Ice Bats Win in OT, Force Game Three
By Mark Fagan,
2:53PM, Thu. Mar. 27, 2008
Playoff hockey in Austin. Quite the rarity. The last time the Ice Bats reached the playoffs 50 Cent's “In da Club” was topping the charts and Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ruled the big screen. Well, I guess 2003 wasn't that long ago, but it sure must have felt like it for the Ice Bats organization and fans. On Wednesday evening the Austin faithful pulled their Ice Bats jerseys over their beer-loving bellies and headed to the rinky-dink Chaparral Ice Arena for their first taste of playoff hockey in far too long. Even though the stands were only half-full, the fans in attendance more than made up for their small numbers with unrestrained enthusiasm and excitement with many of them standing for the majority of the contest. It has been an up-and-down year for the Bats – basically going from worst team in the CHL to the hottest – and their fans deserved a reward for their loyalty. They got it Wednesday night.
After losing game one – 4-1 in Odessa – of this three-game series against the Jackalopes, the Bats' season was on the line. Win tonight or start looking for something else to do. This game encapsulated everything one expects from playoff hockey. A tight, physical affair decided in the last minute in dramatic fashion. The Bats led off the scoring in the first period with Brendan Cook sneaking one by Odessa's six-foot four-inch goalie Alexandre Vincent from in front of the net with assists from Mike Bartlett and Jason Tessier. Then, with just 22 seconds remaining in the first and the Jackalopes on the power play due to a Henry Juster hooking penalty, Collin Circelli quieted the crowd with his first goal of the playoffs.
There was plenty of action in the second period with Odessa taking a one-goal lead on a Nathan Ward goal 2:54 in. Austin responded six and a half minutes later with a Ted Vandermeer power-play goal. Mike Bartlett and Brendan Cook picked up assists on the play.
Although there was no scoring in the third period leading up to the sudden-death overtime, there was plenty of action. Things got physical as both teams fought for this victory that would keep Austin's season alive or advance Odessa to the second round. The period including four roughing and four unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for each team.
After a short break and visit to the bar, it was time for OT. I was prepared to hunker down for the long haul but Austin's R.G Flath put home the game-winner a mere 2:10 into OT with an assist from John Ronan. The Bats faithful unsurprisingly went nuts celebrating this victory and another shot at the second round of playoffs.
The series-deciding game three is tonight at Odessa with the puck dropping at 7:05pm. Be sure to tune in to the game on 1530 ESPN or espnaustin.com.