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Around the VHL: January 8th, 2021


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Welcome to Around the VHL - S75 Episode 4 - January 8th, 2021




It’s playoff time! We aren’t too far away now from finding out who will hoist the league’s ultimate prize, the Continental Cup, at the conclusion of S75. And speaking of S75 - if you haven't yet, make sure you check out VSN's Top 75 players from the first 75 seasons of VHL history! A lot of our writers have put in a lot of fantastic work on this series and we are so excited to bring you this trip down memory lane. Check out the first instalment (51-75) here!


The playoffs began with a bit of a surprise in the wildcard round, when the perennial contenders the Seattle Bears were brushed aside by the Chicago Phoenix in a 3-game sweep. It was a series that was closer than it looked - Chicago won all three games by one-goal margins - but nonetheless, the playoff newbies displaced the playoff veterans and moved on. In the other wildcard series, the Moscow Menace flexed their muscles with a 3-1 series win over London that included a 6-1 rout in the series-clinching fourth game.


If you’re one of those people that thinks there’s nothing in sports like Game Seven (which is true!), well, we hope you were paying attention in the quarterfinal round! In a thrilling set of post-season matchups, every single series went to a decisive 7th game.


Improbably, the Chicago Phoenix jumped out to a 3-1 series lead over the regular-season leading Calgary Wranglers. But the seasoned Calgary squad fought back with back-to-back wins and held a 3-2 lead in the third period of the seventh game when Chicago’s rookie sensation L tallied his 2nd of the playoffs on the PP to tie the game. The Chicago powerplay came through again in OT with Matty Socks sending the Phoenix to the next round.

The DC/Vancouver series was tight all the way through; a back-and-forth duel full of one-goal games. When it looked like Vancouver was about to break through, the Dragons got an OT winner from Groovy Dood to force a seventh game, then a heroic 55-save performance from Stone Wolski to earn a second-straight OT win and send themselves through in front of a stunned Vancouver crowd.


In the EU, the Moscow Menace sent the other defending champion squad packing in another series that went back and forth the whole way, and yet another one-goal win by the visiting squad in a game seven. This time it was a superstar forward with the heroics: Mikko Lahtinen scored 4 in game seven, including a game-tying goal with 1:32 left in the 3rd period, and the series-winner with 15 seconds to go. In an absolute thriller and Game of the Year candidate, Moscow won 6-5 and moved on to the semifinals.


Home ice disadvantage continued in the remaining series, where Malmo responded after dropping games 5 and 6. They seemed to be in little danger after scoring three straight goals to open up a 6-3 lead in the second period, and they’d hold on from there for a 7-4 win, keeping the dream alive for a Cup-winning farewell for Condor Adrienne. It was a balanced attack for the Nighthawks that got them through, with 3-point games from Arthur Dayne, Chris Hylands, Ray Sheilds, and Adrienne.


Onto the semifinals, where the Chicago Phoenix train looked like it was going to come to a screeching halt and they fell behind 3-1. All of a sudden, though, the Phoenix did like their namesake and sprung back to life with a statement 5-0 win featuring a 32-save shutout from Jean-Pierre Camus. Then the Dragons couldn’t put the Phoenix away, letting a 2-0 lead evaporate. Jeff Downey got a game misconduct for Spearing late in the second period, but the Dragons still couldn’t capitalize as Jean Pierre Camus tightened up in net again. Another pair of goals from L, including another OT winner for the rookie, brought us to yet another game seven. This time, Guy Lesieur energized the Dragons with goals 26 seconds apart, Xavier leFlamant gave them the lead, and Ove Dyrdahl scored what would hold up as the series winner, putting the pesky Phoenix away for good.


Across the pond, a battle was brewing between Moscow and Malmo and, following the theme, it was tight. Down 2-1 in the series, the Malmo Nighthawks got a pair of goals from Chris Hylands to take a 3-2 win in game 4. They threw 50 shots at Raymond Bernard in game 5, but still had to hold off a late surge from the Menace who cut a 3-0 lead down to 3-2, but they did it. And here we have our first series that didn’t go the distance: the Nighthawks came out with unbelievable intensity in game 6, outshot Moscow 59-28, and won a third-straight 3-2 decision to book themselves a matchup with DC.


