TV Time-Out: Taking a break in "Sweet Sixteen" HOCKEY BLAST action, October 26, 2019. (From left, seated) Mark Russell, Joe Petrafassi, Steve Tower;(from left, standing) Bobby McGill, Bill Sauerbier, Ken Castro, John Veruzzo, Pete Adams.
Saturday, October 26th, New England PLAAY Gamers headed to Battleground Hobbies and Games in Norton, MA for our Fifth Annual "Commissioner's Surprise" HOCKEY BLAST Tournament—where EVERY team has a chance to win it all! Among the folks who showed up to watch and/or play were Pete Adams, Brien Aronov, Ken Castro, Michael Forbes, Steven Foster, Bobby McGill, Mark Russell, Joe Petrafassi, Bill Sauerbier, John Veruzzo and AFR's Steve Tower. This was our second visit to Battleground Games, which was host to the 2014 HISTORY MAKER BASEBALL Fall Classic Pre-PLAAY! We had an another AWESOME time at Battleground Games, thanks so much to Chase and his support crew for making us feel right at home!
EVERY pro team from the current HOCKEY BLAST Pro Season card set is included in our annual tournament. It's single-elimination, and the match-ups were completely random—we will literally drew them out of a hat in a LIVE PLAAY Games Facebook webcast on Tuesday, October 1st! The previous year's real-life championship series teams always get a first round bye for this tournament, that was Boston and St. Louis this year. The pro league's expansion to Las Vegas a couple years ago gives us an un-even number of teams (31), so we've altered our format just a little bit for the event. We kicked off the tournament with a "PLAAY-in" game between the bottom two pro teams from the 2018-19 season, Los Angeles and Ottawa, streamed live on the PLAAY Games YouTube Channel Thursday night, October 3rd. The winner of that game--Los Angeles--joined the other 27 first-round teams (see pairings and results below).
The run-down of the tournament is featured below. Everything from the "Commissioner's Surprise Sweet Sixteen" right down to the championship game was played entirely on-location in Boston. As is always the case, we had some epic games. In the end, Tampa Bay showed why they dominated the real-life hockey season (even though their real-life playoff run was shockingly brief!). The Bolts ran the gauntlet of some of the league's best clubs on their path the to Commissioner's Cup, knocking off Washington, Nashville, Boston, and St. Louis before humbling New York in the championship game. We didn't choose a tournament MVP, but my vote would be for Tampa Bay's goalie Vasilevskiy, who shut down the league's most potent scoring machines, allowing just three goals in five games!
After the hockey was done, we had some time to chill out a little and talk sports games. Inspired by our PLAAY Games Laboratory Lightning Round YouTube webcast, Pete brought a formula one variant of RED WHITE & BLUE RACIN' that he's been working on and showed us how it worked. I brought along a couple of the games-in-progress I'm working on, and spent some time soliciting feedback. Bill brought along his copy of Twisted Fate: Cowboys vs. Aliens, I got to play a two-player game with him (um, we lost!).
All too soon, the afternoon was over and it was time to head home. Thanks to everyone who made the trip, it was a great afternoon spent amongst wonderful people! And thanks again to Chase and his crew at Battleground G&H for hosting us!
Leafs and Wings: John Veruzzo (left) and Pete Adams (right) take a break from the Detroit-Toronto "Sweet Sixteen" matchup. The Leafs won in OT, 4-3. Steve Tower (foreground) mulls over a short-handed situation for his Bruins in their win against Arizona.
2018-19 "Commissioner's Surprise" HOCKEY BLAST Tournament Updates
The tournament pairings were announced Monday night, October 7th in a live webcast from the PLAAY Games Facebook Page. Tournament play began Thursday night, October 10th, with results posted below. Teams in blue advance to next round, person(s) who played game in [brackets]...
- Game ONE, Carolina 1, at Toronto 4 [Derek Jones]: The 'Canes were no match for the Leafs, as Toronto outshot Carolina 38-9 in the final two periods to easily skate away with the win.Two goals from Marner, one each from Johnsson and Matthews.
- Game TWO, Detroit 5 at Calgary 4 (OT) [Jamie Watkins]: Athanasiou with the Hat Trick, the third goal coming in the first minute of OT to win a 5-4 back and forth game for the Red Wings. Larkin for the Wings has a four-assist game, four different goal scorers for the Flames: Monahan, Frolik, Bennett, and—in the final minute of regulation—Gaudreau, to send it to OT!
- Game THREE, New York Islanders 5 at Florida 3 [Giorgio Salvadego]:The Isles exploded in the third period with four goals to dispose of the Panthers. Lee got the game winner at 12:29 of the third period. Lehner overcame a shaky start in the net to finish strong.
