad.
In the end, organization and discipline would prove the difference in the game, as the Wolfpack handed the Alumni a 5-3 defeat.
The Alumni pressed for a majority of the first period holding the puck in the Wolfpack’s defensive zone. Ben Reaman, hairline fractured leg and all, broke the scoreless tie nine minutes into the first period taking the puck from neutral ice, past two Wolfpack players and through the slot to slip a backhand past Montana Wiggins.
To be perfectly honest, it looked like it would be a Wolfpack slaughter as the Alumni continued to dominate the pace of the game but, as is often the case, their mouths got in the way of their play.
While the Alumni was focused on solo efforts and trickery learned from seminal hockey movie classic Slapshot, the Wolfpack stayed focused on team play and proper positioning.
Wiggins came up with a couple of big saves early in the second period and at one point it was elbows and ***holes in the Alumni penalty box.
As a result, the Wolfpack had several power play opportunities and even two stretches of 5 v 3 but struggled to mount any consistent attack on the Alumni net. Van Dyke turned the few chances they did get away with his usual mix of cat-like reactions and occasional pad-stacking flops.
The Wolfpack finally found a chink in Van Dyke’s armor when Sam Reaman slipped the puck through to tie the game 1-1 with four minutes left in the second period.
The Wolfpack had a golden opportunity to take the lead early in the third period breaking loose for a two-on-one chance but Van Dyke denied and the puck was cleared up-ice. Wiggins skated out of his net to grab the puck but misplayed his pass, giving it to Tharpe at the blue line. Tharpe skated straight to net and flicked the puck inside the far post to put the Alumni back on top 2-1.
As the Alumni legs grew more tired, the Wolfpack discipline and fitness started to take control of the play.
The Wolfpack tied the game 2-2 as a three-man rush resulted in a rebound goal by Holleran. Wolfpack player Josh Melnick then showed up fresh off a day of cat skiing to add another weapon to the Wolfpack arsenal. Melnick brought additional speed to the Wolfpack attack and made quick work of the tiring Alumni skating straight through their defense to slip the puck through the five-hole for a 3-2 Wolfpack lead.
With pride on the line the Alumni responded one minute later as Reaman skated to net to shoot, follow his rebound and score, tying the game 3-3 with five minutes left to play.
But Melnick struck again 30 seconds later to put the Wolfpack back on top and the Wolfpack iced the 5-3 win with an empty-net goal in the final minute.