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The Novotel Spitfires FINALLY did it, they finally beat AWARE by a score of 4-2 in the first game of SHL action on Thursday, February 7th. It only took them four months to do so and they had a little help from ex-NHL defenseman Johnny Oduya. But to be fair to Novotel they were missing captain Brad Wilson. For this game, they teamed Oduya with Ken Kindborn as one defense pair and Carly Hill with Matt Johnson as the other. Scott Murray was behind the bench and went with three forward lines as Corry Day teamed up with Michael White and Ernesto Bauer for line one while Joe Pettit centred the two Finns (Jouni Heinonen and Tommi Hakinen) on line two and David Boere centered Ed McConnell and Jason Bitter on line three.
AWARE jumped out to an early 1-0 first-period lead on a goal by Harrison Oztemel assisted by Devin Michael. Ernesto Bauer tied the game up early in the second stanza with the first of his two goals on the night. Halfway through the second period, Winnie Luckanatinakorn put AWARE back in front again 2-1 and that’s the way it stood until there was 5:56 left in the game when the Whitewalkers struck with fury, scoring three quick goals by Bauer, Jouni Heinonen (the game-winner) and Kindborn again. Novotel fought hard to hold on to the lead in the dying seconds as they desperately wanted to avoid seeing the game into overtime, where they have lost three straight this season.
Ernesto Bauer was the Rolling Stone Pizza player-of-the-game for his two goals and the relentless effort he showed throughout the game. Ernesto wouldn’t quit and the enthusiasm rubbed us on his teammates. Oduya’s presence was huge too as the Novotel players just wanted to play better in front of him. For AWARE, even though he didn’t show up on the scoresheet Juhani Ijas turned in a sensational game, seemingly being everywhere at once.
Yves Gaboriault was sensational for the Spitfires turning away 26 of the 28 shots he faced in the Novotel net, while Patrick Leduc saved 19 of the 23 pucks fired at him between the pipes for AWARE.
In game two, Johnny Oduya donned a TRUE jersey subbing in for John Schachnovsky and Jaren Folden. Ben Dolgin-Gardner and Robin Lehmann substituted for Hertz as they were missing star forward Andy Brine and Champ Supadilokluk.
Hertz’s goalkeeper Dream Ungkulpattanasuk was terrific early on, stopping wave after wave of TRUE attacks, making a couple nice saves on TRUE’s Jordan Ashton and Patrick Forstner early on.
Hertz’s Darius Konotopetz opened the scoring sending a nice back-end shot past TRUE keeper Lance Parker after receiving a nice pass from Hertz captain Justin St. Denis. Darius has quietly made a name for himself as one the best defensive forwards in the league, but there’s no denying his offensive prowess either as he is tied with TRUE’s Jordan Ashton for sixth spot in the SHL scoring race; both players have 20 points each.
TRUE then scored three times within four minutes as Kim Lidberg, and Jesse Starosta, with the first of his two goals on the night, struck to send TRUE ahead 3-1 as the first period came to an end. Since regaining his health, Lidberg has made a remarkable bounce back in 2019, after a very sluggish start to the beginning of the season. He set up the first goal and assisted on the second to get the TRUE machine rolling on this evening.
Justin St. Denis scored early in the second to make the game 3-2 but TRUE’s Patrik Forstner on a beautiful wrister to the top corner restored the two-goal lead and then Ith Vatanapanyakul upped the margin to 5-2. Stephen Sproule scored for Hertz to close the game to 5-3 as the second period ended. Jesse finished off his hat-trick late in the game and Jordan Ashton added a goal to go along with his three assists to round out the scoring.
Jesse Starosta earned the Rolling Stone Pizza player-of-the-game award and it was well deserved as he scored a hat trick and added an assist. Jesse’s got his mojo back and opposing teams best be aware not too leave rebounds lying around in his presence. And in a repeat of the first game, Oduya’s presence brought out the best in his teammates as many TRUE players had their best game of date and they won without captain Mike Wilson earning a point.
Dream Ungkulpattanasuk stopped 32 of the 39 shots fired at the Hertz twine while TRUE’s Lance Parker stopped 20 of the 23 shots sent his way.
Novotel’s Corry Day is still leading the SHL scoring race with 27 points (15 G, 12A), while AWARE’s Harrison Oztemel has jumped into
As we head into the homestretch of the 2018-19 Sport Corner SHL season, AWARE has first place locked up with 26 points, losing only twice all year. Novotel sits solidly in second position with 17 points. But the real battle lies between Hertz and TRUE for that third playoff spot as no one wants to face AWARE in the first round. Hertz currently leads TRUE by three points with three more games left in the regular season.
The next SHL action takes place on Sunday, February 17th with Novotel playing TRUE at 8:30pm while Hertz faces AWARE at 9:30pm. Johnny Oduya will play for TRUE in the first game and Hertz in the second contest. Admission is free and the games take place at the Rink, 7th floor, Central Grand Rama IX.