Renegades of Puck 3, Classics 2 (OT)

The Classics tie the game with 22 seconds to play forcing OT, but the Renegades of Puck complete the upset on the backs of Nielson and Woodall

FALL 2023 - ROUND 1RENEGADES OF PUCKCLASSICS

Aaron Froats

11/3/20237 min read

Death, taxes, and now maybe adding regulation not being enough for the Classics and Renegades of Puck to finish off their matchup. Last season, both games against each other went to extra time, with the Renegades skating away victorious in both games. The lone regular season meeting this season pitted goaltender Aaron Froats against his former team, now as a member of the Renegades, but the Classics simply overmatched the Renegades with a 5-2 victory. So, Froats was still looking for his first win in the lifetime series between the squads.

If you are a fan of action, almost every conceivable box was checked in this one. First period was a display of defense and positioning by both teams. Clogging up the neutral zone proved to be the recipe for success for the Renegades last week against the Puck Buddies, and they employed their system again in the opening round of the playoffs. The difference between last week and this week for the Renegades was the speed of the Classics. The margin for error was much less for the defense and the home team made that known on their first shot. On the opening shift of the game, forward Rob Kotulak was the beneficiary of a turnover at center ice and kicked it into high gear immediately, bearing down on Froats. Kotulak attempted to sneak it short side as he cut across the front of the crease, but Froats was able to leave his left pad down for an exciting start to the matchup. The rest of the excitement in the first came from defensive play and a lot of it stemmed from the parade that would begin to the box just three minutes into the game. Captain Charlie Saunier was whistled for a trip, which had the referees discussing the possibility of a penalty shot, giving the teal squad a chance to put the Renegades back on their heels early. A solid kill out of the gate was met with a penalty against Kotulak for hooking with 20 seconds remaining on the advantage, ending that opportunity to set the tone early. It would then be the Classics' turn to show off their penalty killing skills, stymieing the Renegades shortened powerplay. Each team would have their chance again in the first, as well as some more 4-on-4 hockey for more open ice. Forward Steve Morris of the Classics began his time in the box at the 9:53 mark after colliding with goaltender Froats while he was making his way through the crease to the corner. Chris Brady of the away team brought their powerplay to an end with a hooking minor of his own 50 seconds in to Morris's infraction time. No goals were scored during the 4-on-4, with 43 seconds on the ensuing Classics powerplay carrying through intermission.

If you are more of a fan of the offensive side of the game, then the second period was for you. As the white sweaters were shorthanded leading off the frame, TJ Nielson took advantage of a weak pass, intercepting it and taking off towards the goal. Omar Soliman, playing in his 23rd game of the regular season and playoffs, as he lost in the 7-2 Bobcats win over the Woollies the previous night, was looking to keep the scoreboard blank, but Nielson beat him short side to tally the first marker of the game. Whereas there were only six shots combined in the first period, the second period saw both teams hit their offensive groove and creating space, racking up 19 combined in the stanza. Two of the shots belonging to the Classics resulted in almost-now-expected highlight reel saves from Froats. The first was a rebound from a point slapshot from David Libhart. Evan Krasnow hopped on the rebound and sent it across crease to Kotulak, who lost the pass in his skates. Froats, however, had already dropped into the butterfly in response and was now out of position. As the puck was shuffled towards the yawning cage, Froats lied down on his right side to keep the puck from crossing the line. The very next shift, the unconventional play of the netminder would prevent another goal as this time forward Kendall Oziminski attempted to score from the right faceoff dot. Her initial shot was stopped, but Froats left a rebound that she followed up on. This time Froats used his stick to guard the goal line, resulting in another cover.

The momentum would start to swing the other direction as play entered the second half. Kyle Woodall, who finished the regular season with assists in the last two games, hadn't found the back of the net since Week 1. That would change with five to play in the period, as he found a pass from Bryce Levet to extend the lead to two. The Classics had managed to kill off their third penalty earlier in the second, but when it came time for the Renegades to hold fast after Brady's second minor of the game, they were not able to match the home team. Almost a minute into the man-advantage, a Froats cover led to an offensive zone draw for the Classics. They would lose the draw, but the clear by the Renegades was held in by Jeremy Goodman. He dropped the puck off to a rotating Joel Patnode, who skated across the high slot, firing against the grain low blocker side, cashing in on the Classics powerplay and cutting the deficit in half.

