|THE CHAMPS - photo by chlphotos.com|
As I was leaving the Allen Event Center (AEC) last night I ran into Americans owner, Doug Miller, walking all by himself towards the parking ramp and of course congratulated him and thanked him for bringing hockey to Allen. He said to me what I heard all over the AEC after the game, "you couldn't write a script any better than this." So the script for our fictional hockey movie would go something like this: the team (Allen Americans has a nice ring) loses game six on the road to force a game seven at home, then let's have the visiting team (let's call them Wichita Thunder) take a 2-0 lead into the third period. We will have the only player remaining from the last time the Americans went to the finals in 2010 (Jarret Lukin) score a goal around the seven minute mark of the third period, then when the crowd is starting to think the home team is going to lose we will have a late season replacement who played for the team last year but left for a rival league (ECHL) but came back (Trevor Hendrikx) score a goal to tie the game 2-2 with around two minutes left. And then for more drama we will have the game go into overtime. In overtime we will have one of the top 20 scorers in minor league hockey history (Todd Robinson) who has gotten permission to leave his last place team (Evansville Icemen of the rival ECHL), where he was the captain, to join the first place Americans for the playoff run, score the winning goal. And then let's have the hero and Playoff MVP (Brian McMillin) be a kid from hockey crazy Minnesota, who could have gone to Yale but chose the powerful Western Collegiate Hockey Association (Colorado College) where he earns a 3.74 GPA, has a beautiful wife who also played division one hockey, has to fight for ice time early in the year and then has something magic happen in the playoffs. This McMillin character will score 12 goals in the playoffs after scoring only 15 goals in 58 games in the regular season.
Our script probably gets rejected as being unrealistic but we know dreams do come true and they did last night as the Americans won the Central Hockey League championship in dramatic fashion, 3-2 in overtime, before a sell out crowd of 6125 at the AEC.
I have so many thoughts about the game, the team, the coach, the fans and the season that this will be a long rambling post so I ask for forgiveness up front. I will save all of my thanks yous for another post I will do tomorrow. Here goes:
- To the Thunder team a heartfelt congratulations on an outstanding year. To be so close to the championship this year after losing in the finals last year must be difficult but as you are able to reflect on the year it was a great one. I also want to give a shout out to all of the Wichita fans who came to Allen for the game last night. Wichita is a great franchise with a great fan base.
- In the odd stat category the best thing that happened last night was for Wichita to score the first goal as the team that scored the first goal lost the last four games of the series.
- It was such an unreal feeling in the AEC as the game ended with all of the excitement but I also sensed the pride that was running through the fans. I think everyone felt part of the team at that moment. It was quite special.
- As much as I enjoyed watching the players celebrate on the ice it was also great to see how excited the rest of the staff was, like equipment manager Kacee Coberly, trainer Jason Wallace, bus driver Scott Alexander, front office staff Tom, Rob, Robert, Drew, Samantha, and Sean to name a few.
- It was also great to see all of the wives, girlfriends, friends and particularly family celebrate with the guys. I saw tears of joy 30 minutes after the game was over. How special for all of them!
- Jarret Lukin who won his first championship had this to say, "This is just insane,"I've never won a championship before ... and man ... it's just amazing."
- Brian McMillin also won his first championship. "Obviously this is something special," McMillin said. "I don't ... I don't even know if I can really explain it."
- And what a nice end of career for captain Jason Deitsch to go out with another championship.
- "It's so great that we could do this at home and give that extra something special to the fans," said Trevor Hendrikx.
- Even for veterans like Nicole & Jamie Schaafsma who have made it to the championship game for the last five years you could see the excitement. They had a babysitter for the kids so they could celebrate the victory.
-Mike Montgomery and his girlfriend (Ashley) are anxious to get back home to Minnesota. They met in college and celebrated together in 2011 when Mike, as captain, led the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs to their first NCAA hockey championship after 50 years of hockey. I guess the four year wait for the CHL championship isn't so bad. Mike now has the trifecta as he scored the only goal as his high school team won the Minnesota state championship in 2004, he won the NCAA collegiate championship in 2011 and now has his first pro championship in 2013.
- How great was it for Bill "Macker" McDonald to be given the honor of dropping the ceremonial puck last night. Macker had as much to do with the success of this team over the past four years as anyone as his fingerprints are all over this team. And what a great send off to Macker to win yet another championship as he heads back home to Thunder Bay as head coach of the Lakehead University hockey team. Macker, you will be missed.
