NAHL Stuff: Springfield Jr. Blues 3, Chicago Hitmen 5 10/21/11

Last night's game reminded me of the often-used line from Han Solo in the first Star Wars movie: "Don't get cocky, kid."  The Springfield Jr. Blues did just that and it caused them to lose 3-5 against a smaller and weaker Chicago Hitmen squad.

The first period opened slowly with the Jr. Blues keeping the puck in Chicago's end of the rink for all but a few minutes.  Despite 16 shots on goal for Springfield and 7 for Chicago, neither side was able to score.  None of the penalties in the period (3 Springfield, 2 Chicago) allowed for a scoring chance either.

The second period opened up much like the first with the Jr. Blues pinning the Hitmen down in their own zone.  At 3:34, Gavin Tufte sent a puck past Chicago goalie Nick Kohn for the first tally of the night.  The Jr. Blues weren't able to capitalize on the two Hitmen penalties to continue scoring.  They did manage to go without penalty through to the end of the period.

Remember what I said about being cocky?  This is where it came back to bite them.  The Jr. Blues, used to keeping the puck in their opponents' zone by now fell apart and their defense communicated poorly, allowing three goals by the Hitmen within the first six minutes.  David Gandara scored at 1:44, followed closely by Tommy Dowell at 2:04 and then Brandon Flood chipped in a third point at 5:04.

A penalty at 9:49 by Vince Lacek for interference gave the Jr. Blues a chance to close the gap when Shayne McLaughlin scored on the power play. The Hitmen returned the favor at 15:25 when Eric Szafranski scored during a power play resulting from Chris Stiler's  interference penalty at 14:00.  Anthony Annunziato scored the Hitmen's final goal at 16:03.  A late-period rally attempt netted one goal from Jr. Blues veteran Ethan Nauman, but even a six-man swarm at the end couldn't tie it up.  The Chicago Hitmen took the first of a three-game series 5 to 3.

The first thing I noticed was that each team served up more turnovers than an Arby's dessert heater.  Both teams ran through the lines intercepting passes with ease.  The second was Chicago's style of play.  Imagine having Sean Avery on a line with Jordin Tootoo and Dan Carcillo.  Their offense was pest-based, with Chicago's Brandon Flood leading the way.  While it got him one goal, Flood found himself on the receiving end of multiple checks into the boards.  He might want to stop trying to slash his way into puck possession, that's all I'm saying.

The second thing was how quickly the Jr. Blues deflated.  Their previous game was a drubbing of the league powerhouse St. Louis Bandits.  They weren't able to continue with the mental toughness that got them through that contest.  Tonight will hopefully see a resurgence of the Jr. Blues' confidence.

Attendance was 613 for the evening, putting the Nelson Center's average at 829 so far this year.

Tonight's game will be held again at the Nelson Center.  The gate opens at 6pm for a 7pm puck drop.  Tickets are $8 for adults or $5 for children, seniors, military personnel and students with valid ID.

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