Renegades of Puck 5, Tenacious D 3

Injury to Froats in net sparks comeback for the Renegades

TENACIOUS DRENEGADES OF PUCKSUMMER 2023 - ROUND 1

Aaron Froats

8/4/20235 min read

The third rematch of the night at Gary Force Acura Ice Arena pit the 3-seed Renegades of Puck against the 6-seed Tenacious D squad. The expectation was this was going to be a different game compared to the season finale as substitutes are not allowed during postseason play, and sub Zach Dunne was a difference maker potting two in the Week 10 meeting. The Renegades were poised to come out swinging fielding 12 skaters, but the second consecutive late scratch for Dustin Poole had the team playing with eleven.

Coming off the previous game in net for the Classics, goaltender Aaron Froats was making his 20th appearance of the season and playoffs combined and was warmed up already facing 29 shots in the 5-3 win over Your Mother in Law. The key to the game would be if the late start at 10:45 along with the back-to-back starts would have a tiring impact on Froats. The pace of play would need to be controlled by the Renegades, who welcomed back forward Jon Bellucci to the lineup after missing all but the first game of the regular season. Kris Martel figured it wouldn't hurt to add a goal to that strategy as well, netting the first of the game at 2:36 giving the home team the early lead. That lead would be very short-lived; however, as the next faceoff led to a chance inside the offensive zone for Tenacious D when Pavel Tolstov flew down the boards on a semi-breakaway and beat Froats glove-side, who was too deep in the net to cut down the angle.

Both teams would display good defensive play, ensuring that the puck wasn't in either offensive zone for very long throughout the first period. With less than four minutes on the clock, captain Charlie Saunier made a solid defensive play in the neutral zone, pinning a wandering Tenacious player away from the puck. However, as Saunier took him out of the play, it appeared he kept him out of the action just a little long, leading to the first penalty of the game. Saunier would discuss with the referee the decision-making on the call on the way to the box, but the infraction would not prove to be costly as the visiting team was unable to capitalize. Play would be halted briefly before the end of the period after a heavy slapshot from the point through traffic caught a screened Froats off-center to the shot, causing him to make the save with the puck striking the inside part of his left knee. The netminder was slow to his feet, but once helped up, he took a few laps around the goal and motioned the referees to continue. The game remained tied as the first period came to a close.

Tenacious D would jump on the attack early on the opening draw of the second, taking the lead less than a minute into the frame. Adding to their momentum was a tripping call against forward Chris Brady less than a minute following the goal that looked like a scenario where the visiting player stepped on Brady's stick as he went to take a stride. The black and yellow would make a couple key clears early into the kill, but the tide would start to turn as Kyle Woodall hit Jon Bellucci across the middle of the ice leaving the zone, leading to a shorthanded goal to knot up the game at two. Defense still being the mantra for both teams, play stayed tight through most of the second. A scramble in front of the Renegades net late into the stanza showed Froats making more of his reactive athletic saves, turning aside three from point-blank range. Unfortunately, the puck was still loose and ended up bouncing over to the far post where the forward barely managed to beat defenseman Brad Bartlett to the puck to give Tenacious D the lead once again.

The game was gearing up for a gritty and close finish, but play would be halted less than a minute into the third. After a quick flurry of saves due to the visiting squad winning the opening faceoff, Froats was once again slow to get up after the whistle. He was clearly laboring from the injury in the first and the referees suggested the team take their timeout to give him a few extra moments. However, as Froats made his way towards the bench, it became clear he could no longer put weight on his left leg. His teammates encouraged him to exit the game for his health, planning to continue with an extra skater and Saunier acting as a psuedo-netminder. However, Norse goaltender Brody Greif was still in attendance watching the games and offered to suit up. The call came to both the referees as well as Tenacious D captain Caleb McKenney on whether or not they approve a break in play to wait on Greif. It was granted and play halted for almost 18 minutes while the emergency goalie got ready.

Play resumed and it looked like the Renegades had a renewed vigor. They would not be able to take advantage right away, unfortunately, as Bryce Levet was carrying the pack into his own corner and was called for staving off the defender with his free hand. The away team would be on the man advantage for the third time. Testing their mettle, Renegades of Puck killed off the penalty with relative ease and began to focus on the comeback. It would get going two minutes later as Bellucci would bury his second of the game, tying the game at the halfway point of the third. Feeding off the goal, Woodall scored as well for his second point of the contest a minute later. The home team bench was fired up, but knew this was the same opponent that defeated them the week before. Playing sound defense, Greif only faced five shots, though three of them were quality chances, in his 11 minutes in relief of Froats. Jon Bellucci put the nail in the coffin and sealed the hat trick with exactly 60 seconds to play, sending Tenacious D to the consolation bracket and setting up a date for the black and yellow with Puck Buddies in round two. The Renegades poured over the bench to congratulate and thank Greif for stepping up, but then could be seen heading behind their net to show their injured goaltender their appreciation, giving fist bumps through the glass to the then-spectating Froats. In an act of sportsmanship and class, the Tenacious D players could be seen checking up on Froats as they left the ice, also embodying the culture of the NAIHL as a whole.

The Renegades of Puck will be looking to avenge their Week 9 loss to Puck Buddies, where Stephen Von Heyking put up four goals in a 7-4 tilt, next Thursday at 8:15 in their round two matchup. This contest should be much more evenly matched with Bellucci back in the lineup and Poole expected to return from missing the last two games. Tenacious D will square off against the Woollies on Friday at 8:00. Tenacious D won in Week 9, the only meeting between the two teams, by a score of 8-2.