"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!

Austin Evens Finals at A Game Apiece
by Jason Cohen ITC Staff Writer

Shawn Legault's goal at 8:43 of overtime gave the Austin Ice Bats a 2-1 win in Game 2 of the Central Hockey League President's Cup Finals, evening the best-of-seven series 1-1.

"It was great to get back to where we needed to get from last night," Bats coach Brent Hughes said. "We've still got a long road ahead of us."

Games 3, 4 and 5 are in Memphis, starting Monday night. The Kings leave Austin with a split for the second year in a row, though until Dan Price made it 1-1 at 11:32 of the third period, it appeared they'd leave with more.

"At the end of the day are you happy for a split? Yeah," Memphis coach Doug Shedden said. "I'm not happy that we had a chance to really put the foot down on them and not bury them, but they're a great team, nobody thought it was going to be a four game sweep. We won seven games in a row and now we've got to get our heads back there and do something again."

Legault's winner came amidst a scrum of second chances, with strong work in the corners by he and Greenlaw and a delayed reaction by the goal judge and referee Gord Dwyer as the puck got past the line.

"I was just sort of battling for the puck down in the corner and it popped out to me," said Legault, who'd already gotten off one shot. "I passed it out in front to Greenlaw who got a pretty good shot off, the rebound came out to me and I just fired it at the net. Somehow it snuck in. I was laying in the corner looking, I thought it was in his pads and all of a sudden I saw the ref pointing at the goal."

It was a solid if not especially inspired game up until the third. Austin's intensity remained sporadic, prompting Hughes to mix up his line combinations. Memphis continued to have the Ice Bats' number in the defensive zone, but didn't generate any scoring sparks

sparks themselves. Bats goaltender Matt Barnes and his Kings counterpart Mark Richards played as finals goalies showed, stopping 35 shots each.

Then Bats defenseman Mike Gaffney got the lowest low and highest high in a matter of five minutes. He could only sit and watch, serving an unnecessary obstruction-holding penalty, as Jonathan Gagnon gave the RiverKings a 1-0 lead at 6:37 of the third period.

But sure enough, with an unthinkable 0-2 series deficit looming over every shift, Gaffney got open during the sort of puck-cycling the Bats had lacked most of the series. Gerald Tallaire found him at the left point, and Price deflected Gaffney's drive past Richards for the tying goal.

It was Austin's first score in more than two full games, dating back to the second period of Game 6 of the Laredo series.

"There's no way that Gaffney shot should get through, our guy should have blocked it," Shedden said. "Y'know, if you want a championship you got to have everybody paying the ultimate price, and we didn't have that tonight."

Gaffney's goal was like Viagra washed down with Red Bull for the Bats, which looked like a different team from there on out. Solid penalty killing got their feet out of the fire when the team was whistled for a too many men on the ice penalty with less than three minutes remaining in regulation.

Conversely, Austin enjoyed a power play early in OT, thanks to a Riley Cote holding-the-stick that probably wouldn't have been called if not for the fact that it caused a Memphis three-on-one.

The Bats couldn't score on the PP, but continued its momentum. Tab Lardner and Gerald Tallaire both had chances before Legault's tally cued an emotional post-game celebration (and a huge sigh of relief for Hughes).

"We've had a lot of overtime games and one-goal hockey games this year," the Bats coach said. "I think that does help out when you get in these situations."

"With the series in Memphis last year, with Memphis winning 4 games to 1, I think they were a little bit intimidating to some of the guys," said Legault, who also lost a final last

year, with Elmira of the UHL. "Now that we've proven to ourselves we can beat 'em I think it's going to be a different series."

 


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