February 25, Stamford CT: The reason why players leave their warm homes on a cold snowy game night is so they don't miss a game like the one that took place last night at STR. A rematch of the first-place Norsemen and the Nordiques saw the Nordiques pull off an improbable and inspiring victory by a 4-2 score. The win improves the Nordiques winter record to 5-7-1 and keeps their playoff hopes alive with a few games remaining.
Back in January, in their first meeting of the season, the Norsemen destroyed the Nordiques by a 9-2 score. Today, with the season in the balance and with backs to the wall, the Nordiques manned-up, dug down deep and played one of its finest games of the season. Post game, the Norsemen complimented the Nordiques performance, as did Nordiques captain Rich Gioia, saying, "our team has continued to improve this season and now we are playing a more consistent game and at a faster pace than in the first-half". In addition, "we probably have to win out our schedule to qualify for the playoffs, but given tonight's performance there's no reason why we can't do that by just having fun and by playing Nordiques hockey."
The Nordiques moved the puck very well and impressively forechecked in its offensive zone, which resulted in the game's first goal. The lead was short-lived as the Norsemen responded, and the first period ended 1-1. Perhaps inspired by high-tempo Olympic hockey on display all week, the Nordiques took it to the Norsemen, outscored them in the second period, and went into the third with a 3-2 lead.
The Nordiques brought a lot of energy into the final period and continued to pressure the Norsemen in the offensive zone. More impressively, the Nordiques employed smart team play in the neutral zone and took away much of the ice in the defensive zone. The frustration on the Norsemen faces showed. The Norsemen had plenty of scoring chances, but Seaweed again put in another admirable performance between the pipes and was very tough down low. He played his best late in the third period with the Nordiques out-manned; first, on a penalty-kill with the score 3-2, the Nordiques tried mightily to clear the zone but could not. The Norsemen put plenty of rubber on the Nordiques net minder but he held ground. Several more chances came when the Norsemen pulled their goalie in the final 2 minutes. It was all about Seaweed at that point as he allowed the Nordiques to hold on for a 4-2 win (after an empty-netter with under a minute to play).
Nordiques stymieTrashers 3-2
February 3, Stamford, CT: The Nordiques were challenged last night to step up their play to a speed and transition game. The team responded with an effort reminiscent of their championship run a year ago. In hard-fought, sometimes desperate battle, the Nordiques bested the Trashers 3-2, bringing the Nordique season record to 4-6-1, and within reach of the Tier 5 playoffs next month.
The Trashers were "complemented" by several upper-tier players, and the Nordiques were immediately under immense pressure from the opening horn. The team tried, but rarely broke out of the defensive zone cleanly in the first period. With several shots blocked by Nordiques players and a whole lot more fought off by Seaweed, the scoreboard remained 0-0 at the end of the first period.
The Trashers applied intense pressure again to open the second period, and soon opened the scoring as well. However, showing great fortitude, the Nordiques answered back with a hard rush and pretty goal by Jim Ondo, off a nifty touch-pass from Eric Farrell. Suddenly, the Trashers were the ones looking exasperated, as the Nordiques took their best punch and responded with a body blow. It only got worse for the Trashers, as the Nordiques notched a goal late in the second by Steve Hepensteil. That lead would last until late into the third period, when the teams swapped goals and the game ended 3-2.
There were many notable performances by Nordiques players, but none more than by Seaweed who stopped, by some estimates, "148 out of 150 shots." At the team's post-game meeting in the STR's upstairs media center, captain Rich Gioia bluntly stated that if it wasn't for Seaweed the Nordiques would have been deeply violated [this is a substitution for the actual phrase employed].
All four defensemen were stars as well. However, Doug Eng (quietly as usual) was a stud. He made many key blocks and saves, and stood tall amid swarming pressure. Both 4-man forward lines played a huge role in the defense too, by clogging passing lanes and blocking shots with sticks and every piece of equipment.
