They may have won a championship but the Gamebirds are not quite ready to shed their underdog role.
The Gamebirds recently claimed the 2012 national roller hockey championship at Kings Sports Centre. The squad defeated the top-ranked Club House Sharks 9-3 in game two of the best-of-three championship series. The Gamebirds won game one 8-2.
For team captain Brendon Malice, the underdog label fuelled their success.
“First the league expanded with new players and additional teams,” Malice said. “Second, when I drafted our team, another captain participating in the draft jokingly said our team would get the first pick next season, indicating we don’t stand a chance this season. It makes it bitter sweet to claim the trophy and laugh about it now.
“There were several unforeseen contributors during the playoffs. Jeremy Hadley and Devin Malice are two players who really stepped up their game and helped our team defeat two quality hockey teams in the playoffs in the MEPCO High Rollers and Club House Sharks. Thank you Bateman Financial for supporting our team and making this championship season possible.”
Both games were never in doubt behind solid play from goalie Randy Cannon. He would turn away numerous shots from the likes of Joe Jewitt and Dan Etherington. The Gamebirds would get tons of scoring from the likes of Eric Mildenberger and Curtis Appleyard (both had hat-tricks in game two).
Mildenberger is a long-time High Roller who switched over to the Gamebirds for 2012. The engineer states beating his old squad was what catapulted his team to victory.
“It feels great to come out on top this season,” Mildenberger said. “We were the underdogs going into the playoffs and beating the High Rollers in the first round was a pivotal game. The momentum we gained from that win really set the stage for us in the finals.”
Club House were heavy favourites heading into the finals. They claimed the regular season crown at 11-1, had the league’s best offence (scoring 99 goals), the top goalie in Scott Hughes (82.6 save percentage and 23 goals allowed, both tops in the competition) and the scoring champion in Rob Rintoul (26 points off 14 goals).
The Gamebirds meanwhile were ranked third. For veteran player Colin Wilson, the Gamebirds were a squad that gelled at the right time.
“Well a few things happened, we started to play as a team,” Wilson said. “We realized where we were making mistakes and were able to make quick adjustments, playing smart hockey.”