In this week's 'Making of a Royal' blog, assistant coach Scott Donahue discusses the anatomy of his team's incredible 7-7 tie with Shattuck-St. Mary's in the third game of the Shattuck-St. Mary's Showcase in Faribault, Minn., earlier this season. With coaches Pat LaFontaine and Steve Webb unable to work the bench for the game, Donahue filled in as head coach. It would turn out to be the most memorable hockey game he's ever been associated with as the Long Island Royals rallied from 6-0 and 7-5 deficits in the third period to earn a 7-7 tie against the host school.
In the locker room prior to the game I told the boys that Shattuck was going to come out flying. I told them to remember the 3-0 lead they built in the first game of the tournament where we had to come back to forge a 5-5 tie. So, I felt it important to remind the players to really come out strong.
[Head coach] Pat [LaFontaine] had an opportunity to watch his nephew at Minnesota State and asked that I step in behind the bench for this game. Sure enough, we got down 3-0 in the first period and Pat was sending me a text message, wanting to know what the score was. I text him the score and he said we had to find a way to pull it out and make it competitive.
The second period wasn't any better though. I got another text from him in the second and didn't know what to say to him since we were now down, 6-0. I wanted to make the game competitive … just get back to Pat to tell him we lost 6-2 or 6-3. We have a mature bunch of kids so I let them think about it a little bit during the second intermission. It was quiet in there, but some of the older kids got the message.
I had an office right near the locker room; a lot of times we give the kids their own time instead of just screaming at them so, at that point, I was just listening from the locker room and they were embarrassed at their performance. You could hear the frustration in some of the conversations going on. I just think the character of the team came through. They've never been down by that margin, and I think they realized they couldn't put up a showing like that. That second and third intermission is when they hit it.
We got three quick goals to open the third period and the boys were playing hard. Watching the kids respond and have fun on the bench was great to see. They really had nothing to lose at that point, being down by six goals.
We just wanted to get on the board. We just wanted to get a couple of goals to climb back in and you could see the emotion on the team coming through. You could sense they were playing looser. Even the low-key guys on the team were very vocal, and it was contagious watching and listening to all the players on the bench cheering for the guys on the ice. It was special to be a part of that, and being down in that position and coming back, really shows the character on the team.
With a little over 10 minutes remaining in the third, we pulled to within 6-5 [on Joey Fallon's second goal of the game]. But with 7:46 remaining, Shattuck scored again to go ahead by two goals, 7-5.
I kept trying to keep their spirits up, telling everyone on the bench to keep going. Then [with 4:43 left], Justin Bailey scored to pull us within one goal. [With 3:22 remaining] Brent D'Iorio scored the tying goal. It was absolutely nuts.
I was elated after D'Iorio's goal. I was proud of him … he's a hard-working player and one of the leaders on the team and he had a special game. I was really happy to be a part of that. From looking as if we'd be embarrassed to be there in the end during such a great finish. We actually had an opportunity to win it outright in the final minutes with some good opportunities, but I was happy with the tie.
I told the kids afterwards that in all my time of playing and coaching hockey, that was the most fun I've ever had on the bench.
Obviously there's a lot of expectations around me but it's something I try not to focus on. I'm just trying to go out there, be myself on the ice every day, try to get better, be myself around the guys in the locker room. I think that's what's made me successful and the person that I am.
— Sabres forward Jack Eichel on transitioning from college hockey to the NHL