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Sports exploits of the amazing Steadman children.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

GM Panthers Joust Knights 6-0; Zander Babich nets first career hat trick in route to win at Orland holiday tournament

Dateline: December 26, 2009, Orland Park Arctic Ice Arena Holiday Tournament.  Franklin Park Panthers Gold Mite 1 team arrived on a four-game win streak, and on a roll.  It was cold, it was early, it was blustery and snowing -- but no one cared.  Christmas was over, the real work of the Christmas break was about to begin: the holiday tournament.  “Where’s the coffee?” said one hung-over parent.  “I can’t lace skates without some damn coffee.”

In the first game the Panthers faced the St. Jude Knights.  “They are good,” said one coach.  “Watch out.”  Head coach Tony Bertuca started a new line: CJ Kruger, Zander Babich, and Vince Pelini.  Analysts believed he was deliberately loading his second line with Gio Gulino and Mike Sliwinski, both of whom have been on a scoring tear recently.  If that was the strategy, he was fooled because it was the first line’s day.

The first line provided most of the scoring, led by Babich who scored the first four goals in a row (hitting the back of the net at 9:46 in the first, 7:30 and 1:57 in the second, and 10:28 in the third).  The third goal was highlight-real stuff, slapped in from his knees on the ice.  Hats flew.  Coach Bertuca mixed things up after four goals.  “I want to play forward -- I haven’t played forward in a long time,” begged Sammy Holy.  Play forward he did, finding the net at 9:47 in the third, and doing his best Jimmy Hendrix imitation with his stick to celebrate.  Kruger scored a sixth goal late in the third to ice the rout, 6-0, and the team launched into a celebratory scrum on top of goalie Hanulik.

The final score was no surprise, as the Panthers out-shot the Knights 16-3 and controlled the puck for the majority of the game.  The Panthers trademark stingy defense supported smart play by Goalie Hanulik, together stopping everything the Knights could throw.

Perhaps the most memorable moment of the game came during a break in the third period, as the officials blasted Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” through the speakers.  Goalie Hanulik, perhaps bored, wiggled and jiggled his way out to center ice, dancing the morning away.

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