Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Danish Champs Crowned

When one thinks of pirates in the general sense, there might be a few images that come to mind: ships, the Jolly Roger, and, of course, treasure. Most of the treasure that pirates sought was crafted from gold, and as you can see in the lede image, there's a distinctly gold hue to the Aalborg Pirates' logo today! The Aalborg Pirates, after establishing a 3-0 lead in the Metal Ligaen championship over the first-overall Herning Blue Fox, wrapped up a magical season by capturing the Danish league's top trophy today! It didn't come easy by any means after Herning put up a heckuva fight to stay alive, but the Aalborg Pirates claimed the spoils with their victory today!

If there's one thing Beans and I stress on The Hockey Show when talking about the playoffs, it's that closing out a series is the hardest of the four games that a team has to win. The team that is facing elimination knows there's no tomorrow, so they're playing desperate hockey to keep their season alive. Being on the precipice of a win, as I wrote last week, means that you're one step away from glory, but no one will simply let you walk on them to said glory. Aalborg needed to take that last step past a team in the Herning Blue Fox that simply weren't ready to call it a season yet.

Game Four in Aalborg saw the Blue Fox do something they hadn't done all series to that point - go up by more than a goal on the Pirates. Midway through the second period, Herning held a 3-0 advantage of Aalborg as they were taking everything they had to the Pirates' doorstep. Aalborg did battle back in getting goals from Kirill Kabanov late in the second period and Olivier Hinse early in the third period, but Herning simply would not break in Game Four as they skated to the 3-2 victory to make the series 3-1.

Game Five returned to Herning where the Blue Fox followed the same game plan in running out to a 3-0 lead after 30 minutes of play. Aalborg once again dug their heels in and found goals from Peter Quenneville and Clay Anderson in the third period to cut the deficit to 3-2, but a pair of late goals from the Blue Fox sealed a win for the home team as they defeated Aalborg 5-2 in to cut the series deficit to 3-2. I don't know how the Pirates were feeling at that point, but I'll admit a modicum of worry had crept into my hopes for a championship.

Game Six went today in Aalborg, and there was a party-like atmosphere in Cool East Arena as the Pirates and Blue Fox met for the sixth installment in this series. Herning was looking to continue their trend of jumping out in front early and building a three-goal cushion while Aalborg was looking to jump out to a lead they wouldn't relinquish in eliminating Herning. As you can probably discern from the title of this article, the result was favorable for the Pirates-clad team.

Clay Anderson opened the scoring just 2:52 in, and Peter Quenneville made it 2-0 just 1:30 later. Less than five minutes in, and Aalborg was up a pair of goals on home ice. That doesn't mean a lot that early into the game, but the crowd of 5000 fans was roaring and pushing the Pirates to score more. While no additional goals would be found in the first frame, Aalborg held a 14-5 advantage in shots and were up two goals in the first intermission.

Things got a little better for Herning as they regrouped in the intermission to see Jan Dalecky beat Tadeas Galansky just 4:14 into the second period to cut the deficit to 2-1. Again, a little bit of worry had to have crept into the fans - it did for me! - as the Blue Fox looked to equalize. However, leave it to former Brandon Wheat Kings captain Peter Quenneville to put that worry to rest as he notched his second of the game at 13:49 to make it a 3-1 advantage for the Pirates! Through 40 minutes of play, the Pirates continued to hold a two-goal lead and were controlling the play by leading 21-16 in shots.

After Herning's Branden Gracel took a hooking penalty 3:34 into the final frame, the first nail was driven into the Blue Fox's coffin as Martin Lefebrve scored on the power-play at 3:56. With a 4-1 lead, Aalborg had everything going their way as they continued to deny Herning opportunites on Galansky while playing a tight defensive system. Herning began to open up their offence a little more in the late stages, and Brandon Reid's squad pounced on the opportunity to put this game out of reach when Julien Jakobsen found netting behind Herning's Simon Nielsen at the 10:03 mark to make it a 5-1 game. Jakobsen would ice it with his second goal of the game at the 18:37 mark, and the celebration was on in Cool East Arena as the Aalborg Pirates claimed victory as the best Metal Ligaen team this season with their 6-1 victory!

There have been photos posted to the Aalborg Pirates' Facebook page, and I'm happy to be able to present a few of them here.

From what I've been able to gather, head coach Brandon Reid became the youngest head coach in the history of the Metal Ligaen to lead his team to the championship. Brandon's efforts over the last three seasons have played a large part in the success of the Pirates, and his recruitment of some key players - Quenneville, Kabanov, Lefebvre, Pierre-Olivier Morin, and Olivier Hinse - really set this Pirates squad on the right track. I'm not saying it all started with Reid as there were some good players in Aalborg before he got there, but he found the right players to bring everything together to erase 37 years of falling short of the goal.

To the fans of the Aalborg Pirates and the city of Aalborg, congratulations on your championship! You deserve this as much as anyone else after supporting this team so strongly for the last few years that I've been paying attention, and I hope you revel in the spoils!

To the Aalborg Pirates team, staff, and management, this championship is the result of hard work, incredible effort, and dedication to getting better over the last three seasons. Without the effort, teamwork, and pursuit of excellence shown by everyone involved with this franchise, we might not be talking about this double-Cup season!

Finally, to Brandon Reid, Jessica Scott-Reid, and wee Clover Reid, you guys are beyond deserving of this after watching all the work and passion go into this from all of you. Brandon, you've worked so hard to make this team into a champion, and you can truly say "I did this". Jessica, your support of Brandon in his dream and in these efforts has never wavered, and I can truly say that you're the MVP of these last three seasons. And let's not forget Clover's efforts in cheering on Dad as he spent time on the road and at the rink. To see you achieve your goals and dreams this season has been inspiring and truly awesome, and I'm fully appreciative of you keeping me informed along the way!

And with that, we'll close the book on the 2017-18 Metal Ligaen season! The Aalborg Pirates are your 2017-18 Metal Cup champions and your 2017-18 Prince Henrik's Cup champions! Congratulations to the Aalborg Pirates on winning every Danish hockey trophy this season!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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