In game one of SHL action on Thursday, February 21st TRUE jumped into an early 2-0 first-period lead in its pivotal game with Hertz on goals by birthday boy Patrick Forstner and Jordan Ashton. They extended the lead to 3-0 in the second period when Jesse Starosta scored the first of his two goals on the night. But Hertz’s Mangkorn Sukwiboon scored halfway through the second stanza to put Hertz on the board, only to have TRUE captain Michael Wilson put his team back up three two minutes later. In a furious rally to close out the second period, Hertz drew within one on goals by Yean Thanakroekkiat and Stephen Sproule two-and-a-minutes apart.
That’s the way the game stayed until Starosta scored the clincher for TRUE with 11 minutes left in the game. Hertz applied pressure to try and come back but TRUE keeper Lance Parker stood strong between the pipes stopping 22 of the 25 missiles fires his way while Hertz keeper Dream Ungkulpattanasuk turned aside 23 of the 28 bullets at the other end. Forstner was the Rolling Stone Pizza player-of-the-game as he earned a goal and assist on the night while celebrating his birthday. Both Forstner and Starosta have played key roles in helping to turn TRUE around in the second part of this season.
Fleet Beer Thamwongsin scored the first of his goals on the night for AWARE 23 seconds into game two and things didn’t look good for Novotel early on. But the Spitfires struck back 52 seconds later when Corry Day tied the game. Devin Michael and Bill Bredesen scored a minute apart late in the first period to give AWARE a 3-1 lead going into the first intermission.
Substitute Anders Olofsson, playing against his brother Christian for AWARE, scored the first of his two goals early in the second to bring Novotel within one, but AWARE’ s young gun Winnie Luckanatinakorm restored the two-goal margin just ten seconds later. Bredesen and Thamwongsin then each scored their second goals of the game making it 6-2 for AWARE, heading into the second intermission. Most teams would have thrown in the towel by then, but Novotel fought back on another goal by Anders and one by Michael White to make it 6-4 heading into the dying minutes of the third period. The Spitfires pulled their goalie, but to no avail; AWARE preserved under the stewardship of captain Patrik Lundback to become the first team in SHL history to reach 30 points in a season.
Both teams in this game were without their regular keepers: Novotel’s keeper Yves Gaboriault was out with the flu so Juise Lertitsiri took his place, stopping 17 of the 23 shots fired at him; Gabor Toth subbed for AWARE’s Patrick Leduc and stopped 21 of the 25 shots sent his way.
AWARE’s Harrison Oztemel (21G. 9A) has jumped into a first-place tie with Novotel’s Corry Day (17 G, 13A) for the SHL scoring lead. TRUE’s Jordan Ashton (14G, 11A) is in third spot and AWARE’s Juhani Ijas is in fourth place with 12 goals and 12 assists for 24 points. Novotel’s Michael White (19G, 14A) is in fifth spot with 24 points.
AWARE still has a stranglehold on first place with 30 points, losing only twice all year. Novotel sits solidly in second position with 18 points. But third place is still up for grabs with TRUE leading Hertz by one point with one game left in the regular season, and it is going right down to the wire to decide the semi-final playoff pairings on Sunday, February 24th when at 8:30pm AWARE will play TRUE while Novotel faces off against Hertz at 9:30pm. Admission is free and the games take place at the Rink, 7th floor, Central Grand Rama IX.
For more information on the SHL check out Dom Dumais great podcasts and interviews with SHL players.