It’s been one heck of a post-season for Moscow’s Roque Davis, who still sits 4-points clear of his next closest competitor in playoff scoring with 26 points. Teammate Mikko Lahtinen leads the playoffs with 14 goals, but it wasn’t enough to get their team through. Credit for another outstanding performance in a losing effort goes to Warsaw defenseman Latrell Mitchell, who put up 14 points in his team’s 7-game series against Malmo. For the teams in the finals, Benny Graves has led the way with 9 goals and 22 points for DC, and Guy Lesieur’s clutch game-7 performance has already been mentioned. Stone Wolski’s been tough to solve between the pipes in DC and sports a save percentage of 0.931, second in the post-season to Calgary’s Jacques Lafontaine (0.933 in 7 games). Malmo’s been led by Chris Hylands (10 goals, 20 points) and Ray Sheilds (7 goals, 19 points) offensively and Condor Adrienne is proving he’s still got it with 14 points and 57 hits.


We’ve been fortunate to witness a lot of thrilling, close games and series coming right down to the wire in S75. Now what began as a field of 10 has been narrowed down to 2. The Continental Cup Finals will be played between the Malmo Nighthawks and the DC Dragons, and it is the subject of today’s feature story.




If you ask DC Dragons winger Groovy Dood, Guy Lesieur saved their season, and it didn’t take him long. “Good guy Guy, he said, "mais no, we win this one.” When the guy who wins the Brooks with the most goals in the league says that we’re going to win, you gotta believe him. The best part about Guy is that he walks the walk. Buddy goes out there and scores a minute after they score. And then again 30 seconds later.”


Lesieur’s two goals in 26 seconds turned a 2-0 Chicago lead into a tie game, sparking the Dragons to what would eventually be a 4-3 lead after two, which they’d then hold onto for the rest of Game 7.


“We had all the pieces we needed to close this thing out. But then we didn’t, and then we didn’t again. Things started to get a bit nervous between the ol ears,” reflects Dood. “These upstart, underdog Chicagos were such a good story. The fans were all rooting for them because they were plucky, tenacious, and really were greater than the sum of their parts. The kids played their minds out… that <expletive> alphabet soup on the blueline wasn’t supposed to be this good, this soon. Jeff Downey was supposed to be a washed up goof. How were they here in the conference finals?”


When the Phoenix jumped out to a 2-0 lead, Dood admits he was a little rattled. “I was starting to feel like we weren’t going to pull it off. All of a sudden, Guy decided to give us a chance.”


Lesieur gave the Dragons life in a series that seemed to be slipping away, and the Dragons finally gained enough momentum to put away a very promising, talented young Chicago team. The two teams would trade goals, then Dood himself would make a nifty play to set up Ove Dyrdahl for what would eventually hold up as the series-winner. “I finally calmed the nerves and coach trusted me enough to give me a regular shift again. Here, let me draw up the play with all the empty beer cans,” he says.


“What an unreal victory,” said DC netminder Stone Wolski. “I could not be more proud of my team in that series. They kept my job pretty simple in Game 7, thankfully, with a lot of shots on the outside. Other than that crazy 2nd period, things went pretty well.”




After back-to-back 3-2 victories gave them a 3-2 series lead, the Malmo Nighthawks had a couple of chances to send the Moscow Menace packing.


When the puck dropped on Game 6, it quickly became clear that the Nighthawks didn’t intend to take both tries. Sure - Moscow got the only goal of the first period - but Malmo was carrying the play. Condor Adrienne - future Hall of Famer, franchise player, playing the final season of his career - was buzzing. So was the top unit of Ray Sheilds, Jungkok, and Chris Hylands.


The Nighthawks peppered Raymond Bernard in the Moscow net with shot after shot. 20 of them in the first period. 11 of them in the 2nd. Finally, they broke through when Marshall James Frostbeard redirected a blast from Guy Sasakamoose past Bernard. Frostbeard struck again 1:08 later. Later, with Nate Telker in the box for Moscow, Frostbeard picked up his third point of the period by setting up Adrienne for a bomb from the point - Adrienne’s second goal of the playoffs - and it was 3-1 Malmo.


The Menace hadn’t quit, but the Nighthawks were everywhere in the third period. They fervently got after every loose puck, won every battle, and unleashed a barrage at the Moscow net. Yet somehow, Raymond Bernard stopped every single one of the 28 shots fired at him in the third period. Moscow cut the lead to one with 1:45 left in the third period, but Malmo wouldn’t allow them another opportunity.


The clock hit zeroes and the buzzer sounded, and Malmo emptied the bench in celebration. A devastating way to go for Bernard, but a chance at the ending everyone in Malmo wanted for Adrienne. But the Nighthawks were already ready to focus on the next round. “It’s exciting, we’re all getting hyped for our next game, we’re so close to getting that Cup and I know everybody on Malmo is ready to win. We aren’t gonna let this chance slide,” Ray Sheilds told the media assembled in the locker room.