Post game meeting notes penned by Captain Rich Gioia:
"Boys, I want to start off by thanking Seaweed for absolutely standing on his head for us. However, I want to let you all know how happy and proud I am to be your captain. You guys came out tonight and absolutely skated your asses off. Tonight we basically played a combination of upper tier teams, both of whom were in the tier 5a playoffs last season.
"You guys came out and out skated with them. You beat them to almost every loose puck, and if we didn't win the race to the puck we forced them to do something with it. The way we played tonight is the way the Nordiques should be playing every game. If we can play every game like this we can't be beat.
"Doug, I want to thank you for stepping back and playing an excellent game on defense. You are a strong defensive player and you forced a lot of turnovers. All in all I couldn't be prouder of this team. The way we played tonight reminded me of the way we played to win the championship.
"Let's keep it up boys, 'cause we are in the playoff hunt and a team be reckoned with.
"Thank you Nordiques, for being such a great group of guys."
Nordiques tie Parts Unknown 1-1, but drop shootout
January 25, Stamford CT: Despite wins and losses, some games are just flat-out fun to play.
This was the Nordiques' best performance of the winter season, and the most enjoyable as well. It was a high-tempo contest, and both teams skated hard. At the end of regulation the scoreboard read 1-1, a testament to both goalies' phenomenal nights, and both teams' unwillingness to crack.
The only official goal scorer of the evening for the Nords was Andrew Vranos, who clearly played his best game of the season, and won accolades from all his teammates. Early in the first period, the Nordiques scored a goal that was disallowed by the official because he lost sight of the puck. Unfortunately for the Nordiques, the Parts goalie never had possession of the puck, and the disallowed goal effectively took the win away.
The Nordiques rolled two 4-man offensive lines and 5 defensemen. It worked well as the guys consistently got to pucks and forced Parts defenders into penalties. Fittingly, the shootout went the distance as well. All Nordiques players had a turn, and Justin Matijcio was the only Nordiques scorer. The shootout went to the Parts 2-1.
Nordiques drop close match to Pub Crawlers 4-3
January 18, Stamford, CT: Two very closely matched teams met up again last night, this time with the Pub Crawlers winning a 4-3 contest. (Earlier in the season, the Nordiques defeated the Pub Crawlers by the same score.) It was a well-played and gritty contest. Seaweed was superb in net, making many key saves to keep the game close. The loss drops the Nordiques' season record to a disappointing 3-6.
The Pub Crawlers skated well and controlled play early-on via smart positioning. Despite this, the Nordiques posted the first goal of the game, with good work down low by Eric Farrell and the entire second line. By the end of the second period though, the Nordiques trailed 3-1 on the scoreboard, letting in two short-handed goals in the process.
The Nordiques fought back in the 3rd period and tied the game on a strong rush by Anthony Gencarelli off an outlet pass from Steve Dryer. With several players from each team visiting the penalty box in the final stages, Pub Crawlers managed to score the even-strength winner.
After the game, Paul Modugno was relieved to be reunited with a lost hat which he received as a Christmas gift. (It was necessary to include this bit of news so we can end the story on a positive note.)
Norsemen 9, Nordiques 2
January 7, Stamford, CT: (No game report available.)
Nordiques drop heated contest to Puck Bandits 4-2
December 28, Stamford, CT: A hard-fought game against the Puck Bandits ended in a 4-2 loss for the Nordiques (really it was 3-2 with an empty net goal) on Tuesday night. The Nords quickly fell behind on a shorthanded goal by the Bandits, and, despite a full bench and two beautiful goals by Jim Cook and Kevin Unger, were unable to catch up. The game was characterized by scrappy play, as sticks were chopped and there was a great deal of shoving and body contact, which was largely ignored by the referees.
The Puck Bandits, as is their usual practice, had brought down a strong player from an upper tier who singlehandedly outskated the Nordiques and scored three of the Puck Bandit goals. Seaweed, between the pipes for the Nordiques, made many amazing saves and kept the score from being lopsided.
