Huntsville Havoc Win 2018 President's Cup Championship
PEORIA, IL - The rallying cry for the Huntsville Havoc has been to finish strong and outlast their opponent.
"Rage, rage against the dying light," as poet Dylan Thomas succinctly put it.
The Havoc made SPHL history Sunday, April 29, becoming the first fourth-seeded team to win the President's Cup championship, beating the Peoria Rivermen 4-2 to take the three-game series.
"I couldn't be more proud of our team," said Havoc Head Coach Glenn Detulleo. "We played our most complete and best game when it mattered most!"
Scott Trask drew first blood for Huntsville at 3:10 into the first period, cleaning up a flurry of close shots in front of Rivermen goalie Tyler Parks by tucking one home to give the Havoc a 1-0 lead the team took into the first intermission.
In the middle frame, Peoria had a golden opportunity when two Rivermen went up against Huntsville keeper Keegan Asmundson on a breakaway, but the Havoc goalie laid out to make a great save and keep Peoria scoreless.
A few minutes later, Rivermen captain Dave Pszenyczny tripped up Huntsville's Stuart Stefan, earning a two-minute visit to the penalty box. Huntsville took seven seconds to extend their lead when Trask redirected a rocket shot from outside the circle by Anthony Calabrese.
But Peoria would not go away quietly on home ice.
As the Havoc finished killing off a penalty with six minutes left in the second period, Peoria's Joe Kalisz worked his way to the Huntsville goal and shuttled a short pass to Connor Gorman parked just outside the crease who banged it under Asmundson's leg pad. The Rivermen had cut the Huntsville lead in half.
It looked like the teams would only have a goal separating them at the second intermission, until Stephen Hrehoriak intercepted a Rivermen pass in the neutral zone with less than a minute remaining. He started a two-on-one breakaway with Shawn Bates and elected to take the shot himself, going top shelf on Parks. At the second break, the Havoc held a 3-1 lead.
Huntsville had beaten the Rivermen in Peoria only once all season - in game one of this series. They would not take the Rivermen lightly. Peoria won 21 games in their arena, more home wins than any other team. They finished first in the league and were in the SPHL finals for the third straight year.
The few dozen Havoc fans who made the 9-hour drive to central Illinois screamed themselves hoarse over the final period to cheer on the team. High tension was in the air on both sides, waiting to see what the third period would bring.
Huntsville killed two penalties in the third period, but Kalisz scored for Peoria with 2:33 remaining in the game, giving the Havoc a slim lead again. But Huntsville didn't blink.
Peoria pulled Parks from between the pipes with 1:30 remaining and started furiously attacking the Havoc end of the ice.
Huntsville broke the Rivermen with 25 seconds left when Stuart Stefan recovered a loose puck, making his way down the ice and, despite the open net ahead of him, unselfishly passed to Sy Nutkevtich who sealed the game.
The team, the fans in attendance, and those watching or listening at home jubilantly counted off the final seconds as the Huntsville Havoc, in game number 65 on the season, won the SPHL President's Cup championship 4-2.
Nutkevtich, who scored a goal in each playoff game against Peoria and recorded 13 points (5g, 8a) in the post season was named the Most Valuable Player. Stuart Stefan and 12-year-old Jacob Brown accepted the President's Cup on behalf of the team.
"Do not go gentle into that good night... Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
There will be a fan celebration as the team brings home the championship trophy on Tuesday, May 1. Details are still pending, so fans should be sure to follow the Havoc social media accounts for an official announcement.
"We can't wait to get back to Huntsville and celebrate with the best fans in all of hockey!" - Glenn Detulleo
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Southern Professional Hockey League Stories from April 30, 2018
- Come Celebrate SPHL Title with the Havoc Parade & Party on May 1 - Huntsville Havoc
- Havoc to Celebrate President's Cup Championship with Parade & Party on May 1 - Huntsville Havoc
- Huntsville Havoc Win 2018 President's Cup Championship - Huntsville Havoc
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