The Chiayi Sharks were crowned CIHL championships at the weekend to end a season which began in tragedy on a high note. Following the death of Matt Stever in a road accident in January, the Sharks squad bound together and carried on with Zak "The Captain" Garofolo, Corry Comeau and Greg "Garth Brooks" Macintosh picking up Stever's torch and making the playoffs, where they faced the Taichung Lions.
Game 1 in Taipei on Friday night saw the Sharks storm out early. Kevin “Hamburgler” Yu was like a man possessed and put the Sharks up early with help from Garofolo. The Lions were handicapped as their leading scorer, Robin “Left Eye” Ripley, was forced to play with a patched eye. Late in the third period, the Sharks’ Andrew “The Pink” LaRose undressed the Lions defense and put the Sharks up by one after the Lions had tied it up earlier in the period.
The Lions had a chance to take the game to OT, as Ripley was awarded a penalty shot with 11 seconds left. Fortunately for the Sharks, he was unable to beat goaltender Macintosh and game one ended in a 5-4 victory for the Sharks.
The Lions jumped into Saturday night’s Game 2 with gusto and went up by a couple points in the first period but the Sharks fought back in the second to tie the game up. The Lions took the lead again after some good point work by Bob “The Condor” Ford and the third period was wide open as each team scored three times in back-and-forth exchanges that featured some great goaltending and brilliant offensive plays. Ripley, now with the benefit of both eyes, put the Sharks away with three minutes left.
Sunday’s final game saw the Sharks on fire. Steve “Goldilocks” Clark generated offense and the Sharks quickly jumped up by two. The Lions didn’t crumble, though, and came up with two goals to close out the frame. The Sharks finished the second period ahead after Yu buried a slapper past Lions goaltender “Tattoo” MacNamara.
The third period brought tremendous pressure from the Sharks and a flurry of opportunities. The Lions were able to generate their own chances on the rush but Macintosh was huge in net. The Lions got a lucky bounce which left Mark “Paastastic” Paas with a wide-open cage to tie the game. With a minute left, the Sharks set up in the Lions zone and Chris “Crobs” Robison found a loose puck and made no mistake to put the Sharks up for good.
With the victory, the Sharks become the first-ever repeat winners, with Yu awarded the playoff MVP honors.
As for the rest of Stever’s boys? They did him proud and ensured that Matt will remain the champion he always was. Rest easy, Chat.