"Hockey Day in Pittsburgh!": PLAAY Gamers gathered at the Baldwin UMC for the 2018 "Commissioner's Surprise" HOCKEY BLAST Tournament! From left: Art Campana, Derek Jones, Matt Dante, George Peete, David Rubinstein, Rick Lawes, Tom Cline, Mark Russell.
In honor of the start of another hockey season, we put on our Fourth Annual "Commissioner's Surprise" HOCKEY BLAST Tournament—where EVERY team has a chance to win it all! THIS year, the action happened in Pittsburgh, PA. Our event was be part of the Gaming Association of Southwestern Pennsylvania's November Game Day, Saturday, November 10th. We linked up with dozens of local board gamers, who played all kinds of board games, new and old! It was an amazing day of dice rollin' and card-flippin' fun!
EVERY pro team from the HOCKEY BLAST 2017-18 Pro Season card set was included in the tournament. It's single-elimination, and the match-ups were completely random—we literally drew them out of a hat! The previous year's real-life championship series teams always get a first round bye for this tournament, that was Washington and Las Vegas this time around. The pro league's expansion to Las Vegas now gives us an un-even number of teams (31), so we had to alter our format just a little bit for the 2018 event. We conducted a play-in game between the bottom two pro teams from the 2017-18 season, Buffalo and Arizona, streamed live on the PLAAY Games YouTube Channel Friday night, October 12th. The winner of that game joined the other 27 first-round teams (see pairings and results below).
Everything from the "Commissioner's Surprise Sweet Sixteen" right down to the championship game was played entirely on-location in Pittsburgh. You can read a complete summary of the entire tournament below. Seems every year, there's a "Cinderella" team and this year it was San Jose. Helped by the random draw that gave them home ice for every game, the Sharks upset the hometown Penguins in the first round and then took down heavily-favored Winnipeg in the "Sweet Sixteen." The Cinderella run ended—barely—when Tampa Bay eked out a 1-0 win over the Sharks in the "Elite Eight" round. Mark Russell continued to build on the winning tradition he established at last summer's PLAAY-Dot-CON (where he won the PLAAY Gamer Open Golf Tournament and finished runner-up in the Hockey Blast All-Time Great Teams Tournament), leading Toronto to three consecutive victories (over Minnesota, Los Angeles and Washington) to earn a berth in the Championship game against Boston. Art Campana was selected to coach the B's. Everyone gathered around to watch the "big game," which did not disappoint (recap below)!
After the tournament, those of us who were able to extend the day grabbed some dinner at a local dining spot (Armstrong's) and then headed to PPG Paints Arena to attend the real-life Penguins-Coyotes game (won by Pittsburgh 4-0)! It was a perfect way to end an awesome day of hockey-themed fun!
Hockey Day Part II: Taking in the Penguins game at PPG Paints Arena, November 11, 2018. (from left, background) Eric Minor, Mark Russell, Tom Cline, David Rubinstein. Penguins won 4-0 over Arizona!
2017-18 "Commissioner's Surprise" HOCKEY BLAST Tournament Updates
The tournament pairings were announced Monday night, October 15th in a live webcast from the PLAAY Games Facebook Page. Tournament play began Wednesday night, October 16th, with results posted below. Teams in blue advanced to next round, person(s) who played game in [brackets]...
- Game ZERO, Buffalo 1, at Arizona 2: Streamed LIVE on the PLAAY Games YouTube Channel, Friday night 10/12. Buffalo was awarded a penalty shot in the first minute of the game, but Eichel missed—and that was the difference!
- Game ONE, Montreal 3 at St. Louis 6 [Michael Owens]: St. Louis got three goals in the last thirteen minutes after Montreal had valiantly fought back to tie the game 3-3. Goal scorers for Montreal were Byron, Gallagher and Lehkonen. St. Louis got goals by Schwartz, Schenn, Berglund, Steen, and Tarasenko with two including an empty netter and a power play goal.
