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Sports exploits of the amazing Steadman children.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

GM Panthers 1 Show Talent But Ailing Goalie Leads to 0-2 Start

Dateline: October 4, 2009.  Coach Tony Bertuca's Gold Mite Panthers 1 team from Franklin Park took the ice this weekend in their first two matches.  The offense proved more than capable of scoring, and the defense was at times stout, so there was more than a little for fans to be optimistic about.  Unfortunately, goalie Sebastian Hanulik caught the flu on the way to Saturday's game and the team was simply unable to pull out wins without him despite heroic play from neophite goalie Frankie Bertuca.

Panthers faced the Bolingbrook Sabres in the first of the weekend's matchups.  Minutes before the match, goalie Hanulik puked in his father's minivan, forcing the team to scratch him from the lineup.  Forward Frankie Bertuca had only hours earlier reminded his mother of his dream to play goalie.  Holding a $200 goalie helmet at the hockey equipment mart, he said "I really want to try this someday."  Someday came sooner than expected, as he was called upon by Coach-Father Tony to fill in for Hanulik.

Fill in he did, but there were technical problems.  Hanulik's pads were too big for the smaller Bertuca.  "When I fell down, I couldn't get back up," he explained.  Several times in the first two periods, Bertuca fell only to lay on the ice like a turtle on its shell, legs flailing in the air until the referee could right him.  Predictably, the Sabres eventually noticed, and began to tee off on the empty goal.

Sabres scored first with 9 minutes on the clock in the first period.  Bertuca made a nice block but fell, unable to block the rebound.  Panthers were penalized two minutes soon thereafter for tripping, but managed to kill the penalty with stiff defense including brilliant puck clearing from defenseman Sarah Steadman.  With 4:10 left on the clock, Sabres scored again.  Panthers continued showing good defense, passing, and puck skills until forward Vince Pelini was penalized two minutes for tripping with 3:38 on the clock.  With Pelini in the box, Steadman and fellow defenseman Maggie Van Ermen crashed into each other and fell, leaving the zone open and the Sabres scored again.  Sabres scored again with 3 minutes left.  Van Ermen then came up with a brilliant defensive stop, and Bertuca got his first block with 1 minute left.  Period over, Sabres 4 Panthers 0.

Steadman started out the second period with aggressive defense, repeatedly smacking the puck away from the goal to the wall.  Overmanned in the defensive zone, Steadman also started to use her stick as a weapon, though with careful attention to keep her actions out of sight of the referee.  With 5:51 left in the second period, Sabres scored their fifth goal and Steadman took out her frustrations on a Sabre she smacked into the wall.

With 10:30 on the clock in the third period, Alexander Babich scored the first goal of the season for Panthers, preventing Bertuca's first time in net from becoming a shutout.  Sabres scored thirty seconds later to make it 6-1 as Steadman slid headfirst into her own goal trying to stop them. Sabres scored three more to make the match a 9-1 drubbing.

In the weekend's second match, Panthers faced the McFetridge Bulldogs. Overnight, Coach Bertuca found smaller pads for his rookie goalie, and this evened things up considerably.  Minutes before the match, defenseman Sarah Steadman's younger sibling, Emma, managed to dunk this reporter's Blackberry in a toilet, and so this report has fewer factual underpinnings than most.

There was plenty of excitement, however.  Forward Sammy Holy scored at 7:52, 5:57 and 0:45 in the first period for his first career hat trick, staking goalie Bertuca to a 3-1 lead.  Steadman showed impressive work at the blue line, holding the puck in the offensive zone to help Holy and the other forwards.  Holy benefited on his second goal from a nice breakaway and blocked shot from Giovanni Gulino, and the teamwork was working.  The rout appeared to be on.

At 7:47 in the second period, the Bulldogs scored a questionable goal when their forward slid into the net through Bertuca, but the referees allowed the goal.  Van Ermen was penalized two minutes for slashing, and Bulldogs scored on the powerplay after Bertuca blocked the first shot but could not locate the rebound.  Forward CJ Kruger scored on a nice breakaway to make the score 4-4.  Steadman was then penalized two minutes for tripping, and the Bulldogs managed a goal on the last second of the powerplay.  The wild second period ended Bulldogs 5, Panthers 4.

At 10:37 in the third period, the Bulldogs scored another questionable goal when their forward was clearly offsides but the line judge was asleep at the wheel.  Defenseman Joey Gulino made a nice play but fell down with about 5 minutes to go, and the Bulldogs scored again.  By 4:57 on the clock, the score was 8-4 and the match looked over.  But Panthers scored two more, one from Alexander Babich.  Steadman and Holy were by this time playing unholy defense, but they couldn't prevent a last second goal by Bulldogs.  When the dust settled, the final score was 9-6 in favor of Bulldogs, a pretty amazing score given that the Panthers' goalie had only one match under his belt and was the smallest player on the team.

After the game, Defenseman Steadman ruminated on her first career penalty.  "It was cheap.  He stepped on my stick. I didn't trip him -- that time, anyway. I mean, I tripped him earlier in the match, but not then.  Anyway, who ever heard of a defenseman that didn't get a penalty now and then?  Any player who plays hard gets a few minutes in the box from time to time, that's what my old man says."

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