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The No-Va-Tel (or “No Go Tel”) Spitfires just keeping making life hard on themselves, blowing early leads and then losing thrillers in overtime. But they did have star defenseman Ken Kindborn back for this game and what a difference he made as his two goals and assist kept Novotel close in this game before succumbing to Stephen Sproule’s overtime marker and losing to Hertz 5-4 in extra time of the first game in SHL action on Sunday February 3rd.
Substitute Ben Dolgin-Gardner scored to stake Novotel to an early 1-0 lead, but Stephen Sproule with is first of the night tied it with five minutes left in the first period. The Spitfires did a great job of killing off Jason Bitter’s penalty at the end of the first period and start of the second period. David Boere and Kindborn, with his first of the night, staked the Spitfires to a 3-1 lead halfway through the second but Moo Tengsakul brought Hertz back to within one as the second stanza came to a close.
Novotel clearly had the advantage in the first half of the game, as Hertz looked to be in a bit if a funk in the first and early part of the second period without Andy Brine and captain Justin St. Denis. But the Spitfires seemed to run out of gas in the third period.
Early in the third,
Stephen Sproule then went on to earn the Rolling Stone Pizza player-of-the-game award as he scored the game winner in overtime on a nice saucer pass from Jari Eerikainen. This was thirty seconds after Ed McConnell had missed a glorious opportunity to win it for Novotel. Hertz is getting a reputation as the “Heartbreak Kids” for their ability to thrive under pressure and win overtime contests.
Yves Gaboriault, who stopped 26 shots on the night, made an amazing Lance Parker-type save on Robin Lehmann in the third period. Lehmann, however, did notch three points in the victory and was a very valuable substitute player. Dream Ungkulpattanasuk stopped 30 shots in the Hertz net and played his usual stellar game.
In game two, TRUE took the ice without five regulars, including Adrian Meyers, John Schachnovsky, Jaren Folden, Peter Borjesson, Peam Jaratwuttipreeda and goaltender Lance Parker. Substitute skaters Tom Price, Robin Lehmann and Ben Dolgin-Gardiner were called up to help make up for TRUE’s missing bodies and Gabor Toth was back between the pipes for the black and gold team. Their opponent AWARE forced to play without goalie Patrick Leduc as well as late scratch Caley Steinert and Roman Larin on defense. They picked up Juiz Lertitsiri to sub for Leduc.
League leading AWARE came out with a jump in their step and opened the scoring just 16 seconds into the game, before TRUE had even touched the puck, on a goal from Bill Bredesen assisted by Juhani Iljas. A shell-shocked TRUE team would see AWARE extend the lead to 2-0 on the same shift just a minute later, when Harrison Oztemel fired a quick shot from in-tight, nicely set up by Ryan Yaden. The rest of the period was an even contest and TRUE kept AWARE pinned in their own zone on several occasions, but unable to put anything up on the board in the first stanza.
The second period belonged to TRUE as they attacked in waves and clearly set the pace of the game. Young Thai defenseman Ith Vatanapanyakul took advantage of a failed clearing attempt and a tired AWARE group to hammer home his second goal of the season on an unassisted shot from the point, cutting the lead in half. A couple of minutes later AWARE gave speedy Patrik Forstner way too much space in the neutral zone as he was allowed to skate in a fire an unstoppable shot, top corner, to tie the game up at 2-2. This time it was AWARE’s turn to be rattled and TRUE took advantage yet again when Ith moved the puck up quickly to Jordan Ashton who treaded the needle to set up Jesse Starosta for a tap in on a nicely executed two-on-one. TRUE had thereby erased AWARE’s early advantage and looked like the better team with a 3-2 lead and several chances to run away with the game in the middle frame.
The rest of the game was a display in leadership, discipline, and lessons of effective execution, as AWARE captain Patrik Lundback juggled his lines, and his team scored six unanswered goals because of it. Mat Siegel, Winnie Luckanatinakorn and Devin Michael (PPG) potted singles and young stud Phu Suwachirat finished the night with a hattrick. Juhani and Win both had three assists in the contest that ended with a final score 8-3 in AWARE’s favor.
Phu Suwachirat of AWARE earned himself another free meal as he was voted the Rolling Stone Pizza player-of-the-game for his three tallies and one helper. He had chances for a fourth goal, with his teammates ready to celebrate a “Jumbo Joe” hattrick celebration in the locker room if he had indeed potted his fourth marker of the game.
Gabor Toth turned away 21 of the 29 shots he faced in the TRUE net, while Juiz Lertitsiri saved 18 of the 21 pucks fired at him between the pipes for AWARE. Juiz held AWARE in the game and was forced to make several good saves as he continues to play very well every time he dons the red jersey. He is 5-0 lifetime for Aware after winning four games in the 2017-2018 season, where he posted a 0.911 save percentage and 2.00 goals against average.
The next SHL action takes place on Thursday, February 7th with Novotel playing AWARE in Johnny Oduya’s SHL debut at 8:30pm. TRUE will them be looking for revenge against Hertz for their last overtime loss at 9:30pm. Admission is free and the games take place at the Rink, 7th floor, Central Grand Rama IX.