- Game TWO, Edmonton 2 at Calgary 1 [Gary Chrosniak]: Draisatle opened the scoring at 10:01 of the first period, Oilers made it 2-0 with a rare goal from Kassina, Khaira and Lucic. Five minutes later, Backlund's spin-a-rama went over the glove of Talbot, making it 2-1. That's the way it stayed: there were plenty of scoring chances but the goaltenders stood up to every effort. McDavid was kept off the scoreboard!
- Game THREE, Anaheim 1 at Tampa Bay 3 [Giorgio Salvadego]: Anaheim's Richard Rakell scored a short-handed goal in the second period to tie the score at 1, but in the next minute Tampa regained the lead on a Yanni Gourde goal and never looked back.
- Game FOUR, Nashville 2 at New Jersey 4 [Gary Chrosniak]: A scoreless first period, then Ardvisson's goal put Nashville out front in the second period. But from there it was all-Devils the rest of the way, spurred on by the raucous New Jersey home crowd. Hischier's goal tied it 1-1, Hall gave New Jersey the lead and Palmieri and Bratt added insurance goals. NJ was 2-for-5 on power plays.
- Game FIVE, Chicago 4, at Colorado 3, OT [Giorgio Salvadego]: Patrick Kane's hat-trick goal in the ninth minute of overtime won it for the Blackhawks. The Avs had come back from a 2-0 deficit, taking a 3-2 third period lead, But Sharp's goal less than a minute later sent the game to overtime, setting up Kane's game-winner.
- Game SIX, Carolina 1 at NY Islanders 4 [Giorgio Salvadego]: Not much life shown by the Hurricanes as the Isles made it look easy in front of the home fans, scoring twice in the first and final periods.
- Game SEVEN, Los Angeles 3, at Ottawa 0: The Sens' Chabot was called for high-sticking in the second period and Kopitar made quick work of the power play situation, providing all the scoring the Kings would need. Two third-period goals (Toffoli, LaDue) made it an easy win for L.A.
- Game EIGHT, NY Rangers 1 at Detroit 2 [Steve Heller]: Mantha scores in the 16th minute to give Detroit a 1-0 lead, first period. Tatar's early second period goal makes it 2-0 Wings. Six minutes later, Kreider scores for the Rangers on a power play to cut it to 2-1. Then it's back and forth and TENSE the rest of the game. Both teams get PP opportunities in the third period, neither scores. Rangers pull the goalie in the final minute, but Howard's SPEC SAVE on a last-second Nash shot preserves the Detroit lead, sends the Wings to the Sweet Sixteen.
- Game NINE, Winnipeg 3 at Vancouver 2 [Michael Owens]: Ehlers scored with 1:46 left to break the tie but Daniel Sedin was robbed on a great chance with the goalie pulled in the dying seconds. Horvat and Boeser scored for Vancouver. Laine got the other two goals for the Jets.
- Game TEN, Columbus 1, at Dallas 3 [Steve Heller]:The Stars dominated this one from start-to-finish, a late goal from the Jackets' Dubois spoiled Bishop's shutout. First time that Dallas has advanced in this tournament!
- Game ELEVEN, Arizona 0, at Philadelphia 3 [Matt Dante]: Philly got back-to-back goals in the 8th (Gudas) and 9th (Hagg) minutes of the first period, along with stellar tending from Elliott—more than enough to dispatch the Coyotes.
- Game TWELVE, Boston 4 at Florida 2: Played as part of our All Hallow's Eve webcast, 10/26 with Steve Tower. With the score tied at 2-2 in the third period, the Panthers seemed poised to win when Boston's McQuaid was sent to the penalty box. But Florida was unable to convert the power play chance, and Marchand's goal in the nineteenth minute was the game-winner. He added an empty-netter seconds later for the final margin.
