Norse 6, Classics 2

A strong start by the Classics does not last as the reigning champs move to the Finals

CLASSICSNORSESUMMER 2023 - ROUND 2

Aaron Froats

8/11/20234 min read

The Classics and Norse opened up the 2023 Summer season against each other on May 18. The game would go to the Norse in a 4-3 victory. That game would start a string of four one-goal losses to start the year for the Classics, and the Norse would rattle off four victories. However, coming off a stellar display of fortitude in round one, where the Classics knocked off Your Mother in Law with only eight skaters, this game was not a foregone conclusion.

The Classics took the ice in white, opting to center Jordan Kiss with right winger Rob Kotulak on their top line after their chemistry yielded results the previous game with Steve Morris out of the lineup. The move would payoff almost immediately. After the Norse put up four quick shots on goaltender Aaron Froats during the first shift, the first line of the four-seed stormed down the ice after winning a defensive draw and Kiss scored over goaltender Brody Greif’s shoulder for his third of the playoffs. The early goal gave Froats some breathing room to start after having faced 38 shots in the previous game that night as goalie for the Renegades of Puck. The Classics would lock down the neutral zone making it very difficult for the Norse to exploit their speed and puck movement, leading to a 1-0 lead heading into the first break.

The second period began with a pair of goals that could have potentially benefitted from instant replay. Only a couple minutes into the frame, Kotulak raced after a puck that squirted out to open ice and flew towards the short side of Grief. Grief was up to the task and made a solid butterfly save and appeared to have corralled the rebound. However, the tenacity of Kendall Oziminski, coming off a goal of her own in round one, somehow managed to get a hold of the puck and put it home for what appeared to make a 2-0 lead for the Classics. However, the Norse immediately appealed to the referees and the two rule-enforcers moved to the scorekeeper’s area to discuss the play. Ultimately, referee Todd Strunce would signal to center ice that the goal stood for the Classics. Only a minute later, Froats’s nemesis, Zach Dunne, took off on a breakaway towards the Classics goaltender. Froats was able to stay with Dunne after his crafty stick handle, getting his right pad on the puck as it headed towards the far post. While the puck looked to have been stymied before completely crossing the goal line, the Norse were awarded their first goal of the game. From there, the ice began to tilt in the 2023 Spring Champions’ favor. A breakout pass by defenseman Joel Patnode was intercepted in the high slot by Eden Bryant who snapped it directly past Froats who was slow to square up the shot. Moments later, forward Alex Hancock carried the puck in on the near boards and fired a wrist shot short-side that beat Froats on his normally stellar glove-side. In the late moments of the second, Dunne would post his second of the game. With the Norse winning an offensive zone draw cleanly to the slot, Dunne one-timed the puck off the far-side post and in before Froats was able to react, making the score 4-2 heading into the third.

Hancock would score his second of the game on a screened shot from the top of the far-side circle nearly halfway through the final frame. Froats looked to give a poor attempt at a skate save, with it ricocheting in. When asked about the unorthodox play after the game, Froats noted the screen and lack of time to react. When pushed about the possibility of fatigue and his lingering injury being a factor, he declined the notion stating that if it was the case, it would have only been a “subconscious” reaction to a similar situation that led to his injury.

The Classics would get one last hope at a comeback. After a timeout by the Norse, their captain, Brandon Dale, would take a slashing minor with about four minutes left to play. The Classics would use their timeout to take a breather and setup for a counterattack. After staying in the offensive zone for the first 30 seconds of the man-advantage, the push fizzled keeping Froats in the net in lieu of the extra attacker. Finally, as the penalty expired, the away squad was able to break out to get their netminder off the ice. Greif would stop two quality scoring chances before the puck was hit with a high stick of a Classics player in the neutral zone bringing the ensuing faceoff all the way down to the Classics end. Froats returned to the net for the draw and was held in his crease for another 30 seconds before he was able to jump off the ice. The move did not prove fruitful as Zach Dunne took a shot from center ice into the yawning cage to seal his hat trick and the 6-2 victory.

The Norse will faceoff against the Puck Buddies for the third time in four weeks for the 2023 Summer Season Championship. The Norse, who are the reigning league champions, took both of the previous games. The time and date of the Final has yet to be determined. The Classics will finish out the 2023 Summer campaign with consolation game against the Bobcats on Thursday, August 17. Both teams begin their Fall 2023 season the following Thursday.