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USA Bandy Championships in the Books

By Thom Wynn, 03/06/12, 9:18PM CST


Roseville, Minnesota - The long Bandy season has finally come to an end, and the Champions have been crowned. Last Saturday afternoon in Division I play at the Guidant John Rose Minnesota Oval, it was Minneapolis Bandolier reclaiming the Gunnar Cup, winning their best of three series, two games to none, over Duluth Dynamo. Earlier in the day, it was Elsie's taking home the hardware in Division II, defeating Tsunami Ice by a final score of 2-1.

Division I Championship Series ~ Duluth Dynamo vs. Minneapolis Bandolier ~

Minneapolis Bandolier successfully bookended their Championship in the North American Cup pre-season tournament, capturing the coveted Gunnar Cup Saturday afternoon, defeating Duluth Dynamo in the best of three Championship series in the first division of the USA Bandy League. In a tightly contested series, it was a defensive minded Bandolier keeping a talent heavy Dynamo squad in check, smothering Duluth's highly skilled offense, and capitalizing on turnovers to win the series.

Minneapolis Bandolier

In game one of the best of three series on February 27th, Bandolier defeated Dynamo by a final score of 3-2. Despite Duluth having ball possession an estimated seventy to eighty percent of the game. In the end, Dynamo was unable to navigate it's way through the tight Bandolier defense, or make use of their opportunities when given, including six corner strokes in the last ten minutes of the game. Bandolier stuck to their game plan, creating a defensive shell, and capitalizing on their opportunities. Jon Keseley had two goals in the victory, and Peter Knutson the other for Bandolier. Pat Green and Dave Moline scored for Dynamo.

Photo Courtesy of Tom Stuart

Game two on March 3rd proved to be more of the same, as Bandolier squeaked one out, 4-3. Andrew Knutson opened the scoring fifteen minutes into the game, when he was the fortunate recipient of a rebound kicked out to him after Duluth Dynamo Goalkeeper Dave Guetschow made the initial stop of a shot on an aggressive sliding save. Unfortunately for Guetschow, the ball landed right on Knutson's stick, and he quickly one timed it into the back of the net. Tommy Stone, who some believe was the difference in the championship series, would make a miraculous leg save on Duluth's best offensive chance of the first half, kicking out a point blank shot from Dynamo forward Brent Palmer. Duluth would finally get on the scoreboard with 9:00 left in the first half on a goal by Pat Green that looked as if it may have fooled Stone as it trickled into the far side of the net just inside the post. Jon Keseley would break the tie just a minute and a half later when he scored off a corner stroke with a low hard shot that beat Guetschow between the legs, an opportunity the Dynamo goalkeeper undoubtedly would like back. Bandolier would add to their lead with just over two minutes left in the half when Andrew Knutson hit John Arundel with a short pass as Arundel came gliding in on net and fired a point blank shot past a sprawling Guetschow to make it 3-1. The half would end that way, with Bandolier holding the two goal advantage. 
The second half would turn into a goaltending battle, as Guetschow and Stone made several difficult saves to keep the score at 3-1 for Bandolier. Stone would stop a barrage of shots with 23:00 left in the match, which surely affected the psyche of Duluth Dynamo, who must have wondered how they would ever come back against a goalie that looked to have no weaknesses on this day. Stone's counterpart at the other end, Dave Guetschow, would need to make some highlight saves of his own as Dynamo sacrificed defense for more offensive opportunities in their attempt to climb back in the game as it wore on. Their gamble would finally pay off as they scored to make it 3-2 with 21:15 left in the second half, on a Pat Green rebound goal off a long free stroke shot, his second of the game.
Dynamo continued their offensive push in an attempt to get the tying goal, and that would cost them in their own end, as Keseley scored his second goal of the game with just 11:00 minutes left in regulation. On the play, Keseley was left alone to drive up the right boards, angle towards the net, and from his favorite spot on the ice twenty feet from the goal, drilled a laser of a shot into the far upper corner of the net. Scoring from that area of the ice has become Keseley's bread and butter this season, and Guetschow was helpless in trying to stop his bullet of a shot.

Jon Keseley

With his team leading by two, Stone made another huge pad save with 2:30 left and then another big kick save during the same sequence to keep Duluth at bay, which would prove to be the difference in the end as Dynamo would score off a corner stroke with just under a minute left in the game, and managed to get at least one more quality scoring chance before the clock finally ran out. Not surprisingly, the third and final Duluth goal came from Pat Green, completing the hat trick in the game for the veteran. Green is in the last year of a five year contract with Duluth, who hope to sign him to a long term deal in the off season. His performance in the finals will no doubt give him some leverage in negotiations with the Duluth front office, although Green has indicated he has no plans to leave Dynamo. 
Commenting on the championships series, a visibly dejected Dynamo team manager Rick Haney said "As a team, we're very disappointed in our inability to score. We controlled the game and had many opportunities to score, including numerous corners, but without anything to show for it. Give Bandolier credit though, as they played a strong defensive game throughout, and Tommy Stone stood out between the pipes".
On the other side of the ice, Bandolier team Manager Andrew Knutson had this to say in regards to the championship series, and their season as a whole "We stuck to our plan of being patient with the ball and playing solid defense in the series. Our steering was the key to winning these last two games, and Duluth was forced to turn the ball back quite a bit, even with Haney leading the backfield for them. We were very happy with our overall play". "(Tommy) Stone was unbelievable, and Peter Knutson and John Arundel blocked a number of important corners for us to clinch the win. We had a great mix of new players who really stepped up this year, including Jake and Nate Perpich, along with veteran leadership in Joel Andell and Chris Middlebrook. Keseley scored a lot of clutch goals throughout the season, as did Ian Middlebrook" Knutson added.

Jon Keseley was voted Championship MVP by tournament officials, notching four goals in the two game series, including the game winner in both matches.

Division II Championship Game ~ Elsie's vs. Tsunami Ice ~

There was also a league Championship game to be played in the second Division of USA Bandy on Saturday, but before that could happen, a semifinal match would need to be contested in order to determine who would earn the right to play Tsunami Ice in the final. In a barnburner of a game, it was Elsie's coming from behind to tie the score at five late, and force a shootout. They would also need to come back from a 2-0 deficit in that shootout, getting goals from their last three shooters to claim the 3-2 win.
In the Championship game that followed, it was Elsie's Peter Mullin who opened the scoring in the fourth minute of the game, giving his team a 1-0 lead. That lead would be short lived, however, as less than a minute later, it was Guy Logan scoring for Tsunami Ice off a corner stroke to tie the score at one less than six minutes into the game. That would be the score at halftime as the teams went to the dressing room knotted at one. It remained that way until Mullin scored his second goal of the game off the rebound of a corner stroke with just 12:30 left in the game to make it 2-1, Elsie's. As Tsunami Ice's front line desperately pushed for the tying goal, it was their own goalkeeper, Brad Prchal, who made a number of crucial saves, including a potential game changer with only 5:30 left to keep his team within' striking distance. But his counterpart at the other end of the ice, Derek Melander, was rock solid in the nets and turned aside everything Tsunami threw at him. Melander and Elsie's would hang on for the 2-1 win, and take the Division II title after finishing third in the regular season. To no one's surprise, Elsie's Peter Mullin was named the games MVP.