- Game THIRTEEN, Pittsburgh 2, at San Jose [George Peete, Mark Russell] 3: The Sharks knocked the home-town Penguins out of the tournament, benefitting from a pair of penalty shot goals (Couture in the first period, Thornton in the third, both awarded after take-downs on breakaway plays!). Kessel's goal in the thirteenth minute got the Pens within range, but they were unable to get another legitimate scoring chance the rest of the way.
- Game FOURTEEN, Toronto 3, at Minnesota 2 [Mark Russell, Art Campana]: The Leafs overcame a 3-1 deficit with three third-period goals, the rally triggered by a fight between Zeitsev and Foligno. Kapanen scored in the 5th minute, Melander in the 9th, and back to Kapanen for the game-winner in the final seconds!
TV Time-Out: Taking a break in "Sweet Sixteen" HOCKEY BLAST action, Rick Lawes (left) coaching the Blues against Matt Dante's Devils.
SECOND ROUND, "Sweet Sixteen"
- Game FIFTEEN, Los Angeles 2 at Toronto 4 [George Peete vs. Mark Russell]: Van Riemsdyk's hat trick goal in the third period put the Leafs in front 3-2, and Borgman added an insurance goal in the 19th minute to send Toronto to the Elite Eight.
- Game SIXTEEN, Winnipeg 1, at San Jose 3 [Art Campana vs. Tom Cline]: Pavelski scored for the Sharks in the opening minute, and San Jose never lost the lead. Boedecker made it 2-0 in the second. Perrault's second period goal (3rd minute) got the Jets back to within a goal, it stayed that way until just four minutes were left in the game, when Thornton iced the game with an insurance goal.
- Game SEVENTEEN, New Jersey 1, at St. Louis 4 [Matt Dante vs. Rick Lawes]: Pietrangelo was sent to the penalty box in the opening minute for the Blues, but Statsny scored a short-handed goal to set the tone for this game. Steen's goal in the 14th minute made it 2-0, Berglund and Schwartz also tallied. The Devils didn't get on the board until midway through the final period (Palmieri).
- Game EIGHTEEN, Detroit 1, at Washington 4 [Eric Minor vs. Derek Jones]: The Caps unloaded three goals in the span of seven minutes in the second period from some unlikely sticks (Kuznetsnov, Chorney, Orlov) to cruise to a relatively easy win despite a quiet game from Ovechkin.
- Game NINETEEN, Dallas 4, at Chicago 1 [Eric Minor vs. George Peete]: Chicago took an early lead on Forsling's goal (set up by Kane and Toewes), but The Stars knotted it up in the second period (Radulov) and broke it wide open with third-period goals from Benn, Seguin and Faksa.
- Game TWENTY, NY Islanders 3, at Tampa Bay 4 (OT) [Tom Cline vs. Rick Lawes]: A VERY exciting back-and-forth game between these two clubs! Early goals from Stamkos and Kucherov put the Bolts on top 2-0, but after Lee's second-period goal, Taveras and Seidenberg scored back-to-back third-period goals to put the Isles out front. Stamkos knotted it at 3-3 in the 10th minute, stayed that way to the end of regulation. Tampa got a flurry of shots in the 11th minute of OT after a failed breakaway shot, all saved by NY's Halak, but Gourde got one by him next minute for the game-winner.
- Game TWENTY-ONE, Vegas 0, at Philadelphia 3 [Mark Russell vs. Derek Jones]: A great game in the net from the Flyers' Elliott and goals from Gostisbehere, Giroux and Simmonds sends Philly on to the next round.
- Game TWENTY-TWO, Edmonton 3, at Boston 4 [David Rubinstein vs. Art Campana]: Another classic nail-biter, with the Oilers overcoming an early 2-0 Bruins lead, McDavid's goal to open the third period tying it at 3-3. Spooner's goal (assist from Bergeron) came in the 16th minute of the final period, and Boston withstood late Edmonton assaults on Rask's net to hold on for the win!
