"Slap Shot" meets "A Season on the Brink" in this twisted tale of minor league hockey in the place with more pro teams than any place in North America: TEXAS!

Bat Droppings 12/14/02

By Jason Cohen

The top penalty-killer wasn't playing. The #2 guy was in the box. But with Jeff Greenlaw in street clothes and Tab Lardner serving a double minor, the Ice Bats didn't give the Memphis River Kings an inch. Leading 2-1 in the middle of the second period, Austin killed off all four minutes of Lardner's high-sticking penalty, while Dan Price scored on the next shift, giving his team a decisive grip on a game it won 5-1.

The Bats tend to play their best against the best, and this may have been the season's finest effort.

"That's the key to a good team, rising to the occasion against other good teams," Bats goalie Bryan McMullen said.

Lardner set the tone early with a shorthanded goal two minutes and thirty-nine seconds into the game, and the Bats outshot Memphis 18-7 in the first period.

CHL goals leader Don Parsons only needed one to tie it up, netting his 18th of the year at 14:57. But after that the Bats stymied Memphis all night long, controlling play at the boards and never slacking in their puck pursuit.

"We knew we had to step it up, that they had a really fast team," Bats defenseman Daniel Tetrault said. "We played a simple game and worked real hard. Then our forwards started flying."

Indeed. Price's offensive magic closed the deal. The Austin winger set up the go-ahead goal with a sweet backhand pass through traffic to Brett Seguin, who deked goaltender Mark Richards with quick hands to make it 2-1 at 17:40 of the first. Gerald Tallaire also assisted; he began the sequence with a savvy kick of the puck to win a draw.

McMullen faced just 7 shots in the first period and 9 in the second, but made the big saves at key times - immediately after Lardner's early goal, and at the end of the double-minor, when he took one off the chest and poked the errant puck out of harm's way with his stick, then cut off the angle perfectly to take away a point-blank follow-up. McMullen was also steadfast in the final period, when desperate Memphis put up 14 shots.

Price's goal at 15:49 of the second was head-in-your-hands wicked, a perfect sharp-angle shot snapped under the crossbar in the only spot that Richards couldn't cover.

Austin poured it on with scores by Tetrault and Ryan Anderson in the final two minutes of the game. The Bats (17-6-1, 35 points) continue to own the most points in the CHL.

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