CBJ back on the ice!
The main lights go down. Blue and red lights start flashing across the ice and around the arena. The music starts slow…and builds. The drums vibrate with the beat of your own heart with the anticipation. A huge crowd of people appears on the big screen, holding the Jackets flag, making their way through the District to the Arena as if ready to start a war. And then the build-up reaches its crescendo when the players finally make their debut onto the ice. It may have been a Monday night—but an entrance like that is more than enough to rally a crowd and create a unique experience that keeps the fans coming back. Season ticket holder Wendy Johnson from Dublin agreed with me. “It’s a chance to get out of the house in the middle of winter and be in an exciting atmosphere!”
I was curious to see what this new team’s strategy for winning would be. The first period was played out for the most part in front of the Jackets net. I thought goalie Sergei Bobrovsky stepped up and did a great job. He had a lot of shots coming at him and he handled the pressure well. But it was obvious from the sounds of the crowd that the fans wanted to see more offense.
When I asked people sitting around me how they felt the first period went, all I got in response were head shakes and fingers pointing to the screen—where it read that the Jackets had only taken 3 shots on goal the entire period, to Dallas’ 9. But the score remained at zero; clearly the defense was doing something right. All it takes is one good shot on goal to win the game, if the defense can do their job.
But I would love to know what the coaches said to the team in the locker room after the first period. Something seemed to light a fire under the Jackets for the second period—because all of a sudden I was watching an aggressive offense. Dallas scored the first goal, but several slap shots and a couple power plays finally culminated in a Jackets goal by Derek Dorsett with a little more than 2 minutes remaining to keep the score tied.
The third period saw the two styles mold together. Vinny Prospal put the Jackets ahead early with a goal from the corner just 1:22 into the third period. The defense kept up the pressure; Brandon Dubinsky received loud support from the crowd for throwing himself in front of and deflecting a slap shot. And the entire crowd was on their feet and yelling in the final minute of the game as Dallas pulled the goalie for a last chance at a goal. But no such luck for the Stars—it was victory in the Arena Monday night as the Jackets took home a 2-1 win!
There was concern that the long lockout would keep all but the diehard hockey fans from coming back. The game against Dallas convinced me the Jackets don’t have anything to worry about on that front. There were plenty of hockey first-timers at that game, including one young man sitting behind me. (At one point I explained to him the difference between the crease and the blue line). Ben Jandrain from Columbus analyzed the game in relation to other sports he understands, like football and basketball. But he says he’s hooked now after seeing two Jacket games. “I just yell at the guys to center the puck a lot. I’m a Jacket fan, but I’m still learning about hockey.”
If I had any doubts before the game about how this new team is gelling together so far this season, they disappeared after seeing what happened with just four seconds left in the game. Fighting happens frequently in professional hockey, but this game had just one. A player from Dallas shoved a Jacket player from behind; he went down against the glass. Nikita Nikitin then got involved, and started fighting with the Dallas player. Should he have let it go?
But I liked that he was jumping in to defend his teammate who was hit with a cheap shot. Maybe that speaks to how this new team is communicating and coming together as a unit.
And it sure ended an exciting game with a bang!
Erin Laviola is a TV news producer and a proud graduate of Ohio University Scripps School of Journalism. Come up and talk to her– her favorite thing is meeting new people and telling stories! Follow her on twitter @ErinLaviola.