Saturday, May 27, 2017

1993 Lewis Cup Finals

Featuring the two most physical teams in the league, the 1993 Lewis Cup Finals promised to be a tough battle. “There will be a lot of bruises on both clubs by the end of this thing, I can promise you that” said Edmonton coach Rick Camford. Game one in Boston lived up to the hype, with the teams combining for 59 hits in a 3-2 Boston victory. Game two would also be a hard-hitting affair, but with some dazzling plays by Boston’s star defenseman Jari Pukki as well. Pukki twice took the puck up the length of the ice, at one point deking every Northern Light player before scoring in one of the most incredible goals in PHL history. Unfortunately for Boston, Pukki’s amazing performance wouldn’t be enough as Edmonton won 4-3 in overtime on a goal from Chris Blythe. The Northern Lights received some good news upon returning home for game three. Gary Clayton, who was supposed to miss the remainder of the playoffs, had begun skating and hoped to get into the series at some point. Buoyed by the improving condition of their teammate, the Northern Lights jumped to a 3-0 lead in game three. After the third goal, frustration finally took over for Boston, who took a bad penalty when Jason Luna was ejected for a cross-check to the face of Dwight Ingram. Ingram lost three teeth on the play but still managed to play one of the best defensive games of his career, delivering 12 hits in the rest of the game. Boston nearly tied the game in the third but Edmonton hung on for a big 3-2 win and a 2-1 series lead.

Jason Luna was suspended for game four, a big loss for the Bulldogs, who were trying to avoid a 3-1 hole. With Luna gone, it was up to the captain, Craig Bush to carry the offense. Bush responded in a big way. Before the puck even hit the ice to start the game, Bush dropped the gloves and fought Neil Nichols, dominating the veteran Edmonton grinder. The crowd at Edmonton Central Arena booed Bush as he skated to the penalty box, but the fight turned everything around for Boston. Kyle Boone scored just moments after the fight to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead and Kevin Washer made an incredible 46 saves to preserve the lead until Bush sealed the victory with a big goal midway through the third period. Boston had regained home ice advantage heading home for game five. Once again the Northern Lights received some welcome news just after game four, Gary Clayton would travel with the team to Boston and dress for game five. With just seconds left in game five, Boston held a 4-3 lead. A big push from Edmonton meant Washer had to make several big stops in the dying seconds. Finally, Clayton found an empty space just beside the net where he took a pass from Neil Nichols and jammed it under Washer’s pad to tie the game. It was Clayton’s first goal of the playoffs in his first game since round one. Through two overtimes, Kevin Washer and Wes Simmons each made several brilliant saves to keep the game tied. Just as it looked like a third extra period was coming, Kevin Wyatt fell while trying to handle the puck in the neutral zone. Craig Bush pounced on the puck and slapped it on net, beating Simmons for the winning goal. Boston now sat just one win away from their first championship in 22 years.

As the teams departed for Edmonton for game six, The Boston Globe ran a photo of Bulldogs legend Johnny Bedford holding the cup in 1971 with the headline “Is Tonight The Night?” Several players commented on what winning a title would mean to them, while the captain remained focused on the game. “We cannot afford to think too much about the celebration” said Craig Bush. “We need to be ready to play and stay true to our game.” Edmonton, boosted by the sellout crowd of 17100, got off to a fast start, scoring twice in the first period. But Boston was not about to quit. Bush scored just two minutes into the second period and without even allowing his team to celebrate the goal, ordered his linemates back to center ice for the faceoff. The tactic worked as Ken Peters scored to tie the game just 21 seconds after the Bush goal. The Edmonton crowd was silent. The tie held until the third period, when veteran defenseman Aaron Goodwin beat Simmons through traffic with a point shot to give Boston the lead. With time winding down in the game, the Northern Lights pulled Simmons in an effort to tie the game. After Kevin Washer made some big saves to preserve the lead, the puck was cleared out where Bush and Colin Fleming found themselves on a 2-on-0 with an empty net. Bush slid the puck across to Fleming, who scored what would be the final goal of his career to secure the win and give the Boston Bulldogs their first Lewis Cup since 1971. Darryl Byrd presented the cup to playoff MVP Craig Bush, who immediately handed it off to Fleming. Tears streamed down Fleming’s face as he skated the Cup around the ice. “To be able to do this in a Bulldogs uniform is all I ever wanted to do” said Fleming. “This is the greatest moment of my career.”

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