I've mentioned here before that I work as the director of broadcasting and media relations for a team in the Junior A NAHL, the Wichita Falls Wildcats. I had hoped that maybe, just maybe, leaving Cleveland and moving to Texas would spare me from the archetypal Cleveland Loss.
It didn't. It followed me to the Wildcats.
We finished third in the South Division this year with a 24-25-9 record, putting us in the playoffs against the Topeka Roadrunners. Games 1 and 2 of the series were played in Topeka. Game 1, the Roadrunners take a 3-0 lead, hold on to win 3-2. Game 2, they win 6-3. So, we're down 2-0 in the series, heading back home.
Friday, in our arena, Topeka takes the lead 1-0 in the second. That was all our goalie would give up though. With 1:48 left in our season, a forward picks up a rebound and puts it past their goalie, tying the game. Three minutes into overtime, we pull off the victory, with a blast from a defenseman from the point past a screened goalie, giving us new life.
Saturday, it happens again. Topeka scores in the first, but that was it. We evened it up late in the second on the power play, scored a shorthanded goal early in the third, added an even strength goal and finally an empty netter for a 4-1 win. We were headed back to Topeka for Game 5.
Things start out well-- two goals in the first from our crash line (all three forwards on the line were in the league's top 10 in PIM in the regular season, 1st, 2nd, and 8th), solid goaltending... Got outshot 21-5 in the first period, but led 2-0. Second period ends, still 2-0.
And then, the luck runs out. A goal on a deflection to cut it to 2-1. A blocked shot from the blue line goes right to one of their players and he unleashes a blast from the high slot to tie it. With under 4 minutes left, another deflection on the power play gives Topeka the lead. Final 30 seconds, net empty, we get called for a phantom penalty. A player argues it and gets tossed. Topeka adds the empty netter.
Why me? Why us? Why after the miracles of Games 3 and 4?