The Granite City Lumberjacks were crowned the National Champions of the North American 3 Hockey League (3HL) on Monday afternoon at the Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva, Illinois as they defeated the St. Louis Jr. Blues, 2-1 to win the inaugural 3HL Silver Cup. “I think the team had tremendous focus today and pulled together all tournament long to get the job done,” said Lumberjacks head coach Brad Willner. “Their injured teammate Ezra McPhail was in the back of their mind and in the end I knew they wanted to win it for him.”
Granite City opened the scoring less than two minutes into the 1st period as defenseman Kyle Castle’s shot found its way through traffic and in behind St. Louis goaltender Mitch Fernsler for the 1-0 lead. Blayne Ellson picked up the lone assist on the goal. Granite City managed to create most the offense in the opening period, outshooting the Jr. Blues 10-6 in the opening frame. However, the majority of the Jr. Blues offense came in the late stages of the period, with Granite City goaltender Matt Grove having to make two important saves as the buzzer sounded.
St. Louis had an early power play in the 2nd period, but could not convert. Two minutes later, Granite City had a power play opportunity of their own, but Mitch Fernsler kept the Jr. Blues in the game with several big saves. Just over midway through the period, Granite City would strike for their second goal of the game. A pass to the point from Riley Bengston, set-up a shot from defenseman Isaac Hoagland from the blueline, which was redirected in front by Trevor Ness and under the left leg pad of Fernsler for a 2-0 Lumberjacks lead.
The Jr. Blues struggled to find much offense in the 3rd period. Each team had a power play they failed to convert on. Just when Granite City thought about their championship dreams, the Jr. Blues put everything on hold with their first goal of the game. Trace Jablin streaked down the left side and lifted a shot over the shoulder of Matt Grove to bring the Jr. Blues to within a goal at 2-1. Robert Hintz and Joe Bowler assisted on the goal. The goal came with just over two minutes remaining in the game. St. Louis won the face-off and went down on the attack again, only to hit the post as the narrowly missed a chance to tie. In the dying seconds with Fernsler out of the net, the Jr. Blues could not get a quality scoring chance on goal. With :08 seconds remaining a face-off in the Granite City end was chipped out of the zone and the celebration was on for the Lumberjacks. Lumberjacks goaltender Matt Grove finished with 19 saves in the win, while Mitch Fernsler played great in the loss, making 32 saves.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)