The Nordiques take a rest and resume play on January 7 in the new year.
Nordiques Plow Trashers 4-0 in Blizzard
December 19, Stamford, CT: Question: Guess who showed up at Stamford Twin Rinks late Saturday night along with the snow, wind and the hazardous blizzard conditions?
Answer: Two goalies, two officials, and enough Nordiques and Trashers to make a game of it.
That's right, a 10:30pm game was played Saturday night, and it was a lot of fun. Both teams had very short benches, naturally. Each squad had about 2 extra players, so there was plenty of ice time for all.
At the end the scoreboard read 4-0 in favor of the Nordiques, whose record is back to .500 at 3-3. The final score didn't seem to matter much though, and the spirit of the game and its players were celebrated more than the outcome.
At first it appeared the contest would be a battle of the goal tenders, both of whom played strong. In the final minutes of the first-period, Peter DiMartino got the scoring going by turning a nice pass in the slot from Justin Matijicio into a hard wrister that beat the Thrashers goalie 5-hole. Midway through the second period, Richie "Stone Hands" Bruno, playing forward position, fought vigorously amid a frenzy of players in front of the Trashers goalie. Bruno managed to fit the puck into the net alongside an assortment of Trashers and Nordiques players.
A couple of goals came in the third too, but despite the weather and short benches, Nordiques goalie Seaweed was on his game. He played confidently and made a number of highly-skilled and genuinely sweet saves. Trashers have a number of hard shooters and gritty players in front. Seaweed was strong throughout the contest and recorded the shut-out victory.
The fun continued post-game in the lounge as a number of hearty patrons waited for the blizzard to pass. The Nordiques play another late contest next Monday at 10pm vs the always tough Puck Bandits.
Post Script: The Nordiques, and frankly all hockey players at STR, are happy to see a spry-looking Mr. Gioia back at the scorer's table. A blessing indeed! An injury sustained during a tour of duty (score keeping a game) kept this man's-man away from the rink for a while. We all appreciate him coming out to manage the clock, watch games and hang out with the team.
Nordiques Drop Pivotal Game Against Parts Unknown 7-2
December 8, Stamford, CT: Coming into game 5 vs Parts Unknown, the Nordiques had a 2-2 record and a chance to take control of their goal to qualify for post-season play. In addition, they could have gained a valuable tie in the season series against Parts who beat the Nordiques in game 1. Instead, the Nordiques were strongly outplayed in a 7-2 loss. The Nordiques are 2 wins against 3 losses and will look to even it up again Sat Dec 19 vs Trashers.
In an identical start to Game 1, the Nordiques were not prepared when the puck dropped. Before half the first period elapsed, Parts jumped out to a 3-0 lead. The Nordiques clawed back to 3-2 in the second period with goals by Kevin Unger and Peter DiMartino (power play goal).
Trying to make a game of it at 3-2, things quickly got away from the Nordiques with inattentive play down low and in front of the net. Parts capitalized with 4 more tallies and the game ended 7-2.
Nordiques take revenge in 4-3 victory over Pub Crawlers
November 29, Stamford, CT: It was a late season loss last spring to the Pub Crawlers that ended the Nordiques long run of post-season qualifications. The two teams met again last night for the first time since. In what was a hard fought game against a tough team, the Nordiques prevailed 4-3. The win evens the Nordiques Winter 2010 record at 2-2.
A layoff that spanned more than three weeks since the team's last game did not appear to affect the offense as each line contributed goals. However, a 3-1 lead after the first period became a 3-3 tie after the second period.
The third period was a hotly contested and very well-played by the Nordiques. From corner to corner as well as north and south the teams battled for every puck. The D played strong in their zone, particularly Cookie and Dryer, and Seaweed made several key saves in net.
