|Celebrity captain Phil Bourque (left) and Penguins Adult Fantasy Camp participant Shawn Strom (right) accept the Jack Riley Cup.
They might not have been playing for the Stanley Cup, and crowd didn’t quite fill the arena, but that didn’t stop participants in the Penguins Adult Fantasy Camp from enjoying another successful weekend featuring goals, laughs and even a marriage proposal.
In its eighth year, Penguins Fantasy Camp draws fans from all over the globe, including places such as Germany, Seattle, Wash., and Houston, Tex. Two players, Jonathon Edmonds and Loren Martello, have made it to all eight camps.
“It is such a great time that I can’t miss it,” Edmonds said. “I tell everyone that it is my annual once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. All of the ex-pros are just great guys and really fun to be around. They are totally approachable and spend a lot of time with everybody on every team.
“Just hanging out with the team all weekend and hanging out with the ex-Penguins is unbelievable. They love to tell you what it was like when they were playing. It’s a great time being in the team environment pretending you are out there on the Mellon Arena ice and that for a split second you made the (Penguins).”
Participants were treated to a skills event at Iceoplex at Southpointe on Friday, a round robin tournament at Bladerunners (Harmarville) on Saturday, tickets to watch the Penguins battle the New York Rangers on Friday and the Nashville Predators on Sunday and a playoff tournament at Mellon Arena Sunday night.
Former Penguins Phil Bourque (Chinstraps), John Cullen (Emperors), Dave Roche (Rockhoppers) and Chris Tamer (Royals) were on hand to serve as celebrity captains. For Tamer, it marked his fantasy camp debut.
“This was my second time back,” Roche said. “I was here in ’07. I had a blast and I was honored to come back again. You get to have a lot of fun and meet a lot of friends. Everybody leaves a lot out here on the ice and has a blast. The enthusiasm of these guys who come here is what makes this event what it is.”
Thanks to a late third-period goal from Bourque, his second tally of the championship game, the Chinstraps were able to erase a pair of late goals from Roche to steal a 5-4 seesaw victory over the Rockhoppers, and the prestigious Jack Riley Cup.
“What’s this, my fifth or sixth year?” Bourque said. “I’m surprised they keep inviting me back because I keep losing every year. It’s fun after so many years of coming to finally win.”
|The Chinstraps and Rockhoppers do battle in Sunday's championship game. |
The Chinstraps dominated the play early in the opening period, but Rockhoppers goaltender Colin Devine stoned Bret Atwood’s penalty-shot attempt and Bourque had a goal waved off a minute later when it was ruled the net was off its moorings.
Rob Harrison made the Chinstraps pay for those missed opportunities by going five-hole on a penalty shot to open the scoring in favor of the Rockhoppers 7:39 into the first period.
Atwood and the Chins answered right back 1:30 later to tie the score, 1-1. Atwood took a pass at the blue line, made a deft stickhandling move to elude a defender and sent a pass to the stick of Joe Morascyzk, who tipped the biscuit into the cage.
The Chins took a 2-1 lead into the second period when Bourque skated down the right side on a two-on-one and fired a slap shot from the right circle which the goaltender never had a chance to stop.
Roche helped his team tie the score again at 14:11 of the second period when he picked a pocket in the neutral zone and sprang Christopher Powers into the Chins zone, where he went around a defender and stuffed in a shot to make it 2-2.
A twisted wrister off the stick of Morascyzk midway through the period gave the Chins a 3-2 advantage heading into the final period.
It looked like the Chins were going to comfortably skate away with the victory after Scott Cessna made pad saves on consecutive penalty shots less than a minute into the period, and Helmur Hannig slid a backhander into the cage with 5:55 remaining to make it 4-2 in favor of the Chins.
Roche and the Hoppers had other ideas. He scored on a one-timer from four feet away 54 seconds later to get his team back within one, then tied the contest with 1:42 to play by snapping a shot home from the left of the crease to make it 4-4.
“The team wanted to make it close,” Roche said. “They worked hard and got the puck to the net. They were gritty goals. All I had to do was jam it home.”
Just when it appeared the game was headed into overtime, Bourque’s hustle drew a late penalty shot, and the Stanley Cup hero made the most of his opportunity.
Bourque skated the puck wide to the right-wing boards, came back towards the slot and sent a laser past the netminder’s glove to give the Chinstraps a dramatic 5-4 victory, and Bourque’s first fantasy camp championship.
“I didn’t want it to end that way,” Bourque said. “The game was so tight. But they had back-to-back penalty shots so I figured maybe it was our turn. I didn’t want to miss there.
“I have watched the shootouts enough from up top that I have seen the guys go wide. I had never done it before. It seems to get the goalies moving. He gave me the short side and I thought I better take it because I don’t have another move after this.”
As the Chinstraps celebrated their victory, one of their players, Shawn Strom, was able to talk about how the day was a double success for him personally. Immediately following the Chins victory in the semifinal round, Strom proposed to his girlfriend, Denise, in the arena seats, and she said ‘yes.’
|The Emperors and Royals shake hands following a thrilling consolation game at Mellon Arena. |
“She is a big hockey fan and she is the one that bought me this gift for my birthday,” Strom said. “She is just a great girl so I thought what better place to do it than Mellon Arena.”
Tamer scored once in the first period and again in the second to spur the Royals to a 5-3 defeat of the Emperors in the consolation game.
Tamer opened the scoring by depositing a drop pass from Dave Garlow over a prone Emperors netminder just minutes into the first period, then picked up a loose puck in the second, walked through the slot and fired a blistering wrist shot into the cage to give his team a 2-1 lead they would never relinquish.
Jeff McCandless, Bob Mackenzie and Colin Edwards also scored for the Royals. Jeff Legreca scored his second goal of the game on a penalty shot and John Cullen added a late tally on a breakaway to make the game close in the third, but the Royals withstood the late push from the Emperors.
In the semifinal round, the Rock Hoppers began the evening by soundly defeating the Emperors, 12-4, behind two-goal performances from Mark Bonin and Powers. Although it came in a losing effort, Mike Andry was the star of the game with a hat trick and an assist for the Emperors, including a gorgeous backhand goal on a second-period penalty shot.
Game two of the semifinals featured a little less scoring as the Chin Straps rode a 4-0 second-period lead to a 6-1 victory over the Royals. Chris Powala got the Chins rolling in the opening frame when he went far side for the opening goal following a give-and-go with Jim Welsh.
The ‘Old 29er’ increased that lead early in the second period when he scored on a shot from the left circle to make it 2-0. Goals from Hannig and Welsh made it 4-0 before Jeff McCandlesss one-timed a shot from the slot to get the Royals on the board. Bourque and Welsh closed out the scoring with their second goals of the night in the final frame.