- Game FOUR, Winnipeg 4, at Vegas 3 (OT) [Michael Owens]: The Jets had three goals in the net just seven minutes into the first period! Then Fleury started making spectacular saves to keep Vegas in the game. Late in the second period, Vegas scored on a goal by Carrier to make it 3-1. The third period was all Vegas. Alex Tuch scored with 3:06 left and seconds later, Marchessault pounced on a rebound to tie the game at 3-3! Things got even more gloomy for Winnipeg when Kulikov got a penalty with 1:18 left in regulation. But the Jets survived, and the game went to OT. On the first action of OT, Wheeler scored on a 2-on-1 after a great pass from Scheifele to send the Jets to the "Sweet Sixteen!"
- Game FIVE, Anaheim 4, at Chicago 3 (OT) [Giorgio Salvadego]: Chicago rallied in the third period to tie the game but a questionable call from the referee at 18:51 of the third against the Hawks' Jokiharju, gave the Ducks the power play chance they needed to get over with with Ryan Getzlaf 39 seconds in the the overtime period.
- Game SIX, Columbus 6, at New Jersey 1 [Steve Heller]: New Jersey slowed the game down and it worked for almost two periods. But Matt Duchene scored on a power play late in the 2nd to put Columbus up 1-0. Then they poured it on in the 3rd, scoring 5 times on 17 shots! Duchene added another goal (plus 2 assists) and Werenski scored twice. Panarin had 3 assists.
- Game SEVEN, Minnesota 2, at Buffalo 0 [Kevin Albertina]:Dumba scores on a breakaway chance 3 minutes into the game. Staal adds a goal early in the 2nd period. Minnesota dominated faceoffs all game, and Buffalo's third-period power play chance and late game goalie pull both went for naught.
- Game EIGHT, Philadelphia 4 at Nashville 8, [Chris Hoffman]: The wildest game of the first round! It was 3-0 Nashville after just four minutes! Philly turnovers, and breakaway plays, and rebounds led to the first two, then Nashville got a play/rebound of their own for the third goal. Another breakaway play/rebound in 9th minute, 4-0 Nashville after one period. In the second, Philly got a breakaway play/rebound off a Nashville turnover to get on the board. Next minute, an unusual result on the faceoff roll: Nashville's Irwin got a major penalty, and shoved the ref, earning a match penalty! Five minute Power Play to the Flyers! They promptly cashed in with two goals, trimming the lead to 4-3. Opening minute of the third, the Flyers get an immediate play off the faceoff, and a goal from Giroux to tie it 4-4! The last fifteen minutes, though, was all Nashville. Goals by Forsberg (two), Arvidsson, and Josi.
- Game NINE, New York Rangers 0, at San Jose 5 [Rob Gallamore]: The Hertl-Donskoi-Labanc line had a great night chipping in three goals as the Sharks blow out the Rangers. The San Jose powerplay was also very good going 2-5. Thomas Hertl had a goal and two assists to lead the Shark attack.
- Game TEN, Edmonton 1, at Montreal 3 [Derek Jones]: The Canadiens move on to the sweet sixteen thanks to a three-goal second period. The Oilers' defense was weakened when Darnell Nurse uncharacteristically stormed into the stands midway through the second period to go after an unruly Canadiens fan who allegedly threw a set of car keys at him. Things got testy at the end when a Montreal cheap shot led to fisticuffs between Zack Kassian and Phillip Danault.
- Game ELEVEN, Colorado 4, at Pittsburgh 3 (OT/SO) [Chris Hoffman]:In the final minute, with the empty net and Colorado leading 3-2, Pit had scoring chance. Kessel was stopped, rebound to Kessel, stopped, then, rebound to Zach Aston-Reese, who scored to tie it! No scoring in OT, so it went to a shootout. Sven Andrighetto with the game-winner on the tenth shot!
- Game TWELVE, Dallas 3, at Vancouver 2 (OT) [Rob Gallamore]: Radulov opens the second period for Dallas with a powerplay goal, and the Stars extend their lead when Seguin takes a Klingberg pass and beats Markstrom high glove. Vancouver cuts the lead to one with a powerplay goal of their own at 17:24 of the second, Boeser scores from Edler and Baertschi. Vancouver ties it early in the third, Baertschi gets sent in alone from Elias Pettersson and he beats Bishop. In OT, Dallas finds an unlikely hero in Comeau, who scores on a spectacular save shot at 5:39 of the extra period.
