April 12, 2017 - Federal Hockey League (FHL) - Danville Dashers
DANVILLE - Shot after shot, Berlin goaltender Matt Kaludis and the River Drivers defense were always in the right position on Tuesday night.
Kaludis turned away 37 shots, recoring his first-ever playoff shutout as Berlin took a 1-0 series lead against the Danville Dashers in the FHL Commissioner's Cup Finals with 1-0 victory at the David S. Palmer Arena.
"The boys played well and slowed them down,'' said Kaludis, who has allowed only four goals in three playoff wins this year. "They have an experienced team, but we are fast and young, full of piss and vinegar.
"It's going to be a race and we got the first one.''
Kaludis saved his best for the final period when he turned away 14 shots.
Danville forward Justin Levac had one of his shots go off of Kaludis and then off the right-hand post, while Andrew Harrison's shot with just under seven minutes remaining was turned away by the stick of Kaludis. But the Dashers best scoring opportunity in the third period came with just four minutes left as Marc Thompson had a one-timer that hit Kaludis square in the chest, but Danville didn't have anyone in position to knock home the rebound.
"That was our best game of the year,'' said Berlin coach Andre Niec. "These boys showed why they are here. Why they deserved to be here. And I'm very proud of them.
"Matt Kaludis is a great goalie. He started here in Danville this year. They let him go and we got him. He showed why he is one of the best goalies in our league.''
Danville coach Steve Harrison gave all the credit to Berlin.
"They have a helluva a hockey team,'' he said. "They came in with a game plan and they played a great game.
"We just didn't have that extra gear tonight. I don't think we played poorly, but we just didn't have that extra gear that we've had this season. We need to bring that extra gear tomorrow and we need to keep shooting.''
But while the Dashers had 37 attempts on goal, only a handful of them came from inside of 10 feet. The majority of Danville's attempts were long shots from the perimeter of the Berlin defense.
"It seemed like our second and third guys were flying by the net instead of stopping in front,'' Harrison said. "I still feel good about things. My team likes to find out the temperature of the water before jumping in. Now, we know what the temperature is and we need to jump in.
"We have regrouped every time that we've needed to this year and this is just another time.''
Harrison acknowledged that Danville might need to make a few adjustments.
"They like to block shots,'' he said. "We need to get our heads up and look at that. There are some things that I saw tonight. If we can work on some things to be a better team for tomorrow, we will be okay.''
Berlin got the only goal of the contest in the final minute of the second period.
Forward Jiri Pestuka slipped past the Dashers defense and won the 1-on-1 battle with goalie Louie George. Pavel Kubena and Dominik Synek were credited with assists on the game's only tally.
Getting the first victory in the best-of-five series is important, but Niec says getting the first road victory is really big deal.
"Winning the first game away from home is a huge thing, especially because we had a 24-hour travel day,'' said the Berlin coach, noting his team made the nearly 1,000-mile trip on Monday. "I will take a bow for my boys and congratulated them.
"While winning one game was big, we want to win both games. If we can do that, it will be a lot easier as we will get to rest in our own beds and get ready for Game 3 in our arena in front of our fans.''
The second game of the series is set for tonight at the Palmer Arena. The puck will drop at 7 p.m.
"You always would like to win that first one in our own barn, but it didn't happen,'' Harrison said. "No one said it was going to be easy and we knew what type of series this was going to be. If it has to go five games, it has to go five games.
"It's going to be a dog fight and we just need to come back ready to battle (tonight)."
Both Berlin and Danville are seeking its first-ever FHL Commissioner's Cup.