Disney could not have written a better script for what took place on the “Herb Brooks Rink” at the Schwann Super Rink in Blaine last night. The Burnsville Benders riding our #1 seed into the semi-final round of playoffs facing off against the #4 seed. Things were looking up, as always, until 2 hours before game time when our goalie (who will remain nameless and is now dead to us) lets us all know at 5:30PM that he won’t be able to make it to the 8PM game. Leaving us pretty much with an hour and a half to find a replacement for the biggest game of the season.
Unable to do so with such short notice, Danny “the brickwall” Hanson volunteers to strap up the pads for what would be forever known as ‘the greatest game ever played.’ It should go without saying, but a hockey tender has to be the most difficult position in all of sports to go out and play with absolutely zero experience. #1 you have an extra 20 lbs of pads strapped to your body, holding you down and #2 try facing 80mph slap shots for the first time and tell me you wouldn’t be a little intimidated #3 there is so much technique affiliated with the position that takes years to even pass as a legitimate goalie. This was DH’s moment and he took it by the horns and ran with it.
Fast forward to the 3rd period, 8 minutes left in the game. The Burnsville Benders are looking at their largest deficit of the season, down 6-2 and facing elimination, when a rebound is knocked home on a power play cutting the margin to 6-3. Minutes later, another garbage goal cuts the lead to 6-4. After trailing the whole game, the Burnsville Benders have new life. With about 4 minutes left in the game, we take a penalty and go short-handed. A minute into the penalty kill, we catch a break and counter their forecheck with a 3-2 of our own. Alex Jones brings the puck up along the boards, makes a solid cross-ice pass to yours truly, who then drops it back to the trailing Andy Pearson who absolutely snipes top-ched, glove side to pull within 1 with just minutes remaining. We can taste it.
I can’t even put into words how the tying goal was scored. With about 30 seconds left in the game. The puck was shot behind the net and ricocheted into the air behind the net. The goalie reached back over the net with his stick to try and bat the puck out the air, but instead ended up hitting the puck back towards him, which went off his back, and into the net. Game tied. 4 goal deficit erased.
The game winner was scored by Cullen Rowley on another garbage, rebound goal not even a minute into O.T. to cap off the greatest comeback of all time and send the Burnsville Benders to play for our first championship in franchise history. Walking back to the locker room, I literally found myself looking out for reporters to talk to about the glory that had just unfolded on the ice moments ago.
Championship game will be Tuesday, August 28th at 7:40PM at the Schwann Super Rink in Blaine on Rink 1. We are expecting an over-capacity crowd to be on hand with multiple local news outlets there to document the history about to take place, so get there early to guarantee yourself a good spot.
Also, all of our fans are invited to join the Benders after the game in the parking lot for some celebratory beers as we swap tales of the magical season.
Oh and Pucking Sports’ own, Jake Swansson, will be filling in between the pipes for the championship game. So look for that.
“Great moments are born from great opportunities.” – Herb