The message at the Renegades bench during the break was locking down the neutral zone again. While the open space had led to the two goals and many more shots, it was also allowing the Classics to find some room to work as well. The away squad would focus on defensive play in the third and it would be necessary. After Patnode picked up his second minor of the game a few minutes into the third, the Renegades were unable to regain the two-goal spread and were clinging to the 2-1 margin. As the powerplay ticked down, Saunier was flagged for his second minor, an interference call in the defensive zone, with just five seconds left before Patnode was to depart the box. The Classics jumped back into their powerplay setup, but would be offered a gift 40 seconds into having the extra man. Zack McCann, who had begun the game at forward, had shifted back to defense halfway through the game after showing promising utility in that role the previous two games. At this point, however, he would be called for a cross-check dropping the Renegades to a 5-on-3 kill for over a minute. With the Renegades captain in the box, Froats, who wears the 'A' on his jersey, called timeout and implored his team to take quick shifts and keep fresh legs on the ice, emphasizing the need to completing their clearing attempts. The team fielded Jon Bellucci at the faceoff, Brady on the wing, and the other alternate captain, Brandon Adams, on defense -- electing for speed and hands over a typical one forward/two defense setup. It paid off immediately. Bellucci won the draw and cleared the puck. As the puck came back into the zone, Brady forced a turnover and was able to get another long clear to change the forwards. Adams stayed on and the Renegades were able to get the puck back to him on a defensive retreat, where he was also able to launch it the length of the ice as the time on Saunier's penalty wound down. The Classics would manage only one shot during the 5-on-3, a slapshot from Goodman with 20 seconds remaining on the McCann minor. As the penalty came to a close, an icing call against the Renegades lead to the home team taking their timeout with 3 minutes to play. The Classics came out with a flurry, applying pressure and pulling Soliman with two minutes to go. When it seemed like the team was setup and poised for an attack, the whistle was blown. Referee, and NAIHL Commissioner, Jason Pepperack had heard enough from Soliman, who was barking from the bench about a non-call in the corner. Pepperack had warned Soliman earlier in the game and it seemed as if a bench minor was going to be called. Instead, Pepperack called for the puck to come out of the offensive zone for a faceoff and to reset. Reset the Classics did, pulling Soliman again right after they won the draw and got the puck to the far-side corner. Steve Morris came out of the corner with it and threw it towards the slot. Froats got a piece of the pass, but it deflected into the slew of bodies out front. Patnode was able to come away with the loose puck and bury it with 22 seconds to play, tying the game in the dying seconds.

Overtime play was nothing new between these two teams, but it was in a playoff setting. This meant the squads would skate 5-on-5 for 10 minutes, as opposed to the 5-minute 3-on-3 for the regular season. After the 10 minutes, play would resume at 4-on-4, and so on. The change in space on the ice put the teams back in their lockdown modes. However, 90 seconds into the extra frame, a pass to Kotulak in the neutral zone handcuffed him and leaked between his skates. Woodall was there to pick up the awaiting biscuit and was off to the races, burying the shot five-hole to close out the upset for the visiting Renegades of Puck.

The black and yellow will face off in a rubber match against the Puck Buddies on Thursday at 9:30. Both games during the regular season were 6-3 decisions, each taking one of the contests. The big question mark will be the absence of Aaron Froats, who is scheduled to be a healthy scratch for the contest. The winner will face the victor of the 1 v 4 matchup, Norse and Bobcats, who open round two on Wednesday. The Classics will host the seven-seeded Your Mother in Law, who dropped the game to the Puck Buddies, 5-2, with Zach Dunne in net after captain Jessie Lapid was a scratch. Their game will be on Thursday: Puck drop at 8:15.