CJ Kruger celebrating his goal with a fist pump.
Dateline: December 5, 2009, Glen Ellyn, Illnois. Coach Tony Bertuca's GM Panthers 1 team kicked off the regular season with a spanking of the DuPage Admirals Club. Playing by far their best hockey so far, Panthers passed, shot, and played aggressive, impressive defense.
At the team meeting before the game, Coach Bertuca announced that he was "shaking things up a bit" with his lineup. When the Panthers took the ice, Sammy Holy was playing defense instead of his more-familiar position at wing, and Mike Sliwinski was playing wing instead of defense. The new chemistry worked. Holy, a big kid with excellent staking skills and a nose for the puck, contributed at both ends while Sliwinski displayed excellent speed and passing skills, repeatedly bringing the puck down the left side and then centering it for his teammates. If this is the new-look Panthers, it is a winning combination the Panthers ought to repeat.
The defense was also excellent. Defenseman Sarah Steadman displayed a skill that has by now become customary, with a brilliant save from behind that whacked the puck away from a streaking admiral (and ended with her slamming the net from its moorings) and a huge hit on another breaking admiral later in the game.
Steadman hammers Admirals'
Center in the Neutral Zone
Center in the Neutral Zone
By this point, Team Fans and Parents were screaming their lungs out at the best period their team has ever played.
With 7:00 to go in the second quarter, Go-San Steadman's fans were treated to a new sight. Seeing a hole in traffic and finding the puck on her stick, Steadman skated to the left side of the net. As she was slammed to the ice with a hard check, she made a nice shot on the Admirals' goalie. Although the shot was blocked, it represented a new phase in her game. "Was that Sarah that just took a shot?" Screamed one fan. "Yep!" replied her proud father. "We have been working on that." Later with 2:51 left in the period, Steadman made another beautiful play, chasing down a breakaway and sliding head-first into the goal pipes to break up a sure scoring chance.
Steadman's First Career Shot on Goal
Defenseman Maggie Van Ermen, who plays the same line with Steadman, was called for slashing at 6:16 in the second period, but the Panthers managed to kill off the only penalty against them without incident.
In the third period, the Panthers' defense briefly broke down, giving Admirals' number 98, Quinn, a free shot at the net. He took advantage to make the score 4-2. Quinn would score again at 5:23.
Meanwhile, Gio Gulino's little brother, "Little Joe" Gulino got in on the action. Taking a 2-1 breakaway with Sammy Holy down the ice, Joe scored at 6:08 to notch his first Gold Mite goal. "I was looking for the hat trick all game for Gio," said his proud father Ben. "But it was worth missing that to see Joe get his first one."
With 2:04 left on the clock and the Admirals down two goals, they pulled the goalie. Coach Bertuca called a timeout to regroup his team and give them a breather. "Hold on, don't let them score here. We have them two goals down. So just hang in there." They did. Captain Sliwinski made a nice sliding block with 1:15 left. Holy had two nice chances at the open net, but failed to capitalize, but the Panthers got away with the big win anyway, sending the Admirals down to a 5-3 defeat.