Renegades of Puck 6, Puck Buddies 3

Renegades of Puck solve their offensive woes to end the regular season on a positive note; Puck Buddies suffer injury to Asst Captain

FALL 2023 - WEEK 10RENEGADES OF PUCKPUCK BUDDIES

Aaron Froats

10/27/20237 min read

Renegades of Puck goaltender, Aaron Froats, has had a couple of big games so far during his tenure in the NAIHL. While some of those were stalwart efforts with an unbelievable number of saves, or an eight-round shootout capped with a W, Week 10 of the Fall season may have been his biggest to date. The Renegades were limping into the postseason on a five-game losing streak while struggling on offense and the pressure on the 40-year-old goaltender was slowly mounting. Froats has a long history of selflessly carrying his team on his back and attempting to will his teams to victory by virtue of stealing games and appearing superhuman at times. However, Father Time was bound and determined to keep those efforts fewer and farther between. So, the netminder needed one more big game to give the Renegades a shot at righting the ship to get back on course for the playoffs. Not only was he able to step up, the full Renegades bench showed just how much fight they had left and were hellbent on making sure Froats got some relief.

The playoff implications for this game were fairly straightforward: Win and jump up to the sixth seed to play Froats's former squad in the Classics (barring a remote tiebreaker possibility), or lose and play the same Puck Buddies next week in Round One -- the same Puck Buddies team that Froats was entering play with 0-4-1 against in his NAIHL career. The Renegades would field a triaged defensive core once again this week, with Tom Buysse still out of town and utility man, Al Zarembski, being a late scratch due to illness. That would require forward Zack McCann to slide back to the blue line for a second straight game, while receiving the aid of Tenacious D captain, Caleb McKenney, as part of the second pair. The Puck Buddies were light on their side as well, only having nine skaters suit up and calling on Tenacious D goalie Joel McGlothen to fill in for an absent Brody Greif.

The first period saw the Renegades, wearing their white sweaters, continue the defensive adjustments they made last week, clogging up the neutral zone and making the transition game and entrance into the offensive zone very difficult for the Puck Buddies. In their previous matchup in Week 5, where the Puck Buddies came out victorious by a score of 6-3, the Puck Buddies took full advantage of a weaker neutral zone setup and their transitional play to churn out over a half-dozen odd man rushes. The tight play between the blue lines made for an exciting chess match, keeping the play very even throughout the opening frame. As the end of the period approached, a wrister as defenseman Mike Kerr entered the zone was only met with a piece of Froats's glove, but managed to skirt outside the post for no damage. However, a few moments later, forward Steven Martinez attempted a wraparound to Froats's left. With the pad down to the ice, Froats made the save, but the puck kicked out towards the high slot. The goaltender opted to stay down in the butterfly and do his best to see through the bodies in front of him, but that left the upper half of the net wide open. Kerr took full advantage and ripped one over the blocker shoulder of Froats for his fifth of the season. That would be the final shot of the period, as the remaining 40 seconds ticked off to intermission.

There was a different vibe and feel to the visiting bench at this intermission in contrast to what had been seen in the previous few games. One could heard optimism and confidence sounding off between the players. The Puck Buddies wearing looking to solve the neutral zone garrison setup by the Renegades. The second period began similar to the first, but team-leading goal-scorer for the Puck Buddies, Zack Casavant, found himself fighting across the blueline on a breakaway with a defender on his back hip. Without the means to make a move, Casavant stayed on his left as he drove to the net. Froats was not quite centered, appearing to be expecting a late move, and was beaten short side for Casavant's 13th on the campaign, extending the lead to two. The fire was stoked on the Renegades bench. The very next shift, the top line consisting of Chris Brady, substitute center Adam Glasgow, and Kris Martel, went to work. The hard-nosed tenacity paid off with Brady pocketing his fifth of the season and Glasgow getting credited with the assist for his third point in as many games filling in this fall. Momentum would continue in the away squad's direction as Casavant set a pick on forward Skip McFarland as the Renegades attempt to transition through the neutral zone, leading to a Renegades powerplay on the interference call at 5:54 in the period. The Renegades saw themselves with only their fourth man-advantage of the season and in a position to bring the game square. The onset looked a little shaky as the team tried to setup in the neutral zone, only to have the puck pushed back into their own zone. After resetting and winding up, the Renegades kept the puck in the zone for a large portion of the powerplay. As the time was ticking down on the minor to Casavant, the Puck Buddies cleared the zone one more time. Brady took the puck from his own end and began to push up through the neutral zone and carry it towards McGlothen. As he entered the zone, the paddle taps by Froats could be heard as Casavant was ready to exit the box. Just as the door was to open though, Brady slid a wrister five-hole to beat McGlothen and tie the score, where it would remain heading into the second intermission. The shots totals were also very even, at 15-14 in favor of the white sweaters.

