Yesterday was Game 6 of the Phantoms/Norfolk series. We led three games to two, and we had the chance of taking the series if we won that game. That would have been a far better outcome, from the Phantoms' standpoint, than winding up in a 7th game where BOTH teams' seasons were on the line.
Not only that, but the next series (vs. Wilkes-Barre) would be due to begin on Wednesday, if we advanced to the next round. If we lost game 6, Game 7 of this series would have been on Monday. If we needed 7 games to advance, we'd have a mere two days of rest before we took on the Penguins. The Pens have been resting for a week now. I'd hate to be see us have a tired, banged-up team going against a fresh team, that's for sure!
About an hour before our game began, the Kentucky Derby was due to be run. There's some major local interest in that race this year, because we have a horse from Philadelphia Park running in it. What's more, the Phantoms' arena announcer, Keith Jones (no relation to the former Flyer), is also the announcer at Philadelphia Park.
Mark brought his little handheld TV so he could watch the race while we waited for the pregame warmups to start. I was standing a few rows behind him, talking to Karla (whom we met on our way into the Center). As Karla and I chatted and watched the warmups begin, suddenly she caught sight of Keith Jones in a suit and a bright blue baseball cap(!). Keith was smiling, high-fiving, and shaking hands with anyone within arm's length. Karla and I ventured down toward the glass, until we could seee that Keith's hat had "SMARTY JONES", the local horse, printed on it.
"Boy, he REALLY looks happy!", I remarked to Karla. "I wonder if Smarty Jones won?" So turned around and asked Mark, "Is the race over?"
Sure enough, Mark confirmed that Smarty Jones had won the Kentucky Derbt. :o) No wonder Keith was beaming! We were only a few feet from our elated announcer at this point, so I called down, "Yo, Keith! Any relation?"
"The horse is named after me", he joked back. Then he quickly added, "No, not really", in case anyone within earshot took him seriously.
I sure hope we get to see Keith Jones all happy like that after a couple more races, though. It would be absolutely great if the first Triple Crown winner in eons was a Philly-based horse. :o)
And speaking of wanting to see a win... I noticed that the Phantoms were wearing their new purple third jerseys for this game. I figured they wanted to close out the series, also, because we were undefeated when we wear those jerseys. Our record going into yesterday's game was 8-0. They like these jerseys so much that they balked when it came time to auction them off for charity a few weeks ago. The team wouldn't let their lucky jerseys be auctioned off before the season was over, LOL! Hey, I don't blame them. Some players are more superstitious than others, and anything that keeps the team in a winning mindset is a good thing to have around.
The Phantoms started off really well, building up a 2-0 lead by the time the first period was over. That right there was an improvement over our last game, in which we only scored one goal. Not only that, we really dominated play for the whole 20 minutes. I knew that another two periods like that would definitely win us the game.
The second period we started off well, scoring another goal. This time it was one of our blue-chip Flyers prospects, Jeff Carter, potting his first tally of the playoffs (and I think his first pro goal, period). But we had some breakdowns and gave up two quick goals to Norfolk, and finished the period with a 3-2 lead. The Admirals came out a lot harder in the second than they had in the first.
In the final period, we spent most of our time withstanding a furious Norfolk onslaught. They could see their summer looming before them, and they had no desire to have their season end just yet. I don't blame them. However, our goalie Antero Niittymaki absolutely stood on his head between the pipes, and the Ads just couldn't solve him. Plus, the guys in front of Nitty did a good job of helping to break up some of Norfolk's chances before they ever got to him in the first place.
The end result was an improvement to 9-0 for our record in the purple jerseys, and a handshake line with the Phantoms being the guys on the happy side.
There were a lot of Norfolk fans who made the trip to Philly for the game. I feel sorry for them, because at this time it's not known if they'll lose their team during the summer. If the Norfolk City Council doesn't get off their collective caboose and do something, the Admirals might end up moving to another city between now and next fall. That would really rot -- I would hate to see those fans have to bid their team goodbye. :o( It'd be even worse if the Norfolk city government is stalling on making any effort to keep the Ads in town, because they have some misguided notion that the major-league baseball Montreal Expos will be moving to Norfolk. IMO, the chances of that are slim, at best, and they'd be much better off keeping the team they HAVE instead of letting it move out and then not getting the pro baseball team after all.
Today, it's the FLYERS turn to try and win a crucial game. We are tied at two games apiece with the TO Maple Leafs. Game 5 will begin in about a half hour, and we really need this win. I want us going back to Toronto with a 3-2 series lead, not trailing and facing elimination. So I'll be putting my lucky jersey on soon :o) and tuning to ESPN to see the game. Let's Go, Flyers!