The warlike tone in the final half of the third period caused the Pub Crawlers to take two undisciplined penalties, both against Bill Farrell who played another inspiring game menacing his defenders. The game winner came with about 5-minutes left, on a power play goal by that same Mr. Bill Farrell, and the Nordiques stifled Pub Crawlers the rest of the way to take the satisfying win.
Nordiques edged by Puck Bandits 3-2
November 5, Stamford, CT: The Nordiques played a close game against the Puck Bandits Thursday night, edging ahead 2-1 in the first period, but then dropping behind 3-2 in the second. A penalty against the Nords with 1:23 left in the game squelched their chances of a last minute attack with the redoubtable Seaweed (filling in for regular goaltender Anthony Gencarelli) prepared to dash off the ice. The Nordiques played 5-on-5 during the penalty anyway, with their net empty, but were unable to put the puck in the Bandits' net.
Despite the loss, all agreed it was a fun, clean game and a good time was had by all.
Nordiques thrash Trashers 5-3, post first Tier 5 win
October 27, Stamford, CT: The Nordiques posted its first Tier 5 win last night with a 5-3 thrashing of the Trashers. All three offensive lines scored goals, as well as the D. Five different goal scorers hit the net including Rick Gioia, Peter DiMartino, Eric Farrell, and Steve Hepensteil. The Nordiques record is now 1-1. After its T5 debut last week, in which the Nordiques suffered its first defeat of the season at the hands of Parts Unknown by a 3-1 score, the team regrouped and skated with purpose. When commenting on the Nordiques chances in T5 play this year, captain Rick Gioia said before the game that if his team skated hard and had fun, as Nordiques teams normally do, he likes our chances despite the higher level of play in T5, which most notably is a faster game.
The Nordiques welcome Steve Hepensteil and Justin Matijcio to the team this season, and welcome back ALL of its players from last year as well. Steve and Justin played with some of the Nordiques this summer for the Moondogs.
Last night's penalty-free contest saw the Nordiques force the play and maintained at least a one-goal lead throughout the contest. Perhaps as a result of some rink-rust from the long layoff, Nordiques intensity dropped precipitously after a goal, resulting in a quick tally by the Trashers to narrow the gap and keep it relatively close on the scoreboard.
The Nordiques repeatedly were guilty of allowing too much traffic in front of Anthony Gencarelli, who again was magnificent in net, and also of allowing too many point shots. There are areas that the Nordiques will look to improve in its upcoming contest.
The Nordiques team is thrilled to be reunited again and look forward to the winter season. There was some early action being taken on the selection of the next Torche winner, which is awarded at the end of the season by the current trophy holder. When asked by reporters what he'll be looking for, present Torche trophy holder Peter DiMartino said, "I will be looking for a player who brings a full compliment of contributions...responsible defensive play, offensive participation and perhaps most importantly, someone who brings an uncommon passion for his game and his team this season". When asked if he could handicap a potential front runner, he replied that there aren't any yet. But DiMartino said he "genuinely looks forward to seeing the emergence of this special player".
Nordiques defeated 3-1 by Parts Unknown in first Tier 5 contest
October 18, Stamford CT: Tier 5, but alive.
The Nordiques entered into their first Tier 5 game against Parts Unknown, not knowing what to expect in this new tier. They found out that they can not only survive, but compete and compete well.
The Parts notched the scoreboard three times while dominating the first period. However, the Nordiques, rusty after the summer layoff, finally got their ice legs in the second period and scored a goal; they then settled down to play a steady back- and fore-checking game which resulted in a final score of 3-1. Both goaltenders were very much on their game, with Anthony Gencarelli turning away several three-on-one rushes by the Parts, and Seaweed, known to many as a longtime cordial friend of the Nords, made several spectacular stops between the pipes for the Parts.
The next contest for the Nordiques in Tier 5 is Tuesday, against the Trashers.
"nos bras meutris vous tendent le flambeau, a vous toujours de la porter bien haut..."