Monday, May 23, 2011

Greatest playoff games #5: Checkers 4, Wichita Wind 3 (1982)


In the early 1980s, there was no better rivalry in the National Hockey League. Bossy vs. Gretzky, Potvin vs. Coffey, Trottier vs. Anderson, Smith vs. Fuhr.

They were the premier franchises -- but their rivalry didn't just play out in the majors. The Indianapolis Checkers -- owned and operated by the Isles -- were rapidly developing into the Central Hockey League's premier franchise. Their foil was the Wichita Wind -- the top farm team of the Edmonton Oilers.

The Isles-Oilers rivalry was just budding at the time in 1982 as their top farm teams went at it for the right to play in the CHL's Adams Cup Finals.

The most intriguing part of the series was the goaltending matchup -- two guys who would soon patrol the nets for their respective NHL franchises -- Kelly Hrudey for the Checkers and Andy Moog for Wichita -- were between the pipes. Before long, each would lead a team to the Stanley Cup Finals. And fittingly, the series began not in Indianapolis or Wichita, but in Edmonton -- due to ice unavailability in Wichita, and the Wind wanted to keep the home game. In front of 12,000 fans in the Northlands Coliseum, the Checkers ended up pulling out a late 3-2 victory when Kevin Devine scored with 1:25 left. Then, they won Game 2 in Wichita by a more comfortable 7-4 score -- although the Chex had to score four unanswered goals in the third period.

That brings us to our "great game" #5. Game 3s are always huge, especially when it's 2-0. Either one team takes a commanding lead, or it becomes a series again. And, as evenly-matched as these two teams seemed to be, Wichita was fully capable of coming back in the series.

The series shifted to the Fairgrounds Coliseum -- hosting its first playoff game since 1959, as the Checkers had moved there that season after two years at Market Square Arena. That first game -- April 22, 1982 -- would be one few of the 4,616 in attendance would forget.

Hrudey took his position between the pipes for the Checkers. Moog did the same for Wichita. And the game was end-to-end from the beginning. Wichita fired 12 shots at Hrudey, but the Islanders' goalie-in-waiting stopped them all in the first 20 minutes. The Checkers struck on a 4-on-3 with 6:29 left in the first when Steve Stoyanovich rammed home a feed from Bruce Affleck to make it 1-0. After killing off a second-period 5-on-3, the Checkers' leading scorer Red Laurence made it 2-0 with 2:01 left in the period, but Ken Berry answered just a few seconds ahead of the second-period horn.

When Berry and Peter Sullivan scored 1:44 apart in the third period -- giving Wichita a lead with 5:56 to go -- the crowd might have been resigned to the thought of having to take a 2-1 series lead into Game 4.

But that's just when the drama began.

A trick Checkers coach Fred Creighton often loved to try was to challenge an opposing stick when his team was down a goal. The victim was Curt Brackenbury -- and with 2:06 left, Creighton sent Kerry Fraser out to measure Brackenbury's stick. Nothing to lose -- down 3-2, just enough time for one power play. Lose the measurement, and you're likely losing the game anyway. Win it, and put one of the CHL's most lethal lines on the ice.

The stick had too much of banana blade.

Over the boards hopped the high-scoring line of Neil Hawryliw, Garth MacGuigan and Devine. Inside a minute to go, Hawryliw shot. Moog stopped it. MacGuigan pounched on the rebound and shot. It popped off Moog's shoulder and into the air. In the scrum in front of the net, Devine batted at it. It slipped underneath Moog's arm and into the net. At the same time, Devine caught a high stick and headed to get stitches.

The pain wasn't too bad. It was 3-3 with 29 seconds left.

The game went to overtime.

In the extra session, both teams had a lot of action, as Hrudey stopped eight shots. Moog stopped the first eight he saw, too. But on the ninth, the Checkers' Hawryliw fed Monty Trottier in the slot. Monty -- the younger brother of the Islanders' star pivot Bryan Trottier -- fired a slapshot.

Moog couldn't handle it . Game over.

The Checkers poured over the bench to mob Trottier. They had a 3-0 lead in the series, which they'd finish off a couple of nights later at the Coliseum 5-3. The Checkers then went on to finish off the Dallas Black Hawks in the best-of-7 championship series in six games -- the last four of which were played in Indianapolis. A championship team was in Indy, but the stick measurement and the Devine goal was a big boost in getting them there.

Game boxscore: Game 3: April 22, 1982 at Fairgrounds Coliseum


First period
IND-Stoyanovich 3 (Affleck, Hordy), 13:31 (pp)
Penalties: Brackenberry (W) interference, 3:04; Bidner (W) roughing, 12:06; Davis (I) slashing, roughing, 12:06; Nethery (W) hooking, 12:06; Lockridge (I) cross-checking, 15:41; Hubick (W) tripping, 18:06; Jackson (W) high-sticking, fighting, 19:17; Devine (I) fighting, 19:17
Second period
IND-Laurence 3 (Beaton, Stoyanovich), 17:59
WIC-K. Berry 1 (Brackenberry, Forbes), 19:39
Penalties: Nethery (W) holding, 7:54; Simpson (I) tripping, 11:25; Davis (I) holding 12:04
Third period
WIC-K. Berry 2 (Sullivan, Brackenberry), 12:20
WIC-Sullivan 2 (Hubick, Forbes), 14:04
IND-Devine 5 (Hawryliw, MacGuigan), 19:31 (pp)
Penalties: Hubick (W) hooking, 4:56; Blum (W) roughing double minor, 6:18; Stoyanovich (I) roughing double minor, 6:18; Hordy (I) tripping, 9:15; Brackenberry (W) illegal stick, 17:54
IND-Trottier 2 (Hawryliw, Simpson), 15:16
Penalties: Regier (I) hooking, 8:33; Hawryliw (I) slashing, 13:07; Blight (W) high-sticking, 13:07
Shots on goal: WIC 12-10-15-8-45 (Hrudey 42 saves), IND 11-9-11-9-40 (Moog 36 saves)
Power play: WIC 0-6, IND 2-6
Att: 4,616
Officials: R-Kerry Fraser, L-David Butova, Brian Collins

Previous games

No comments:

Post a Comment