By Sam DeLeon
For the first time since winning gold in September, the Puerto Rican men’s national team will take the ice as a unit to face off against 3 teams in the “Serie De Desafiadores”. In their first game back, the men's national team will face off against the “Goodwin Bulls Alumni”.
First Period Summary
After a four month hiatus from gameplay, the men’s national team took the ice and came out the gate sluggish. The Goodwin Firm Bulls, controlled the pace for the majority of the period, out shooting and out pacing the Boricuas for the majority of the period, but keep in mind that this group of “USF Hockey Alumni” aptly named after their sponsor and mascot Goodwin Bulls has very good chemistry. This Bulls team plays patiently with very good team chemistry, they stick-check very well, they don’t chase very often, positionally they are very sound, but most importantly they know each other very well and actively play together on the regular.
As the period began to wind down, the men’s national team woke up and had a fire lit underneath them, they finally started to play at the gold medal champion level they’re expected to play at. In the last minute of play in the period, the national team really brought the pressure and forced a lot of good scoring opportunities, with the most notable coming from a net front scrum and a late carry and shoot opportunity by Captain Scott Vargas. The period ended with a score of 0-0 with both teams looking to strike first in the second.
Second Period Summary
Carrying over their momentum from the end of the first period, the Puerto Rican men’s national team would start this period like the gold medal champions they are. The men’s national team brought the heat and were finally catching their stride, forcing turnovers, playing positionally, strong forechecking and backchecking and managed an all around balanced attack.
Both teams would play solidly, but unfortunately Puerto Rico’s Kevin Rosello would take a cross checking penalty at 13:50 of the second. Puerto Rico’s coaching staff would make a decision to play a box 2-2 style penalty kill and it would pay off with the Boricuas not giving up any goals. Shortly after the successful penalty kill, the men’s national team would go on the powerplay at 9:50 of the second due to a cross checking penalty on the guests. The Bulls however, had an exceptional penalty kill and held the men’s national team to zero shots on goal for the powerplay.
After the sequence of penalties by both teams, the Bulls would come off the penalty kill and start to control the game once more. Odd man rushes by the Bulls in the latter half of the second period would lead to the men’s national team struggling to generate scoring chances, but Puerto Rican netminder Michael Nabozny would continue his stout play forcing back the Bulls consistent attack. Much like the first period, in the final few minutes of the second the Puerto Rican men’s national team seemingly snapped out of the doldrums and began to create late chances of their own. Tony Cruz Jr, would net the first goal of the game for the Boricuas with assists going to David Risk and Dennis Ruppe. Puerto Rico goes up 1-0. However, in lightning fast succession the Goodwin Firm Bulls would strike right back to net their first goal to tie the contest 1-1. The teams go into the second both looking for the win.
Third Period Summary
Starting the third period the Goodwin Bulls came out stronger than the Puerto RIcans. Constant shots and pressure in Puerto Rico’s zone would lead to a lot of pressure on Michael Nabozny, forcing him to make second and third effort saves more often than not leading to the Goodwin Bulls Alumni scoring making it 2-1.
The men’s national team would chase throughout the period and Boricua Defenseman David Risk would take a minor penalty at 6:45 in the third. Again on the penalty kill, the Puerto Rican men’s national team would play a box 2-2 style penalty kill. This style of play would yet again prevail for the men’s national team forcing the Bulls Alumni to keep the puck out of high danger areas with yet again another successful penalty kill. At 4:42 of the third, immediately after the penalty expired, the Bulls would dazzle with a lightning fast rush-toe drag in the slot. The close range shot bounced off Nabozny hard and the Bulls would pick up a rebound for a goal putting the Bulls up 3-1 with less than 5 minutes to play.
As the game wound down with 2 minutes left in regulation, Defenseman Tom Ellis would steal the puck in the neutral zone generating a turnover and would score an unassisted goal short side on the Bulls goalie at 1:33 in the third getting the Puerto Ricans to within 1 goal. Unfortunately, with minimal time left, the men’s national team would take a “too many men” bench minor penalty and would play the remainder of the game short handed. The men’s national team would finish out the game with no change to the score, 3-2 Bulls, Final.
Heading into their second game of the 3 game series, the Puerto Rican men’s national team will look to best their next opponent now having hopefully worked out all the kinks you face when putting a team together of guys from all over the country. In the end, a the men’s national team took too long to get things rolling, but now having their first game over, they can look to play a more refined and disciplined game the rest of the weekend.