- Game THIRTEEN, Washington 1 at Tampa Bay 3 [Jamie Watkins]: Kucherov nets the game winner late in the 3rd and then an ENG leads to a 3-1 win for the Lightning. Ovechkin was kept off the scoreboard and in check while Vasilevskiy makes big saves toward the end of the game.
- Game FOURTEEN, Los Angeles 1, at Arizona 3 [Kevin Albertina]:Arizona got on the board four minutes in with a goal by Christian Fischer. Late second period, Sean Walker drew a double minor for high sticking. Los Angeles managed to kill of that penalty thanks to a couple of big saves by Jack Campbell. But soon afterward, both Alec Martinez and Drew Doughty drew minor penalties, leaving the Kings two men short. They killed the first penalty, but Richard Panik scored before they could kill off the second penalty to give Arizona a 2-0 lead. Los Angeles got one back midway through the 3rd on a goal by Carl Grundstrom. Right after that, Kyle Clifford and Lawson Crouse dropped the gloves. Crouse got the first punch in, but then Clifford dropped him giving Los Angeles some much needed momentum. Unfortunately, it didn't help. The Kings pulled their goalie late, but Jordan Oesterle scored the empty netter to seal the win for the Coyotes.
Modern Teams, Vintage Jerseys: Joe Petrafassi sports his classic Hartford Whalers jersey while coaching 2018-19 Tampa Bay against Brien Aronov, wearing his Quebec Nordique's garb while swicthing lines for Nashville. A little further up the table, Ken Castro (Montreal) and Steven Foster San Jose) square off. Other games in the background, "Sweet Sixteen" HOCKEY BLAST action, Commissioner's Surprise Tournament, October 26, 2019.
SECOND ROUND, "Sweet Sixteen"
- Game FIFTEEN, Winnipeg 1, at New York Islanders 5 [Mark Russell, Joe Petrafassi]: After a scoreless first period, the Isles came alive to overwhelm the Jets. The onslaught started with goals from Lee and Cizikas. Connor struck for Winnipeg to make it 2-1, but New York scored the next three goals, two of them from Eberle (the last one on an Islander power play).
- Game SIXTEEN, Colorado 5, at Columbus 2 [Keith Avallone, Ken Castro]: The Avs clung to a 2-1 lead as the third period began, but pulled away with bang-bang goals from Landeskog and Rantanen. Atkinson's goal with twelve minutes to go gave the Jackets a glimmer of hope, making it 4-2. Cole and Panarin dropped the gloves with eight minutes to play, Cole getting the best of it and the Avs converted the momentum, Barrie with an unassisted goal that locked it up for Colorado.
- Game SEVENTEEN, Nashville 0, at Tampa Bay 1 (OT) [Brien Aronov, Joe Petrafassi]: This game started with a fight immediately after the opening puck-drop, Sissas vs. Cerelli, setting the tone for a real bruiser of a battle. There would be plenty of hits to come, and not a single goal—until Gourde ended it in the fifth minute of overtime! WOW!
- Game EIGHTEEN, Montreal 3, at San Jose 5 [Ken Castro, Steven Foster]: Plenty of firepower in this one, with the Habs coming back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game in the third period on Shore's goal with eight minutes to play. It took only two minutes though, for Hertl to get the lead back for the Sharks, with help from Kane and Burns. An empty-netter from Pavelski in the final seconds provided the final margin.
- Game NINETEEN, St. Louis 3, at Minnesota 1 [Brien Aronov, Steve Tower]: The Wild's power play goal from Zucker was the only score of the game as the third period began. The Blues opened with a goal from O'Reilly, and Perron scored at the ten-minute mark to give the Blues their first lead. An empty-netter from Tarasenko closed out the scoring.
- Game TWENTY, Detroit 3, at Toronto 4 [John Veruzzo, Pete Adams]: An epic game between two regional rivals! The first period was a goal-fest, with the Wings scoring in the opening seconds (Ericsson), and the Leafs striking back minutes later (Taveras). Taveras netted his second goal moments later, matched by Detroit's Cholowski. It settled down a bit in the second period, with the Wings scoring on the power play (Mantha) and Reilly with a rebound shot at the horn to tie it at 3-3. It stayed that way until the final minute, when Matthews slipped one past Howard to give Toronto the win!
- Game TWENTY-ONE, Arizona 2, at Boston 6 [Mark Russell, Steve Tower]: The B's ended this one early, scoring in the opening minute (Pastrnak) and adding a pair of goals late in the opening period (Pastrnak, Debrusk). Fast-forward to the final period, Galchenyuk's goal closes the gap to 4-2, but a pair of empty-netters at the end make it an easy Bostoin win.
