April 30, 2007 – 09:30 PM
The Detroit Moose team skated, clawed, dove, charged, flew through the air and even lost some teeth – but they won Sunday, capturing the Detroit Hockey North America Division 2 crown and earned a bid to Toronto to play in the HNA National Championships.
The Moose defeated the Warriors Sunday afternoon 6-3 in a hotly contested battle to win the coveted HNA trophy.
The Moose defeated the Warriors 8-5 Saturday afternoon to force the Sunday match-up. A stunning 4-3 loss by the Moose to the Warriors started off the team’s playoff run April 22. But the Moose team wasn’t about the take the summer off. The team blasted the Barflies 13-2 Thursday night to bring on the best-of-2 weekend series between the Moose and the much-improved Warriors.
``This was our time. From the beginning of the season we worked our butts off to get to this point and go to Toronto. We stayed focused in the games this weekend and we put our hearts and souls into it,’’ said Moose Captain Derek Fowler. ``I said to the guys this was OUR time. I told them we either come back in this locker room as winners or we come back as losers. And if we lose, you will always remember that you were this close to winning. This was OUR game -- and we did it!’’
With every play and every shift from the drop of the puck, the Moose team came out determined to win. Moose forward Joel Nettleman took a stick to the mouth, lost a tooth in the second period, and still came back to play – bloodied jersey and all; Forward Rudy Dauncey dove and blocked a shot with his ribs; Defenseman Alec Lesko charged his way through two players at a time, did somersaults through the air, and crashed to the ice while driving to the net; Forward Ryan Renner, playing with a broken hand, stick-handled like an NHL star around flustered Warriors players; star center Jerry Rogers, busted and bruised from playoff hockey action Saturday, blasted in a third period goal – from on his knees! Zach Lewis – team doctor – played injured and was out on the ice when the final buzzer blew. Nate Schmoekel took sticks to the ribs, pucks to the legs, and slashes to his wrists and still skated harder and faster with each passing second. Goalie Tom Varcie, playing his 31st season in his Cal Ripken Jr.-like Iron Horse career, stopped the last shot with 2 seconds to go. Defenseman Brian Big Daddy Harlow – his pregnant wife due almost any time – battled like an all-star in front of the net and at the blue line. Forward Curtis Glowinski scraped his way to score an unbelievable goal in the second. Ron Kruse roughed up and bumped Warriors players around the net. Rookie winger Chris Wrigley burned every ounce of emotion and energy into the game and came up with 4 assists. And Derek Fowler, the most determined team captain in Hockey North America history, who called every player on the team at least 3 times per week, shook hands proudly with each Moose teammate to hand them their trophies.
There’s story after story about each of these Moose players in a storybook season – the kind that eventually becomes a Hollywood movie.
The Moose took command in the Saturday game, blasting 58 shots against the Warriors goaltender. Moose goalie Tom Varcie faced 19 shots. And Sunday, the Moose took control again, firing 42 shots against the Warriors while Varcie faced just 15 shots in the win.
Prior to losing his tooth, Nettleman started off the scoring for the Moose by driving in past Warriors defenders and wristed the puck past the netminder. The Warriors scored about 5 minutes later in the first on a 20-foot slapshot over Varcie’s left shoulder.
The game remained tied at 1-1 until Curtis Glowinski drove down the right side and blasted a puck past the Warriors goaltender. About a minute later Moose center Jerry Rogers slapped the puck in the net. A few minutes later Glowinski added his second goal of the game to make it 4-1.
The Warriors closed the gap to 4-2 on a power play, but Lesko nail-gunned the team’s 5th goal, then did the Mike Eruzione one-legged fist pump – 1980 Team USA-style – over in the right corner of the ice.
Lesko, Detroit HNA’s leading scorer, told teammates at the end of the second period that the Warriors’ forwards were panicking and not picking up passes. He credits that mistake – plus the Moose’s strong defense, skating, and determination – to the win.
``We had to take advantage of their mistakes. They were getting bottled up and frustrated out there. We were picking off their passes, then we’d drive it deep in their end and they were stuck,’’ Lesko said.
Moose teammates smelled victory deep in the third period when Rogers netted perhaps the most amazing goal all season. Rogers was 10 feet in front of the Warriors goaltender when he got knocked down. As he hit the ice, Rogers continued to stick handle and – while on his knees -- he snapped the puck into the upper corner to make it 6-2. A couple minutes later the Warriors scored their final goal of the season.
Fowler said he wanted to thank the team sponsor for its dedication and help this season. The sponsor, which supports the victims of 9/11, has been an important part of the team this year. Each Moose player wears a patch on their jersey which honors the victims of September 11th.
`` We played this year in honor of never forgetting those who gave their lives on 9/11 and for the victims that perished that very day. Personally, I wear on my jersey names of Dennis Buckley and Glen Wall from school, ’’ Fowler said.
``To the team, I’m so proud and honored to be captain of the Detroit Moose B. It all started with a concept of playing for a cause. Zach Lewis and I put this team together with the passion of Jerry Rogers, Joe Demarte and Tom Varcie driving us for 2 years in the making,’’ Fowler said. ``I want to thank all our loved ones -- wives, children, girlfriends and families in the stands. It wasn’t me that made this happen. It’s the players and the support from their loved ones who gave them the passion and drive.
``This is a team of brotherhood and club like no other where uncommon players from different walks of life come together for a common goal.’’
Fowler also wanted to thank Sam from City Sports for working out practice schedules and Holly from Dearborn Adray Arena for working with the team early in the season.
``In the meantime, we’ll be practicing hard and preparing ourselves for Toronto,’’ Fowler added.
One final note: the team will take a charter bus together to the national championships and then will visit a children’s hospital in Toronto on June 1 to meet with children as well as drop off toys, stuffed animals and financial donations to the center.