"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!

Series Tied 2-2 in a Two Overtime Game
by Jason Cohen

Want to know what big assists are made of? Ask Dan Price, normally a scorer.

The Austin winger made a great individual effort to set up Brett Seguin with the winner at 10:15 of double overtime, giving the Ice Bats a 4-3 triumph over the Laredo Bucks in Game Four of the Central Hockey League Southern Conference Finals.

A record 8214 fans at the Laredo Entertainment Center saw the Bats regain home ice advantage in the series, which is now tied 2-2. Game 5 is in Austin Friday night.

After more than an hour of scoreless hockey, Price, in the Laredo zone, whipped himself past the left post and faked a wraparound, shaking off Jonah Leroux as he headed for the slot. Amidst the tangle in front of Bucks goaltender Lance Leslie, his backhander went in off Seguin's shoulder.

"It's been a hard fought series," Ice Bats coach Brent Hughes said. "Three out of four games in overtime, it's been draining. It was a huge hockey game for the Austin Ice Bats to win tonight, that's for sure."

It was 1-1 midway through the first period when Rob Stanfield (holding) and Chris Grenville (high-sticking) gave the Bats 80 seconds of five-on-three.

They only needed 18. Leslie slid to stop a Seguin blast from in between the points, allowing Gerald Tallaire to pop the puck into a mostly open net at 10:20 of the first.

The Bats got another two-man edge when Matt Van Horlick went away for boarding Kelly Smart at 11:40, 22 seconds before Grenville was to return.

This time, the lamp flashed red in 13 seconds. Price's second goal of the playoffs, assisted by Mike Gaffney and Brett Seguin, gave the Bats a 3-1 lead.

"We got off to a great start, we capitalized on the chances that we got, but they're a great offensive hockey club," Hughes said. "We can never let our guard down, as soon as we do the puck is in our net."

Indeed, while the Bats killed off four straight Laredo power plays and have kept Bucks stars Grenville and Eric Schneider mostly off the board, they couldn't shut down Morten Ask. At 5:38 of the second, the Swedish center, who would later leave the game with an injury, took a drop pass from Schneider above the circles and drove the rubber home, using Austin's defensemen as a screen.

Down 3-2 the Bucks stepped up their attack, and at 9:14 of the second, Stefan Keski-Kungas' point shot from the right circle was deflected in by a camped-out Joey Sewell.

Late in the second, Bats goalie Matt Barnes stopped a Grenville/Schneider point-blank rush, while Leslie and the Bucks penalty-killers frustrated the Austin power play on two consecutive opportunities early in the third.

Austin also failed to cash in on a Laredo too-many-men early in the first overtime, while Bucks coach Terry Ruskowski put his hands over his eyes, pantomiming referee Gord Dwyer's vision, when Jeff Petruic got yanked down with the puck in front of him not long after that.

Leslie made an incredible stick-side save on Smart's rebound of a Lardner shot with under five minutes left in the first OT.

But Laredo's biggest flashpoint was a goal that never was, with just over eight minutes remaining in that same period. Barnes was falling backwards after a save when Dwyer blew the whistle, and while it may seem unfair that the referee lost sight of the puck, because he did so, and because he blew the whistle, Dave Gilmore's subsequent tap-in was a moot point.

Austin blueliner Patrick Brownlee opened up the scoring at 3:26 of the first, carrying the puck across the blue line and around Van Horlick to set up a two-on-none that Tab Lardner finished at the far post.

48 seconds later it was 1-1, as Keski-Kungas notched his first-ever goal in a Laredo sweater.The Swedish defenseman fed Andy Lundbohm in front, then swooped into the slot to slide the rebound past a fallen Barnes.

 


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