We are down the Final Four! We started with 17 teams and now we are 72 hours away from the Lightning Cup. I think the question on everyone’s mind is, will we be crowning a new champion on Sunday or will we see East Manatee go back-to-back? Only time will tell. luckily for all of us, we don’t have to wait that long. We have two games tonight over at ISF. The first will be at 8:15 PM and the other at 9:45 PM.
This game and match-up are beyond unique. These two teams have not faced each other yet this season. Yesterday while we were recording, Tom looked in the record books to find out that the last time these two played was over two years ago. As an analytics junkie. I hate this feeling. I have nothing to work off for this game from a number’s perspective. But as a fan of both of these teams, I couldn’t be more excited. Both of these coaches are phenomenal people. On one side of the bench we have the LAW & ORDER of this league, Dan Bubley. On the other bench we have Dax Burkhart, the father of “The Legend of Troy Burkhart.” Both of these men are here because they are winners but unfortunately only one will prevail tonight. We actually spoke to Coach Bubley yesterday on the podcast. He informed us that Steinbrenner will not be going with the same game plan and tactics used on Wednesday night. To make things even more interesting, Steinbrenner has the difficult decision on who to start between the pipes tonight. With 3 talented goaltenders in their stable, Coach Bubley didn't show his hand when pressed on the issue.
While we’re on the topic of goaltenders. We also had a chance to speak with Troy Burkhart. Troy, Tom, and I talked about the strengths and potential difficulties of facing a team they have essentially no history with. “They don’t know me, my movements, or my tendencies so I actually think that is something going in my favor, but at the same time. I don’t know there dekes or dangles, so it is something I am going to have to adjust on the fly.”
Folks, there are games where you sit down and watch, and there are games where you are on your feet, on edge with anticipation for every shift, every shot, every second. Neither of the games tonight fall into the category of "sit down and watch". I will be standing for every second of these games tonight. As Jesuit senior, Sammy Barranco would say. “If you have a pulse, be at this game.” That is not a suggestion, it is a demand.
For the second and final game of the evening, we have the rematch of the century as Jesuit and East Manatee face off in the Eastern Conference Final for the second time in two years. Unlike the first game on the docket tonight, these two teams are very familiar with one another, having faced off twice this year. Each winning a game.
Last year these teams played what is described as potentially the best or hardest played game in LHSHL history. It went to a shoot-out with the game tied 0-0. With East Manatee’s Tyler Moschella standing tall in net, the Admirals would take the 1-0 victory, sending his team to the Lightning Cup Final, where they would go on to win it all! Some of the names and faces have changed on both benches, this is true. Will the Admirals prevail once again? Or will the Tigers get that sour taste out of their mouth from last year, and punch their ticket to the finals for the first time since the 2012-2013 season? in less than 24 hours, we will find out.
Yesterday we were joined in studio with Jesuit Head Coach, Jassen Cullimore. We talked about his team’s convincing win over Freedom the other night and the preparation going into tonight game. We did the same with Admirals junior forward, Tyler Stowe. Tyler is aware of the task at hand. He respects the capabilities of this Jesuit side and knows this game will not be easy.
As you know, Tom and I live to serve you, the people. We had a very special guest yesterday that you can check out on the pod. We had the Queen of Tampa Bay Lightning Alumni, Rachel Killman, on the show to discuss an array of topics ranging from Hockey Day in Tampa Bay, to Lightning Fantasy Camp. She shared some great stories about the alumni like receiving voicemails in straight Russian from EDP head coach Nikita Alekseev. Spoiler alert: Rachel doesn’t speak Russian.
It is wild to think the season is almost over. But the next few days are going to be filled with suspense and joy. By this time on Monday, we will have crowned the 2018-2019 Lightning Cup Champion. I look forward to seeing you all pack the Ice Sports Forum tonight and FILLING Amalie Arena on Sunday. Puck drop for the Championship Game will be at 8:15 PM.
SEE YOU THERE!