- How about the story of Brian McMillin and his selection as MVP of the 2013 CHL playoffs. I know I write a lot about Brian on this blog as some have even suggested we must be related. Though we are both from Minnesota we are not related even though I tell him I am his Texas Grandpa. I have had a chance to meet all of his relatives and they are all salt of the earth great folks from northern Minnesota. His dad, Harley and I have become friends but we talk hunting and fishing as much as hockey. And all you have to do to appreciate what a great support his wife Wendy is to him is read the story I did about her (check the archives for Wendy McMillin - Hockey Wife - Sports Star dated 1/20/13).
For the record Brian had 12 goals in the playoffs while the next closest competitor had 9, he ranked second in points with 20, fourth in +/- with +8, first in game winning goals with 3 including the game winning goal in games 2 and 4 of the finals. Deserving recognition for a young man who is respected by his teammates, the coaching staff, the front office and the fans.
|Playoff MVP Brian McMillin photo by chlphotos.com|
- What a third period and OT. I was thinking going into overtime I was going to see a goal that hit the net. I had that vision in my head I was going to see the net move. And when I saw the net blow out on that slap shot it was unbelievable. Richard (Matvichuk) who weighs about 230 pounds began shaking me and my neck was flopping around and I had to tell him to stop shaking me.
- I hated the first period as we had another crappy first. However, our players were so positive in the locker room even after the second period, nobody had their heads down, the just kept saying we have to get pucks to the net.
- Percentages paid off for us tonight as we had lots of shots in the second period even though we didn't score. Traffic, deep pucks, and pucks to the net will eventually pay off and it did on both goals in the third period.
- A great comeback for the guys. We talked about how we have come back from behind before and the guys just believed in themselves.
- What a great crowd and it really helped us tonight. Momentum is such a big part of hockey and the crowd helped the guys keep going.
- Wichita lost a forward to a broken jaw (Hanson) in game 6 and moved a defenseman up to forward so they were playing with only five defensemen. We were not waiting for last change, we told our guys to get up to the faceoff quickly and don't give the Thunder any time to rest. When you play at such a high level and fast pace it is difficult to go with five defensemen.
- I have never had a team that has lost a game seven in the finals. This is the first to go to overtime. Our approach in overtime was to keep a guy high and emphasize we don't need to gamble. We don't need to have a hero mentality in overtime. Just do all the little things and that will make something happen.
- Everyone on this team, including the injured guys, contributed to this championship. Different guys throughout the series made plays, young guys, veterans, those that had lots of ice time and those that didn't. Drew Daniels has played great the last few games and his speed opened some things up in the second period. Montgomery stepped up and rushed the puck as well.
- I talked to Scott Howes on the ice right after the game and all of his goals early in the year helped us be in first place and have a winning attitude which helped us attract good players who wanted to come to a first place team. It was nice to see Ryley Grantham come back for the game tonight and Brett Skinner (who is still playing in the AHL playoffs) sent me a message.
- I am happy for Brian McMillin being selected MVP. His perseverance and work ethic has really paid off for him. He doesn't complain, he works hard and quietly goes about his business. He is a great example for others.
BOYS OF SUMMER OR TWENTY WAYS TO SPEND YOUR SUMMER:
I want to end this post with something I did over the last couple of weeks. I interviewed every player and asked them what they were planning to do over the summer. I am sure some plans might have changed based on injuries and winning the championship but it will give you an idea of how the guys will be spending their summer. As fun and exciting it is to win the Presidents' Cup it comes with the realization that the makeup of the team will be different next year and many of these players will not return which has a sad component to it, but that is a story for another day.
Thanks to all of the players who shared their plans with me:
Anthony Maiani - I will be heading home to Shelby Township, Michigan to spend time with my friends and family. I will help out with the family catering business. Around mid July I will head over to the University of Denver where I live with and train with some other Denver alums including Tyler Bozak who plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Patrick Mullen who was with the Manchester Monarchs and is now with the Chicago Wolves (AHL). We will train with some other guys at the University and will take a trip to Las Vegas and have a golfing trip somewhere as well.
Mike Montgomery - I will head back to Minnesota to spend some time with my family. My family has a cabin in Wisconsin so we spend time at the cabin on weekends. I will be working this summer but don't know where yet. My girlfriend (Ashley) will be working at a golf course so hope I can play a lot of free golf. I will take some time off from training but will hook up with some friends from college to train in Minneapolis and will also go to the University of Minnesota Duluth (alma mater) to train.