THIRD ROUND, "Elite Eight"
- Game TWENTY-THREE, St. Louis 2, at Philadelphia 4 [David Rubinstein vs. Tom Cline]: The Flyers threatened to make this a rout, scoring four goals in the opening period (Raffi, Voracek, Gostisbehere and Hagg). After a scoreless second period, the Blues got a goal from Steen to generate faint comeback hopes, but a second goal from Taras in the 16th minute fell into the "too little, too late" category.
- Game TWENTY-FOUR, Tampa Bay 1, at San Jose 0 [George Peete vs. Derek Jones]: A "lull-fest," with both teams seeming to wait for the other team to make a mistake. Stamkos' second period goal (7th minute) was the game's only score, San Jose just couldn't get anything going in the final 20 minutes and the clock struck midnight on the Cinderella Sharks.
- Game TWENTY-FIVE, Boston 7, at Dallas 4 [Art Campana vs. Eric Minor]: The tourney's highest-scoring game didn't really get wild and wooly until the second period, with Boston leading 1-0 at the end of one. Both squads scored twice in the second period, 3-2 Boston. Chara scored in the 3rd minute of the final period to make it 4-2, but Pateryn's goal for Dallas made it a one-goal game again, 4-3. The Bruins broke it open, though, with back-to-back goals from Marchand and Pastrnak.
- Game TWENTY-SIX, Washington 2, at Toronto 6 [Rick Lawes vs. Mark Russell]: The red-hot Maple Leafs trounced the favored Caps, scoring the game's first three goals. Washington made it 4-2 with fourteen minutes to play on Connolly's unassisted goal, but Toronto doused that quickly with goals from Rielly and Hyman to win going away. Once again, Ovechkin was held without a point!
Head-to-Head: "Final Four" action, Boston vs. Philadelphia. Eric Minor coaches the Flyers, while Derek Jones orchestrates the attack for the Bruins.
SEMI-FINAL ROUND, "Final Four"
- Game TWENTY-SEVEN, Toronto 4, at Tampa Bay 3 (OT) [Mark Russell vs. Rick Lawes]: An epic thriller that took five periods to finish! Tampa took a 2-1 second-period lead on Namestnikov's goal, but the Leafs responded with a power play goal from Mathews to open the third-period. Stamkos appeared to have won the game with a goal in the 19th minute, but Mathews struck again with seconds left, sending the game to overtime! Tampa had numerous chances to get the game-winner in the first OT period, with several strong shots in 7th, 8th and 9th minutes, ALL turned back by the Leafs' Andersen. In the second OT it was more of the same, SPEC SAVES in the 7th and 8th minutes by Andersen. Toronto, which was out-shot roughly two-to-one in OT, finally got a decent chance in the 15th minute, and Marner made the most of it, sending the puck past Vasilevskiy assisted by Rielly and Kadri for the game-winner! WOW!
- Game TWENTY-EIGHT, Boston 3, at Philadephia 2 [Derek Jones vs. Eric Minor]: Another tense, close game! Debrusk scored twice for the Bruins in the closing minutes of the second period to put Boston on top 2-1. Simmonds found the net to open the third period, though, and it was tied 2-2. McQuaid and Manning dropped the gloves moments later. Seven minutes to go, Krug scored on a rebound for Boston after a missed shot from Chara. Rask made it stand up, stopping great Flyer chances in the 17th and 20th minutes.
- Game TWENTY-NINE, Boston 2, at Toronto 1 [Art Campana vs. Mark Russell]: Scoreless through most of two periods, Debrusk's goal in the final seconds of the second period put the B's on top 1-0. Kadri's goal in the 7th minute of the final period tied it 1-1. GREAT defense from both teams to close out regulation, and off we went to decide the Commissioner's Cup in overtime. Chara's rebound shot in the 14th minute proved to be the game-winner—Chara named the tourney MVP!