If you were late getting back to your seats at the beginning of the third, you missed a lot. After being stymied on a breakaway earlier in the game, Renegades forward Jon Bellucci turned on the jets flying by the defense on the far boards a few short minutes into the period. As he turned the corner, he sent a laser bardown over McGlothen's blocker side for the third unanswered Renegades goal, Bellucci's fourth of the season. In case you missed it, Bellucci gave you another opportunity. Not even a full minute later, Bellucci gets a lead pass from Kyle Woodall and produces an almost carbon copy goal to bring the lead to two for the away team. The Puck Buddies were back on their heels, but a team would be remiss to count them out at any time. It would be their two strongest skaters, Casavant and Martinez, that the Renegades would need to keep a close eye on, and it wouldn't take long to take note. Less than 40 seconds later, Martinez split the defense entering the zone, finding himself on his second breakaway of the game. The first time, in the second period, he went full speed to his forehand side, where Froats slid to his left to the post and stopped the attempt. This time, Martinez slowed it down as he approached the crease. Instead of forcing Martinez to make a move, Froats stayed flat-footed and Martinez took advantage and beat Froats with a backhand to close the lead to one.

Next shift, the Renegades would pull away. Only a minute later, Renegades forward Bryce Levet and McKenney would both score within six seconds of each other to make the score 6-3. Froats would have to make two key saves down the stretch: the first being a nifty receipt of a pass in the low slot by Casavant, as the pass by captain Josh Kerr split two Renegades sticks. Froats went down into the butterfly to close off as much as he could, but Casavant pulled the puck to his backhand and attempted to lift it into the yawning net to Froats's right, narrowly missing. A few moments later, Jeff Braun of the Puck Buddies was in the corner looking for a feed out front. He found the a player streaking down the middle, but the player was unable to get a full shot on it and Froats was able to react quickly enough to make the stop. While that should have been the end of the excitement, a scary moment occurred with five minutes left in regulation. During another Puck Buddies push in the offensive zone, Mike Kerr made a pass as he skated down the far boards into the corner. After the pass, he attempted to make a cut towards the faceoff dot and net, but his skate caught a rut. He immediately fell in obvious and audible pain, clutching his knee. Both teams were concerned for the well-being of one of their comrades as he was attended to. After close to 10 minutes, stick taps and cheers from the bleachers were heard as a couple players were able to help Kerr to his feet and assist him off the ice. No word on the extent of the injury to the assistant captain.

The game's solid defensive play in the neutral zone by both teams would close out the game with the score a mirror image of the Week 5 matchup, 6-3, splitting the season series. With the win, the Renegades of Puck ended their five-game skid with a 4-6-0 record and clinched the six seed. They will faceoff at 10:45 on Thursday against Froats's old team, the Classics -- the remaining team Froats has yet to beat. The Renegades fell 5-2 to the Classics in Week 2 back on August 31. As no substitutes are permitted during the playoffs, it will be interesting to see how captain Charlie Saunier sets his lines for the game to attempt to match the speed of the Classics squad. The Puck Buddies had already sealed the second seed entering Week 10, but fall to 7-3-0 for the regular season and will face Your Mother in Law during Round One. Your Mother in Law will be hoping to solve their offensive woes as well, off the back of the 3-2 OT loss to fall to the seven seed in Week 10, as the team has only managed six goals in their last five games. That matchup will take place just prior to the ROP/CLA matchup, at 9:30 on November 2.