Jamie Schaafsma - We will head back home to Chatham, Ontario as we just bought a house last summer. It is close to my parents as well as Nicole's parents so lots of time for our two little ones to spend time with grandparents. I work part time at a group home for 13-17 years old kids who can't find a foster home and are in the custody of the state. My brother just started a security business installing security alarms and security cameras so I might help him out. I will play some softball and will work out at Athletes' Fuel Strength & Conditioning which is a relatively new company where a lot of hockey players train. They really know their stuff and the training is very intense. We will rent a cottage for a week with some friends and that will be our vacation for the year.
Drew Daniels - I will be heading to Boston (Northeastern University) along with my brother to attend summer school. I am 24 credits short of graduating since we left school a year early so I will be working on my degree. I will only have class three days a week so I will try and find something to do for work on a part time basis. I had an internship on Wall Street so would like to find something in the financial district. I will train with my brother as well as other former teammates from Northeastern. I might take a vacation at the end of summer but nothing definite at this point.
Darryl Bootland - I have grown to love the Allen/McKinney area so much I am sticking around for the summer. My wife (Sarah) is from a small town north of Conroe and we will spend some vacation time down there. I will be working for Mike Holum at Other Side Landscaping. As for working out and training when I was younger I would take of a month or two after the season ended but now I take a couple of weeks off and then I will be right back at it working out at Cooper Clinic. I will play summer league hockey and will also play softball.
Garrett Clarke - I will be staying in the area for the summer so I can be with my girlfriend, former Ice Angel, Danielle, and hope to work for Mike Holum at Other Side Landscaping. I will work out at Cooper Fitness with the other guys staying for the summer and will also play summer league hockey as well as some softball. My sister is having a baby in June so I will go home for a visit then. I also hope to work on my golf game this summer.
Corbin Baldwin - I plan on going home to Winnipeg and get a job. The last four years I have worked for a cemetery but I am hoping to get a job at a golf course. I love to play golf so that would be ideal. I have a buddy getting married so I might go to Northern Alberta (Peace River) for that. I usually work out on my own but had an opportunity to work out with a trainer thru the Minnesota/Houston organizations but I am not sure if I will have that opportunity this year. I will play in a hockey league just for fun with my buddies, I play some pick up basketball, and I also play in a softball league. I love to fish and go almost every night.
Aaron Dell - Kelly and I will spend some time visiting her parents in Clearwater, MN relaxing and recuperating from the long season. We will then head up to my hometown (Airdrie) just north of Calgary, Alberta where we will stay the summer. I train with with some friends from back home. My brother has a summer hockey team and I sometimes fill in. I like to play golf and fish so hope to do plenty of both this summer.
Todd Robinson - This summer will be a little different than normal as I usually work for a hockey team. Not knowing what is going to happen next year I will be living this summer in Muskegon, MI where we have a home even though we haven't been there for five years. I have a few opportunities for work but not sure yet what I will be doing but I will definitely be working. Having played for so long I know what works best for me and I will take a month off and then start training. I won't skate until the end of August. After fourteen years it is important to give my body plenty of time to heal. With small children it is also an opportunity to spend time with them during the summer. I coached my seven year old daughter's soccer team last year and may do that again. My four year old son may also be involved in some sport. As for vacations we have nothing planned but may make a visit to British Colombia. I enjoy golf and hope to play some this summer.
Jarret Lukin - I will head make home to Calgary, Alberta for the summer. I have worked the past few summers coaching and helping out at hockey camps and will continue that this year. I will probably work out with Sean Hope-Ross who has been working with me for twelve years. He is at a new gym this summer so not exactly sure how it will work out. I don't like to play too much hockey in the summer so I am usually a fill in. I will definitely play some golf especially with my dad and will also play some tennis. I will see Colton Yellow Horn as I did last year and do a little ranch work and play in a golf tournament with him. I will also attend the Calgary Stampede.
Mike Berube - We will be heading home to Edmonton, Alberta and I will work with my brother and dad who own a kitchen cabinet company. I have done this for the last five years. I'll take off a couple of weeks to rest my body. My brother is getting married the end of May in Palm Springs so we will go there and enjoy some time off and then come home and get to work. I will work out with a long time friend. I do play some summer hockey just for fun with my brothers in law, brother and dad and I play in a charity softball game every summer. I also play a lot of golf. We plan on visiting Adam and Monique Pineault in Florida and spend some time with them.
