Thursday night, April 7th, 2011, is a day that should now live in infamy.
It should have been such a forgettable night. The 4th place Space Invaders were facing the 1st place Mad Hatters in the first round of the ‘B’ league spring playoffs. That sounds like a miss-match in-and-of-itself, but consider also this was the 8-0 Hatters, vs, the 1-6-1 Space Invaders. In two games the Hatters had outscored the Space Invaders 18-4. Not only that, three of the Invaders best players, Randy Rottenbiller, Cullen Fortney and Mike Thigason were missing for the evening–and defensemen Henry Roberts was relegated to coach after suffering a broken rib in the last league game, on a vicious hit from Dave Castro.
Consider also that the Hatters were the first 8-0 team in B league history. Consider also that the Space Invaders were 0-5-1 going into week 8 of the season, and squeaked out a victory against the Blanks just to pull into 4th place and make the playoffs. So their only win had come against the worst team, and even that was a close game. The Hatters effectively clinched a playoff spot week 2, a 10-4 annihilation of the Space Invaders.
As team captain Scott Cremeans put it, “Our basic game plan throughout the season could best be described as a house of cards. From a distance, if the opponent wasn’t paying attention or was drunk enough, they might have thought we were packing a castle, but as soon as they so much as sneezed, we’d completely fall apart and lay flat while they walked all over us.”
“We did everything we could to lose games.”, Defensmen Galen Moll reflected. “Sometimes we’d give up 5 unanswered points in the first five minutes of a game. Other times we’d give up 5 unanswered points in the last five minutes of the game. We scored on ourselves many times, sometimes we’d pass the puck right to players in our slot so they could get more shots. There were entire games where we didn’t complete a breakout pass, not a single one. ”
“If we stop looking like the worst team in history, what argument do we have that we were the greatest?” – Dan Cutforth
As Travis Tveidt put it, “Sometimes we’d throw our hands in the air like we just didn’t care.. but that was just a ruse. We did care, we just sucked. And we sucked hard.”
But all of these numbers still don’t fully display how big of a mismatch this game was. The last time the two had played, the Hatters scored 4 goals in the first 4 minutes, en route to a 8-0 destruction. They stopped shooting 10 minutes in as the game had gotten embarrassing. The Invaders didn’t even get 8 shots in that game, and had no quality scoring opportunities. In plus/minus The Hatters were plus 36 in their 8 league games, the Invaders were minus 21. That’s a 98 point differential for those of you who don’t do math.
Forward Ken Sebrowski—who is old enough to be the great-grandfather of most of the Hatters—has seen this before. “Back in the day, I used to know this guy named David. He had a sling shot and nobody took him seriously either.”
The outcome was predetermined, but as other sports writers have said, ‘that’s why they play the game’.
On Thursday night nine Invaders, joined by Cody McCarthy (the captain of the last place Blanks) and Will Friedner(the captain of the last place C league team ‘The Profits’)– stepped onto the ice, and into legend. They led 2-0 after the first period on scores by Friedner and Matt Padgham. They led 3-2 after the second period with a late score by Kevin Devine, after the Hatters had tied it up. They led 5-3 with a second to go when someone shouted from the bench “DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES!?!”
“I couldn’t be more proud of these boys, and that one girl,” Quipped coach Henry Roberts. “I mean really, you can put a lot of the credit on me, but not all of it by any means. All I did was throw myself under a Castrobus to become the team martyr, they did the rest.”
“It looked like Eddie Belfour standing on Gump Worsley’s head with 4 arms like a statue of Vishnu. Those extra two arms? Those were Dominick Hasek’s.”
What Roberts did do however was call in some key plays. “We played ’14 Green Bottle’ most of the third, ’77 A/B double shift’ the rest. These plays mostly involved having the entire team stand in the crease while the Hatters took shot after shot from the point. Break out? Why bother? They’d only chase us down in the neutral zone. We had six scoring opportunities in the entire game, we scored on 5 of them. They had about 50, but they’ve never seen a goalie the likes of Dan Cutforth.”
The Space Invaders hadn’t see a goalie like Cutforth either. “Who the hell was playing goalie for us tonight?” asked forward Dale Crosby Newman, “It looked like Eddie Belfour standing on Gump Worsley’s head with 4 arms like a statue of Vishnu. Those extra two arms? Those were Dominick Hasek’s.”
After the game Dan glowed as he sipped a cold beer in the locker room. (He literally glowed like a toxic waste dump). “I don’t know if this alcohol mixes well with all the cortisone, steroids, acedemeniphine, aspirin, amphetamines, EPO and Nitrous Oxide, but I don’t care. It all just feels like victory to me.”
Mike Carey pointed out the losses on both sides. “To be fair, they were missing a couple key guys tonight. But to be really fair, they were also missing Lady Luck, Jesus Christ, various Norse battle gods, and Zeus.”
Asked if they thought they’d stand a chance in the finals next week, Dan thought for a minute. “I hate to say it, but I think winning another game really would only cheapen this upset. If we stop looking like the worst team in history, what argument do we have that we were the greatest?”
But the most important factor in the game may have been karma. Just about one year ago to the day, the Space Invaders lost to the Hatters in the league finals. Those Space Invaders carried a 8-1 record and an argument as one of the best B teams ever. Hatters captain Jim Barone was on that 2010 Hatters team, and tasted the sweetest of victories when they scored an overtime goal to finish the Invaders off. 12 months later the shoe was on another foot.
Lastly, speaking of Karma, here’s a clip of a text conversation between Hatter’s goalie Bob Ohlson and Will Friedner from the afternoon of the game (don’t forget ‘C’ league Friedner took the first shot of the game and scored on Ohlson).
Bobby: Our schedule in The Monty is decent. you better be ready to light the lamp
Will: Sounds like I will get a lot of practice scoring tomorrow night! I was called up by the Space Invaders. Hopefully I will be able to put on another scoring clinic against you!
Bobby: Glad you get to play. Come say Hi in my crease and I will BOBBY SCISSOR HANDS your ankles w/ my goalie stick. It’s really sharp now
Will: If I remember correctly, the puck is usually behind you by the time I’m in the crease. Would you like to seal your fate with a little beer wager ?
Bobby: The last time I bet you, you never showed up w/ the wager. If you don’t bring a 12 pack of Kokanee GOLD there’ll be no bet
Will: Why would I need to bring beer If you will be giving me a 12 pack after the game? It is called confidence
Bobby: You should be in government. Promises made but never delivered. Ponzi scheme Will
Will: How is that not delivering, I won the bet, I delivered with goals, If I lose I run next door and get the beer
Bobby: OK…it better be ice cold. And get a bag of pretzels too
Will: What is the bet? Do I just have to score on you or do we need to win?
Bobby: You need to win
Will: That would be a dumb bet. You beat them by 10 the last time. I can only do so much!
Bobby: Will- I LUV U LIKE A BROTHER…u had me in stiches when u said I can only do so much. TOO FUNNY. Dude, you won’t hardly touch the puck let alone score. I will take the bet that UUUU will NOT score. I’m tempted to bet u won’t even get a shot
Will: We have a deal, I am parched
Bobby: hafta score. But each shot u get on me counts as a beer going back to you