Saturday, July 10, 2010

Brahmas defenseman Konrad Brand

An unofficial history of the Texas Brahmas

Part Two - Youngstown

The Brahmas were scheduled to finish up an eight-game road stretch with their farthest trip of the season, a 1,546 mile journey from Odessa (where they were defeated by the Jackalopes 3-2) to Youngstown, Ohio, where they would take on the expansion SteelHounds for a three-game series that would complete the 2005-06 season.

The games held no importance for the Brahmas. They had been eliminated from playoff contention long ago and were merely playing for pride. For the SteelHounds, who had gone 21-35-5 thus far in their inaugural season, the three-game series was the final opportunity to showcase the new team on home ice at the Chevrolet Centre. They would finish second in the Northeast Division behind the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs, who had already clinched the division title for the third year in a row, but were also eliminated from the playoffs along with Fort Worth and Memphis.

The first game was played on a Wednesday night in front of 3,311 fans. The ‘Hounds had lost the last 10 in a row at home, but were fired up for the series against the hapless Brahmas who had lost all five previous matches. It would prove to be the most physical game yet between the two teams.

A cross-checking call on Ty Hennes led to a Youngstown power play and the first score of the game when center Chris Richards combined with Joey Sewell and Jeff Christian to take the 1-0 lead at the 8:31 mark.

Less than a minute later, a brawl erupted in the corner in the Brahmas defensive zone after Ryan Fairbarn tripped Sam Miller and Miller took offense, striking Fairbarn. Brahmas defenseman Sheldon Lee joined the fracus and then winger Chris Bain left the bench and threw a sucker punch on Miller. SteelHound defenseman Kris Mallete found Bain and the two duked it out at the other end of the ice. Both would earn double game misconducts. The two teams would share a total of 73 penalty minutes for their efforts. Mallette was given a two-game suspension and Bain, a recent acquisition from Wichita, would receive 10 games.

In the second period, the Brahmas cut the lead in half with Jimmy Sokol cleaning up a loose puck in front of the net for his 13th goal of the season making the score 2-1. Youngstown then padded their lead with goals from Chris Richards and Jeff Christian increasing their advantage to 4-1. Ty Hennes would tack on a goal late in the period, cutting the lead to 4-2 after 40 minutes.

Youngstown led the shot count 28-15.

The scoring stayed idle in the third period with the Hounds nursing their two-goal lead all the way until their was less than a minute in the period when Richards netted his first hat trick of the season and Christian earned his fourth point of the night and 100th point of the season with an assist.

What followed next was unsportsmanlike and disrespectful to say the least, but also showed the disdain to which SteelHounds coach J.F. Laforest held against his opponent.

With his team ahead by a score of 5-2 and with 44 seconds left in the games, Laforest, who had been going at it with Brahmas coach Guy Larose for most of the night, decided to pull goalie David St. Germaine in favor of the extra attacker to try and add a late goal. The SteelHounds, who were also on a power play, were running a promotion that would give each fan in attendance a coupon for a free Big Mac if the home team scored six goals.

The ‘Hounds were unable to score despite the two-man advantage but the SteelHounds coach was unrepentant when asked about his decision after the game.

"Hey, if we score a sixth goal, it adds to the tally and the fans go home happy," Laforest said. "You always try to score as much as you can and when one of our corporate sponsors is running a promotion, we try to help. I'd do it again until the cows come home."

Of course, the sponsor in question was McDonalds, and team owner Herb Washington owned 22 McDonald’s franchises. To say Guy LaRose was livid was probably an understatement.

"It's humiliating to have them pull their goalie when the game was already over," said Larose. "It's an unwritten rule in hockey that you just don't do that. There was no need for that. I don't know why they did it; I'm not their coach. But it kind of hit our pride there at the end."

The following evening, the SteelHounds had their way with the Brahmas as five different players (including four players with one goal and two assists each) scored goals on Andrew Martin who had yet to post a win since being claimed off waivers at the end of January. A sixth goal at the beginning of the third period sealed the shut out for the ‘Hounds and the fans got their free Big Mac.

Saturday night marked the season finale and the Chevrolet Centre was packed with a sold out crowd of 5,717. The Brahmas came out strong and although they were out shot 17-11, Cory Stillman and Ben Gustavson managed to score the opening period’s only two goals, both with the assist by Jimmy Sokol.

Youngstown right wing Joey Sewell answered with two goals in the second period to tie the game up after 40 minutes. The first came at the 3:21 mark with the assist from Jeff Christian. The second was a short-handed strike on a breakaway at the 15:54 mark with the assist from Christian and Chris Richards.

Christian jammed home a rebound off a Ben Manny shot 3:33 into the third period to score what would be the game-winning goal with the assist from Sewell. Later, with just one second left in the game, Sewell would get the hat trick on an empty net to provide the final score of 4-2.

With the win, the SteelHounds improved their final record to 24-35-5 and were 8-0 against the Brahmas.

Fort Worth finished officially with the worst record in the league at 17-39-8 and for the fourth season in a row, last in their division.

Next up: Aftermath

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