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Sports exploits of the amazing Steadman children.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

GM Panthers Pluck Blackhawks in Toughest Test Yet

Dateline: December 27, 2009, Orland Park Arctic Ice Arena Holiday Tournament.  GM Panthers 1 faced their toughest test yet this season early this morning, facing the Arctic Ice Arena "Blackhawk" team.  Arctic Ice fielded three teams for the tournament: Leafs, Canadiennes, and Blackhawks.  But they loaded Blackhawks with their fastest, biggest, most-skilled players. 

Panthers owned a six-game win streak, thanks in large part two two hat-trick games in a row.  But this match proved very defensive on both sides with brilliant saves and block after block.  Both sides attacked aggressively, but it was not until late in the game that either one figured out the tough goalies.

Coach Tony Bertuca fielded yet another new starting set as he continued to tinker with the lines.  Gio Gulino and Mike Sliwinski started with Frankie Bertuca up front, and Sarah Steadman started with Maggie VanErmen on D. 

Blackhawks announced they would be no cakewalk with in the opening minutes, taking the puck from the faceoff and driving down to shoot on goalie Sebastian Hanulik.  Hanulik looked to be in trouble, having blocked two shots but unable to find the rebound, when a Blackhawk slid into him, knocking the net from its moorings.  That was to set the tone.

For the next two periods, the action rocketed up and down the ice, with both sides making hard hits, shots on goal, and major steals.  Fathers from both sides screamed their lungs out with instructions, to no avail.  At one point, on a long icing pass down the ice, defenseman Sarah Steadman let the puck slide to the end and across the red line.  "What are you DOING?" shouted Coach Bertuca.  "What are you doing?"

Finally, with 9:16 left to play in the third, the Blackhawks figured out Hanulik on a breakaway and rebound, netting the puck for a 1-0 lead that seemed likely to be insurmountable given the strength of both sides' defense.

The Panthers were not about to give up.  They worked the puck, passing and shooting, until Center and Team Captain Mike Sliwinski finally hit a goal with 5:07 left to play, tying the game at 1 apiece.  Just over a minute later, he netted a second goal on a breakway, giving the Panthers the lead for good. 

In perhaps the most-exciting moment of the game, Co-Captain Gio Gulino shot as fathers screamed "Shooooooooooooooooot!" from the sidelines with less than a second left to play, netting a third safety goal and sewing up the game.

"That was exhilarating," shouted one father (this reporter).  "Incredible." 

With the win, Panthers advance to 3-0 for the tournament, with one to play.  Every other Gold Mite team has at least one loss so far; and so it is likely the Panthers will advance to the finals at 5:10pm on Tuesday.

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