The best day of the Macs was played on the 31st of December, as it is every year. This is the day the stakes are clear. Win and you advance, lose and you are done. To get to the last day of Macs and final game, you must win on this day. Two games to get through it, 3 hours after you finish one you start another. Coaches have to keep their players as fresh as possible while playing high stakes, up tempo games.
GAME1 REGINA PATS 3 SSAC 2
Regina came into the game as a wild card against a very skilled SSAC team. For the first period and a half it was all SSAC and it looked like they would run away with a win. True to form the Regina coach started to go ballistic and his team was taking selfish penalties. All of a sudden something changed and late in the second the SSAC squad was called on 4 consecutive penalties for eight consecutive minutes of penalty killing. The tide of the game changed and Regina charged back in. Regaining their composure and completing the comeback in the third, from down 2-0 to a 3-2 win. It was a pretty intense game and very enjoyable. SSAC was out and Regina would have to recharge for the 3PM game against the Vancouver NW Giants who took down the Calgary Northstars 4-0 at the other rink.
GAME 2 CALGARY BUFFALOES 4 UFA BISONS 3
Who wasn’t excited about two local squads going to battle. Considering a Macs playoff history that included an overtime war this was bound to be good. These two teams have been the most successful local Macs participants for a decade, often providing hope to the local fans of a homegrown champion. Sometimes succeeding in capturing that championship. The game started out quick with both teams getting a couple of chances and showing they knew a lot about each other. The Buffaloes roared out to a 3-0 lead in the game but the UFA Bisons started to pick it up in the Second period and took control of the play for a while. They surged in the second from 3-1 all the way back to 3-3 with only a small amount of time left in the period. As the clock ticked down it appeared we were due for another overtime classic between these two teams. Then an outside drive and a puck thrown towards the net was deflected in by Porter of the Buffaloes with 7.1 seconds left. Best part was watching the coaches jump up and down in an embrace in celebration. It was a crazy fun finish to a great game. Both teams gave the fans one hell of a show. The Buffaloes advance to the Semi Finals at six awaiting the Cariboo Cougars who upset the Germans by a 5-1 score at FDB.
GAME 3 SEMI FINAL REGINA PATS 3 VANCOUVER NW GIANTS 2
There isn’t a whole lot to talk about in this game. The word incredibly boring comes to mind. Both teams looked like they were in their eighth game of the day not just a second. The game was characterized by a lack of passion and incredible number of mistakes. Neither team pushing the play or creating much of anything besides sleepy fans. 0-0 through 1, 1-0 after 2 and finally a flurry of activity made the third end 2-2. The game continued to a ten minute overtime without the ice being flooded. It solved nothing but insomnia. The second overtime yielded a goal on a nice shot from Regina, propelling them into the final, leaving many hoping the Buffaloes would win the next semi final and create a rematch of the round robin goon show.
GAME 4 SEMI FINAL CARIBOO COUGARS 5 CALGARY BUFFALOES 4
The rematch was not to be. This was the opposite of the previous game. A fantastic show of two very good teams. The Cariboo Cougars a team that creates a ton of chances by stretching the ice with long passes and penetrating the middle lane, splitting the opponents D. The Buffaloes a meticulous puck supporting team, with puck confidence allowing them to make outstanding plays. The game started with an early Buffaloes goal but the Cariboo goalie was fantastic. Making a number of great saves he was able to keep his team motivated. After 1 period the teams were locked up at 1. The second period the Cougars gained the lead scoring 2 goals to make it a 3-1 game. The Cougar goalie was good I figured that anything past 3 would be an issue for the Buffaloes. Fortunately the Buffalo goalie was equally impressive, so keeping it at 3 seemed reasonable. A Buffalo goal in the third to make it 3-2 had everyone excited but shortly afterwards the Cougars scored to make it 4-2. Pretty sure the Cougars had it wrapped at this point but with 3:29 left in the third they made it exciting by scoring. At least we were in for a good finish. However with the goalie out the Buffaloes scored again to tie the game with 29 seconds left. This lead to a back and forth overtime that ended in similar situations, one ending in a missed chance and the other ending the game. The buffaloes on a 3 on 2 rush had Phillips with the puck to the outside, he attempted a pass across the front of the net, narrowly missed by his teammate. The Cougars came back the other way 3 on 2 and instead of the cross ice pass the player left the puck for his high support who shot the puck away from the direction he was travelling. A perfect shot that somehow the Buffalo goalie almost still squeezed, however it just managed to trickle through the goalies arm and into the net. Cariboo Cougars on to the final against Regina.
It is always a bittersweet day. It is exciting to see the playoff games and find out what the final will look like. The hockey usually some of the best of the tournament. I am getting a little tired from lack of sleep and my Dad stuck out the day through some pretty rough sickness. Really sacrificed for the cause. We need the break. But I am always sad to leave my seats behind for the last time at Max Bell. I love the time with my Dad and love the hockey. Many wonder what would possess two men to spend 6 days on hard plastic chairs, in a rink watching hockey from 9AM – 1030PM. We don’t ask why we do it, we ask why it has to end. This year we were treated to an incredible tournament with some amazing teams. Matthew Phillips will go down with the Macs greats, like a Zach Parise. Phillips went 6 for 6 in player of the game awards and did something special every time he was on the ice. I will be telling my grandkids about this year and his performance. So while it is fun to see the end, it will be a long twelve months until I am back in my Christmas home.