Varje vecka publiceras en gästkrönika. Den här gången skriver Zach Hamill om sista omgången i HockeyAllsvenskan ifjol, ödesmatchen mot Västerås, hans mål som räddade Björklöven undan negativt kval - och summerar allt som en av de bästa dagarna i hans liv.
I can recollect the day perfectly.
I woke up with a feeling in the pit of my stomach that was similar to the feeling I had the day that I got drafted into the NHL. The moment I walked into the arena, I was overcome with emotions. To me, this game wasn’t just any game, it was a game that would predict our teams overall success. It was this very game that would result in victory or defeat. Overall, it was this game that meant so much to our fans and our coaches but most importantly, to my teammates and I.
Throughout the season, our consistency wasn’t there as we would loose one game and then win one game. Unfortunately, none of these games were won at home and we soon became known as the road warriors. This pattern continued for several months and it was very difficult for us to change our place in the standings. In the last few months of the season, we continually battled to stay out of regulation. There were many games that would leave me sleepless as I would recollect on every minute of every poor game that we played. I would question everything from the way I passed the puck to the hardness of my shot to the way I skated down the ice. As a hockey player, the game consumes you and I was a victim of this.
The last three games are some of the most memorable games of my life. As you know, we were battling Vasteras for last place in order to stay out of the regulation round. Our overtime loss resulted in a game against Mora, a team in the league that had held their first place standings consecutively. The day before this game, our coach held a team meeting at the hotel before dinner. The words that our coach spoke were unforgettable but primarily, it was evident that nothing mattered more to anyone but these two games. We all knew that we needed at least two points to remain in the battle because the team we were battling had previously won their game. Although it was only two points, all of us felt as if it was the difference between life and death. Every single one of us did anything it took to win that game and with hard work, determination and a will to succeed, we won.
It was only a two short days later that we would have our final game. These two days felt as if they lasted two years. Over the course of forty-eight hours, the game was the only thing I thought about. When we practiced the day before the game, it was obvious that everyone was distracted and consumed by the fact that we would play our final game the next day.
As I previously mentioned, we became the road warriors as it was almost impossible for us to win a game at home and much easier for us to win a game on the road. To our luck, this final game was scheduled at home and all of us couldn’t help but recall how difficult it was for us to have a home win. To say that we felt the odds were against us and that we were worried would be a false statement.
The moment I walked into the arena, I was hit with a wave of emotions. Every single game that we played, couldn’t have prepared me for this championship game. Immediately upon entering the dressing room, we were told that this game was changed to air on TV. On top of that, we were advised that the game was sold out and that all of the alumni were in the stands to witness either a victory or a defeat. If I have ever felt nerves, it was at this very moment that I knew I had to channel all of my nerves into energy and motivation since we needed a straight win to move forward. As I sat in my stall right before we were to go on the ice, I gave myself a pep talk. I told myself that I wanted to do much more than just play hockey but instead that I wanted to make a difference on the ice.
The moment the puck dropped at the beginning of the game, nothing else mattered. In the first few minutes, there were very limited chances for either team to score. It wasn’t until half way through the first period that they scored on us and if you know hockey, you know the high importance of the first goal. Initially, we were all upset but we channeled our negative energy into determination and by doing this, Sandstrom scored late in the first period to tie up the game. During the first intermission, we all knew that we we’re playing well but we knew that we needed to play our absolute best and to give everything we have to these final two periods. This is exactly what we did and the second period might just have been the best period I have ever seen us play other than the fact that we couldn’t get a goal. With only a few moments left in the second period, our goalie, Werner, made a championship save and thankfully, we ended the second period by remaining at 1-1.
Our final intermission, we all knew that this final period was what determined the entire game. We started the third period very strong and a defining moment in the game was the faceoff in the opposing end of the left side. Karlsson was taking the faceoff for us and in my perspective, it was different than any other faceoff he had previously taken. It was almost as if both players paused for a moment in time and then looked down to see the puck sitting there. In the end, Karlsson won the faceoff and he quickly passed it to Pukka who took a shot from the top line and scored with ten minutes remaining in the period. The feeling of that goal, was unlike anything and we knew just how much closer we were to triumph. With ten minutes left in the third period, we knew we had to play smart but we found ourselves sitting back and holding on to the lead. With only about seven minutes left, there was a penalty call for both teams which resulted in a four on four game. The entire time throughout the penalties, I was on the bench thinking that we can’t take another one. Unfortunately, with one minute remaining in the penalties, we take another one which results in a four on three game and a 2-2 goal. It felt as if the odds were against us but in those final six minutes of the game, something clicked in every single one of us and the game was just getting started.
Fast forward to the final minute of the game where we called a timeout. As Hage, Lindquist, Andersson, Murphy, and I skated onto the ice for the final minute of play, the level of calmness from all of us was surreal. As soon as the whistle blew, Murphy took the puck into the opposing end but as he skated, he fell. Luckily, Lindquist picked up the puck and took it behind there net and finished off with my favorite play of his where he puts it underneath the opposing player and then bypasses him. As I was back playing defense, I noticed an opening and quickly skated down the right side. As I skated, I remember thinking that there was no way he could hear me yelling for the puck. To my surprise he did and as soon as he passed it to me I took a shot and I scored! The moment felt like an absolute dream and all I can remember was being swarmed by all of the guys for a group hug and hearing the roaring of the fans in the background. The final seconds of the game lasted what felt like an eternity but we managed to clench the win. The moment the buzzer went off, we all skated onto the ice and jumped and piled onto our goalie in celebration of what we had just overcome. The time after the game was filled with so much happiness, excitement and a variety of other emotions. We had done exactly what we came to do and I couldn’t imagine doing it with any other team or group of guys.
Fast forward to one year later and with no hesitation, I admit that i have watched the game over fifteen times. Every single time that I watch it, I can’t help but smile. In fact, as I share my experience now, I have the biggest grin on my face as I remember one of the greatest players I have played with, Ohman, expressing how special and unforgettable this game was.
In the end, this day and this game will forever be one of the best days of my life and something that I will never fully be able to describe as much I try.
Zach Hamill Stor Björklöven-hjälte i sista omgången ifjol