Tuesday, April 26, 2016

1976 Lewis Cup Finals

The 1976 Lewis Cup Finals would pit the heavily favored LA Wizards against the cinderella Boston Bulldogs. The Wizards entered the championship series full of confidence after blazing through the playoffs. LA had only lost one game throughout the playoffs, and Stuart Holly had already set a new mark for playoff points with 26 in just 12 games. Boston, meanwhile, relied heavily on their depth and their ability to shut down other teams top players. The Bulldogs did a good job shutting down the Holly/Fowler combo in game one, keeping the two of them off the scoreboard. However Sheldon Hopkins finally scored for LA in the third period and the Wizards hung on for the win. In game two, Boston finally found the scoreboard when Johnny Bedford scored his first goal since the first round with a hard slapshot from the point, giving Boston their first lead of the series. three minutes later, Phil Reid scored to give Boston a 2-0 lead. Early in the second period, Stuart Holly was at it again, deking everyone one the ice before putting the puck between Ricky Spooner's legs to bring the game within 1. Seconds later, Holly connected again with Ray Fowler to tie the game. 94 seconds later, Holly scored again to give LA a 3-2 lead. After allowing three goals within two minutes and watching their lead evaporate, the Bulldogs never found their way back into the game and the Wizards held on to win 3-2. heading back to Boston for games 3 and 4 the Bulldogs were still confident they could compete with the Wizards despite being down 2-0. That confidence would turn into results in game 3, as the 'Dogs did an excellent job shutting down LA's superstars while Ricky Spooner made 38 saves in a 4-1 win. The Bulldogs rode the momentum from game 3 into game 4, with Don Greer scoring halfway into the first period. The Bulldogs brilliantly held the Wizards off the scoreboard throughout the remainder of the game. As the clock wound down, frustration boiled over as for the first time, LA could not find a way to break through.

Heading back to LA tied 2-2, the Wizards confidence was shaky. They could not figure out a way to solve Ricky Spooner or the Bulldogs tight checking. Prior to game 5 in LA, veteran Gilbert Giroux showed the team his Lewis Cup ring he had earned as a member of the Quebec Nationale in 1960, the first of four he would win in the 1960s. Giroux talked about the challenges the Nationale had faced and the perseverance that had ultimately made them a dynasty. Motivated by Giroux's words, the Wizards came out firing, scoring two goals just ten minutes in. Boston quickly responded with two goals of their own to tie the game. The teams remained tied through most of the game before Giroux finally beat Ricky Spooner to give the Wizards the lead. With the Boston net empty, Giroux slid the puck to Stuart Holly who who slipped it in the open net to seal the win as the LA crowd gave their team a standing ovation. Two nights later in Boston, Holly, Giroux, Brad Wolfe each scored while Dave Lindsay and Colin Fleming each scored for Boston as LA held a 3-2 lead with two minutes remaining. With Spooner pulled the Bulldogs tried furiously to tie the game, but Dennis Carter had an answer for every Boston challenge. The clock finally wound down to zero as the Wizards poured off the bench and mobbed Carter. Stuart Holly, who finished the playoffs with 31 points, accepted the Lewis Cup from Alan Garcia. After years of coming up short, the LA Wizards were finally Lewis Cup Champions.

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