So here we are, rapidly approaching the finale to S75. In a season full of playoff thrillers - both individual games and entire series - who knows what’s to come? There’s not much to choose from ahead of what VHL fans hope is another matchup that follows the trend of close, hard-fought playoff hockey and long series. The Dragons finished the season 40-23-9 for 89 points; the Nighthawks finished 41-27-4 for 86 points. Malmo’s a high-octane offense - second in the league in goals for (260) - while DC was the hottest team in the league down the stretch thanks in large part due to a stifling defense that ranked third in the league in goals against (197), aided by Stone Wolski’s superb second half that catapulted him into MVP discussion.


Wolski’s strong post-season play has him in the playoff MVP discussion, too. “I think I have done quite well, but I would not be where I am statistically without my teammates. Benny (Graves) has also been on fire this post-season and I can really see that he wants it,” he says of his playoff success.


Ahead of what should be a thrilling clash of contrasting styles, both sides remain confident that their teams can get the job done.


“They’re a tough team, but I think we’re the better,” says Sheilds. “It will be exciting to see what happens and hopefully we can get Condor his Cup.”


Shields may have some opposition on the first part of his statement. “I believe we have what it takes to beat them… they have a great team over there, but in my opinion, it’s our championship to lose,” says Wolski. “We have a ton of confidence and I truly think we have what it takes to win it all. We all have worked so hard in the seasons leading up this point, and are determined to win. Of course, this is a tough test in front of us, but we all believe it’s possible. It’s do or die time.”


Dood echoes his teammate’s confidence. “We’ve got the top goal scorer in the league, who might be Playoff MVP if we finished now. We’ve got the best goalie in the league, who might win the season MVP. They’re both studs who have led us this far,” says Dood, before landing a parting shot at his competition: “As far as Malmo goes, really, truly, Malwho? Never heard of ‘em.”




Players Mentioned: @gorlab @bigAL @DollarAndADream  @Beketov @OrbitingDeath  @Zetterberg @Hylands @Infernal @BarzalGoat @KC15 @GRZ @solas @Josh @dasboot @STZ @fishy @tfong  @Mr_Hatter @FrostBeard @Cxsquared

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No fantasy zone this week, didn't seem to make sense to write one right now with nothing really happening.


Sorry to Hylands for posting this before getting your responses to my questions, wanted to make sure I got it out before the next set of Continental Cup finals sims...


bigAL gave me a very entertaining writeup that I didn't get to use all of. For example, the breakdown of the game-winning goal referenced in the article above, for your reading enjoyment:


The puck's going into their end and, as always, Willy's the first one off and X hunts that thing down like a dog on a bone. I hop over the boards because I'll take any chance I get to play with X now that we're on separate lines. So he's chasing the dump and grabs it in the corner. They're on the long change cause of the 2nd eh, so they're all discombobulated. X beats chum into the corner and grabs it. I'm streaking up behind him when the puck squeaks out and surprises me, landing RIGHT on my stick. He always knows right where I am. I'm at the right dot, just kinda wide open, but Camus is staring me down. Have you ever seen him with his mask on? It's fucking terrifying, his blue eyes pierce your soul. I'm standing there, just me 'n' him, clamming up. The chances of me sniping a clean shot on this guy are zip. But speaking of zip, I see big man Ove just zipping down the ice. That goon just doesn't have brakes, and it's what we love about him. He's just burreling at the net, and I catch his scent. You know when Ove's hustling cause you can smell his engine chugging about halfway through the first. So I sniff a stiff breeze, and, without breaking eye contact with Camus, sauce the puck across to the other circle. Camus and I are just eye-fucking each other, and he doesn't notice the big man coming in either. Ove smashes the puck back door and that's a goal for the good guys! We locked it down in the third and that beauty held up as the series-winner.


Thanks for that! and thanks to everyone I reached out to for their responses :)

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3 hours ago, tcookie said:

No fantasy zone this week

yeah, that was my fault. i completely forgot about it until last night :(


another amazing article tcookie!! your articles are the ones i most look forward to from VSN, keep up the high quality work!

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5 minutes ago, fishy said:

yeah, that was my fault. i completely forgot about it until last night :(


another amazing article tcookie!! your articles are the ones i most look forward to from VSN, keep up the high quality work!


oh no I just meant I didn't think it would make sense to write about something there when we don't do any fantasy for the playoffs... I guess we do have the pick 'ems sometimes but that's not what I was referring to - no worries at all! (I guess I mis-typed as well, I meant to say no fantasy corner but typed no fantasy zone, sorry if that contributed to the confusion)


thanks for the kind words fishy!

Edited by tcookie
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