Little Annie’s claims third straight men’s league title | AspenTimes.com

Little Annie’s claims third straight men’s league title

Aspen Times staff report

A new format was used to decide the championship of the Aspen Men’s Hockey League this year, but the results were pretty much the same. Little Annie’s won its third straight Pell Cup by sweeping No. 1 seed Wily Coyotes in the first-ever AMHL championship series. The hard-fought, best-of-three series went to the defending champs 4-3 in overtime Thursday night and 4-2 Friday night.

Annie’s set the tone early in Game 1 behind the standout play of its top line, dubbed “Howie and Sons.” Defenseman Andy Ross capitalized on an odd-man break less than a minute into the game off assists from Hans Erickson and Keith Howie, and then Howie converted another opportunity off a feed from Erickson less than three minutes later to put Annie’s up 2-0.

The Coyotes bounced back with 5:30 remaining in the first period when Ricky Golden took a long breakout pass from defenseman Jim Chase and found Rob Fabrocini for a goal.

The score stayed 2-1 Annie’s deep into the second stanza before Wily winger Todd Hartley found a loose puck in front of the net and beat Annie’s goalie Millard Zimet to knot the game at 2.

The deadlock was broken with just 50 seconds left in the second period when Golden fired home a shot off a Fabrocini faceoff win in Annie’s zone. The third unanswered Wily goal put the Coyotes up 3-2 at the end of two periods.

The third period was dominated by rough defensive play and the outstanding goaltending of Zimet and Coyotes netminder Steve Mageres, who both turned away a number of good scoring opportunities. But with 9:17 left in the frame, Howie broke free off assists by Chuck Carlson and Erickson and beat Mageres to make the score 3-3. Both goalies were perfect the rest of the way, and regulation time ended in a tie.

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Annie’s got a number of good chances early in the overtime session, and Carlson ultimately capitalized off an odd-man break to give Annie’s the 4-3 win in Game 1.

As they did Thursday night, the defending champs opened the scoring in Game 2. Billy Madsen made good on a Coyotes turnover less than five minutes in to put Annie’s up 1-0. Dave Garafa was credited with the assist.

Once again, though, the Coyotes were able to bounce back. Hartley countered the Annie’s goal when he stuffed home a rebound off a shot from Golden, with the other assist going to Fabrocini, with 5:50 left in the first.

The Coyotes took a 2-1 lead just four minutes later when team captain Wily Manering converted a rebound off a shot by defenseman Andrew Levinson, but that was all the scoring the Wily bunch would do.

Zimet stood tall the rest of the way, and the high-flying Howie and Sons line proved too talented. Howie had a goal less than a minute into the second period off an Erickson assist to tie the score, and then he put the defending champs up to stay just three minutes later with a goal off a long feed from defenseman Chris Carmichael.

Howie completed the natural hat trick with 14:37 to play in the game off assists from Carlson and Erickson, and the Annie’s defense made the 4-2 lead stand up the rest of the way despite a 26-17 shots-on-goal edge for the Coyotes.

Zimet was named Pell Cup MVP for his outstanding work in net for Little Annie’s, who were led in scoring by Howie’s five goals and two assists. Erickson finished with six assists in the two games, and Carlson had a goal and two assists.

Golden and Fabrocini each had a goal and two assists to pace the Coyotes in scoring, and Hartley finished with two goals. Mageres, who played brilliantly in net in both games, was credited with 33 saves, many of the spectacular variety.