IceBats Face Rematch Against Memphis for Title
By Jason Cohen
Goaltender of the Year Matt Barnes saved his best for
last, and that means the Austin Ice Bats will rejoin
Memphis in the President's Cup Final.
long after the defending champion RiverKings completed
its sweep of Indy for the Northern Conference crown,
Austin, the league's best regular season squad, took
out the Laredo Bucks in six to win the South.
made 35 saves in the 3-2 victory, completing a streak
of three wins in three nights for Brent Hughes' squad,
which had trailed the series 2-1 before Game 4.
Bats did it just like you're supposed to in the playoffs,
with goaltending, defense and special teams. Austin
had two power-play goals in each of the last three games,
while over the course of the series, the highly skilled
Bucks lit the lamp just once in 25 chances with the
the Bats were keyed by the "STP Line" of Brett
Seguin, Gerald Tallaire and Dan Price. The trio teamed
up for eight points tonight, including Price's winner.
Laredo gave them all they had, with Andy Lundbohm and
Morten Ask stepping up offensively as the Bats focused
on stars Eric Schneider and Chris Grenville. The Bucks
got nearly interchangeable goaltending from veteran
Lance Leslie and rookie Marc-Andre LeClerc and strong
performances from underated defensemen Rob Stanfield
and Serge Dube.
Game 4, Laredo scored its first goal 48 seconds after
Austin did. In Game 5, the two teams' initial tallies
were separated by just 18 ticks. Tonight, Gerald Tallaire's
power-play goal at 5:55 of the first period was answered
by Schneider 21 seconds later, an unmolested follow-up
from the slot after Barnes slapped away Grenville's
Bats took a 2-1 lead into the locker room on Pat Brownlee's
power-play goal at 19:05 of the first, assisted -- as
was Tallaire's goal -- by Seguin and Price.
Bucks had a good power-play chance early in the second
period, working the puck around the zone for a long
time with Bats forward Tab Lardner caught without a
stick. But the shift's only shot was an easy save for
Jonah LeRoux, the OT hero of Game 3, beat Barnes with
a rocket from the right circle at 9:29 of the middle
period, making it 2-2.
42 seconds later, the Bats were back on top, with Price
taking off on an unassisted breakway. He put a backhander
around Leslie, who had flopped forward for the poke-check.
had a mirror-image scoring chance from the left circle
early in the third, but this time Barnes made a tough
playing the game shorthanded -- forwards Andy Lundbohm,
Morten Ask and David Myson were all unavailable, with
the previously injured Dion Hyman returning to the blue
line, and Stefan Keski-Kungas moving up to forward --
the Bucks outshot the Bats 37-20, including an outrageous
33-9 edge over the final two periods.
may have missed its last best chance on a Matt Sharuga
obstruction penalty at 9:04 of the third. During that
sequence, Bucks coach Terry Ruskowski sent LeClerc in
for Leslie to rest his PP unit, but the the Austin PK
was up to the task, with Barnes making three or four
expansion Bucks, second in the CHL with an average attendance
of 6683, named its wildly enthusiastic fans first star
of the game.