- Game TWENTY-TWO, Anaheim 2, at Dallas 7 [Brien Aronov, Mark Russell]: A quiet first period, the Stars grabbing a 1-0 lead on a goal from Spezza. Second period goals from Hintz and Seguin made it 3-1, but Henrique got one back for the Ducks as the period ended, 3-2. Final period was all Dallas, though: Fedun, Pitlick, Radulov and an empty-netter from Janmark made this the biggest blow-out of the round.
THIRD ROUND, "Elite Eight"
- Game TWENTY-THREE, Tampa Bay 2, at Boston 1 [Joe Petrafassi, Steve Tower]: It looked like the Bruins might advance to the semi-finals for the second year in a row, Pastrnak's first-period goal standing as the game's only score until just five minutes remained. But Stamkos did what he does best, lighting the lamp to knot the score and Gourde got one past Rask with just over a minute to play and suddenly the Bolts had the lead. Rask came out as Boston attempted a last-ditch surge on the Tampa Bay net, but Vasilevskiy was up to the challenge and the Lightning moves on!
- Game TWENTY-FOUR, St. Louis 3, at San Jose 2 (OT) One of the most evenly-matched games of the tournament, with the lead see-sawing between these two talented clubs. The Blues scored first, Tarasenko at 14:00 of the first period. Pavelski knotted it at 8:00 of the second, but St. Louis went back on top minutes later, Pietrangelo. With four minutes to play, Burns put one past Binnington to tie it at 2-2, and that's where it stayed until the horn sounded. However, Tarasenko made short work of OT with a breakaway goal in the opening seconds, to send the Blues to the semi-final round! [game summary].
- Game TWENTY-FIVE,New York Islanders 3, at Toronto 1 [John Veruzzo, Pete Adams]: A memorable battle, 1-1 at the end of the first, it stayed that way until mid-way through the final period thanks to stellar net-minding from Lehner and Andersen. Beauvillier's marker gave the Isles their first lead of the game, and Cizikas clinched it with a minute to play.
- Game TWENTY-SIX, Dallas 1, at Colorado 4 [Mark Russell, Keith Avallone]: Fasksa opened the game with a wrist shot goal for the Stars, but a penalty on Hintz minutes later put Colorado on the power play and McKinnon converted. Rantanen gave the Avs a 2-1 lead late in the second period, with assists from Kerfoot and Cole. Untimely penalties in the third period killed the Stars comeback chances, Lindell whistled in the opening minute and again in the tenth. The Avs didn't convert either opportunity, but it drained time off the clock. The Avs got a pair of empty-netters in the dying moments to extend their lead, but this was a very tight game.
SEMI-FINAL ROUND, "Final Four"
- Game TWENTY-SEVEN, Tampa Bay 4, at St. Louis 1 [Joe Petrafassi, Brien Aronov]: The game opened with Stamkos blasting one past Binnington for an immediate Lightning lead, but the Blues hung tough. Thomas tied it at 1-1 midway through the second period. Vasilevskiy made a SPEC SAVE moments later to keep the game tied as the second period ended. The Bolts broke it open in the third period, though, starting with a power play goal from Joseph in the fifth minute. Two minutes later, Kucherov took a sweet pass from Stamkos and put it in the net making it 3-1. An empty-netter from Kucherov in the closing moments provided the final margin.
- Game TWENTY-EIGHT, New York Islanders 3, at Colorado 1 [Steve Tower, Mark Russell]: A tough, hard-hitting game with both teams seeming to wait for the other to make a mistake. The Isles got goals in the first two periods (Lee, Filippula) to begin the final period up 2-0. The Avs made it a one-goal game with twelve minutes to go, Rantanen from Soderberg and Girard. But that's as close as Colorado could get, with Greiss making a parade of great saves late. An empty-netter from Beauvillier in the final minute clinched the win.
- Game TWENTY-NINE, New York Islanders 0, at Tampa Bay 4 [Brien Aronov, Joe Petrafassi, Keith Avallone, Ken Castro]: For the second game in a row, Stamkos scores in the opening minute and the Bolts were off to the races. The second period began with a Tampa goal, Kucherov. Stamkos again in the 18th minute to make it 3-0. Point added an exclamation point, scoring in the fourth minute of the final period. Vasilevskiy was air-tight in the net, with a couple of SPEC SAVES to maintain the shutout. A surprisingly easy win for the Commissioner's Cup, as the Lightning showed—in our tournament anyway—why they were the league's most dominant team in the 2018-19 season.