Final Word

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Coming back from Wilkes-Barre having lost 2 straight games, the team was disappointed, feeling we failed to play the way we had been successful.

Coming back from Wilkes-Barre having lost 2 straight games, the team was disappointed, feeling we failed to play the way we had been successful.

We had gotten away from controlling the game physically, controlling our defensive zone, and staying away from bad penalties. Despite, having failed to finish off the series, everyone in the locker room knew that if we played our game we would win game six at home. And to be honest, a lot of guys were excited by the fact that we had a chance to win at home, in front of our fans, and in our building.

Games 4 and 5 had been very different than the first three, not just because we lost either. A lot more special teams, a lot of penalty kill for our team especially. What that meant, was that we were not able to roll all four lines, getting everyone into the game, and wearing the other team down. That is one of our team’s biggest strengths, we can tire teams out, each of our lines being able to score, and over the course of the game, teams cannot keep up the pace consistently. By being in the box, it took that advantage away from us, and we were never able to establish any real flow or consistent pressure in our offensive zone. What was the most frustrating was that we felt like we gave the Penguins hope that they could come back after being down 3 games to nothing. Any time you give a team hope like that, it becomes dangerous. They have nothing to lose, every game they will take chances that they normally would not because they know they have
to win, that there is no tomorrow. It was that feeling that our team needed to have. In sports, it is tough to keep that mentality all the time. The best teams, the best athletes, have that urgency all the time, and I think we might have let that slip a little in game 4 and 5.

Coming back to Allstate for practice on Monday and Tuesday morning, I could tell everyone on the team had a renewed focus. I think another day off for travel on Sunday helped us to forget about the last two nights. That is something Coach Anderson constantly talks about in playoffs, forgetting the last game. When you win, forget it, because you have to go out and win another the next day. And more importantly, forget the losses; you do not have time to dwell on what you did wrong, or feel down about yourself. You concentrate on the good things we did in the game, and go about the next game as if nothing happened. When we showed up for the game Tuesday night, everyone was excited and determined to finish it off in game six. Coach Anderson talked about a sign we have in the entrance to our locker room; a picture of the ’02 championship team hopping over the bench after they won their Calder Cup. He talked about that feeling, and how we should look
at that photo before we headed out on the ice. And know that if we won, we would replace that photo on the wall.

Game six was probably one of the quickest games I was ever apart of. The clock always seemed to be running out of time quicker than normal. The place was rocking, the best crowd of the year at Allstate. We were controlling the game, getting our offensive chances, and we could tell on the bench that we were wearing them down. After our first goal by Nathan Oystrick, the bench was pumped, but everyone was telling each other to keep it going, do not let up. I think at that moment everyone knew we were going to win the game no matter what happened. The second period was frustrating only because they scored two goals to tie the game. But both goals we felt were lucky. The first goal hit me in the back of my neck, before flying 4 feet in the air, landing behind Pavelec in the goal crease. No one on our team knew where it was before their forward knocked it in. In the locker room after the second period, the score all tied up, it was real calm. I
think the guys were just anxious the get out and finish it. We knew we were going to get that game; we were controlling the game so well, we felt if we got just one goal, we could control the game till the end.

That is exactly what we did, after we scored the third goal, it was auto-pilot. Chip the puck in, get it deep, fore-check, get the puck, and get it back in deep. All the guys were on the same page, you didn’t even have to say anything, we were just playing smart hockey. Jason Krog scored the forth goal on a breakaway with about four minutes left. We knew it was ours, there was no way were going to let them back in the game, we were working too hard, playing too smart. The crowd was going crazy, throwing their hats on the ice. That was the first time I realized that Krog had scored three goals for the hat-trick that night. I turned to my partner Boris and asked him, and he didn’t realize it either. That was how focused we were on what we were doing. The defense was so focused on controlling our defensive zone; we had no idea who was scoring the goals for us that night. After Sterling scored the fifth goal, it was pandemonium, the bench
jumping up and down, celebrating the entire last minute. Jumping over the boards to celebrate our Calder Cup championship was incredible, we were all hugging and screaming, everyone celebrating our hard work and a lot of relief that it was over.

The best part was celebrating with our fans. They were so loud, all year giving us a huge home ice advantage. We took the cup, paraded around the rink, showing it off to the crowd. When I raised it above my head I was so excited, the crowd was just a big blur. One of the reasons I came back to Chicago was to win a Calder Cup championship. Two years of hard work, the ups and downs of a season, all seemed so insignificant. For every guy in that locker room it meant something different. A lot of guys in our locker room hadn’t won a championship in a long time, for me, not since high school, ten years ago. In a lot of ways we were proving to ourselves we were champions. And now after having won the Calder Cup, no one can take that away from us.

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About the blogger

Chicago Wolves defenseman Grant Lewis is playing in his second professional season. The 23-year-old blueliner is a native of Pittsburgh and was a member of Chicago's 2008 Calder Cup Championship team. Prior to going pro, the Atlanta Thrashers' second choice, 20th overall, in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft spent four years playing for Dartmouth College (ECAC).

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Roman Modrowski published on July 2, 2008 1:15 PM.

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