Jim McKenzie - Usually I head back to Minnesota (Woodbury) and spend the summer with family and friends. I am still waiting to see what is going to happen. I may stay around Texas a while after the season. I usually work in landscaping so may do that again for a summer job. I have a buddy getting married and will be going to a bachelor party in Las Vegas in mid June but no other vacation plans at this time. I love to fish so will be going fishing (walleye & crappie) as much as possible when I am in Minnesota. I will also play some golf. I work out with a group of friends in Minnesota.
Kale Kerbashian - Hopefully we will be celebrating a championship here in Allen and I will stick around for that but I will head back to Thunder Bay for the summer. I will only take a week off and will do my cardio work but I won't do any heavy lifting for a month or so. I am not sure if I will work this summer or not. If an opportunity comes along I will work. We have a cabin so I will spend some time at the cabin doing some wake boarding and will also play some golf. I usually train with some NHL guys (Staal brothers) who work with a trainer named Steve Bailot who does a great job.
Trevor Ludwig - We live in McKinney in the off season so we will be staying in the area. I'll take two weeks off to give my body a rest and will start working out at Cooper Fitness taking it easy at first and then getting more into it. I do play in a summer hockey league with a couple of buddies as well as some junior league guys, some college guys. I also play on a slow pitch softball team in the summer as well as play lots of golf. With more guys sticking around this summer our hockey and softball team will have me, Tyler, McMillin, Clarke, Deitsch, Bootland, and we are trying to get my dad and Matvichuk to come out and play some softball with us. The whole family will spend some time in Wisconsin (Rhinelander & Eagle River)) for a vacation visiting with relatives, spending time at the lake on a pontoon boat relaxing and fishing.
Steve Silverthorn - I will be staying in the area as my wife works here and we are also expecting a baby this summer. I might take a week off but I love being in the gym so I will get back at it quickly. I do like to get away from the rink in terms of playing so will not do any of that until later in the summer. I will help with some youth hockey programs at the AEC during the summer. I will play a little golf and we might take a trip home (Owen Sound, Ontario) before the baby arrives and I will do some fishing. I love fishing.
Jason Deitsch - Everything is on hold for me until I hear about a position with the Fort Worth Fire Department I have applied for. The training has been delayed a couple of times and no new date for the class has been announced. After taking some time off I will train as if I am playing hockey again in the fall. I will play hockey in a summer league with the Ludwig's and will also play some golf. A friend of mine who plays for the Toronto Maple leafs is getting married in Colorado and I hope to go to his wedding if our schedule works out.
Adam Pineault - We will be at our home in New Smyrna, Florida enjoying the summer. My mother will be visiting for three weeks the end of May so we look forward to spending some time with her. I have two trainers that I will start working out with the first of June. I spend Monday, Wednesday & Friday in the gym. On Tuesday and Thursday I do a beach workout. Mike & Chantal Berube will be coming down for a visit the middle of June so we look forward to a little trip with them. Monique still has to go to her doctor appointments in Tampa every month so we will be staying close to home for the summer. I will hopefully be playing plenty of golf.
Brian McMillin - I'm not sure where I will be spending the summer for sure as plans are still up in the air. I will start light workouts at Cooper Clinic after taking a week or so off. We have no specific vacation plans yet but I am sure I will spend some time back home in Roseau, Minnesota. If I am in the area I will play summer league hockey with the Ludwig's team or with Belfour's team. I might also play some softball and as always lots of golf.
Chris Doyle - I will spend some time in the area before heading home to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island for the summer. I will take a short amount of time off and then start working out. I may take a couple of trips to visit friend in Western Canada but nothing is firmed up yet. I will play some hockey and softball and hopefully get in a lot of golf.
Trevor Hendrikx - I will be spending the summer with my girlfriend (Cassie) in Los Angeles, I'll give my body some time to heal and then start working out but take it slow at first. My golf game is not very good so I don't play much golf. We might take a vacation but nothing planned yet. Anywhere warm with sand and beaches will do.
Tyler Ludwig - I need to find a job but don't have anything lined up yet. I will take some time off and then start working out at Cooper Fitness but not too much too fast. I will play hockey with my brother and some other players that stay for the summer and we will also play in a softball league. Matvichuk is going to play and we are trying to get my dad out but he has not committed yet. We will take a vacation to Wisconsin to visit family and spend time at the lake. The most important thing is to spend time with our six month old daughter (Sydney).