RED HOT STEEL
Updated: Nov 2, 2019
STOCKHOLM -- The Steel were sharpened to a fine point.
Henrik Lundqvist stood anxiously in his crease as the Steel took the final faceoff of Game 7 with 6.7 seconds left on the clock. The score 6-3 Stockholm. When the horn finally sounded, Lundqvist dashed to his teammates to celebrate yet another of his great accomplishments; becoming a Stanley Cup Champion. It only took 847 regular-season games plus a large handfull of playoff performances(152) which includes 24 games in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The storied veteran did a stellar job of keeping his team in nearly every game he played posting a .929 save percentage and 2.27 GAA.
Lundqvist wasn't the only Steel player that was turning heads throughout the post-season. GHL rookie sensation Kana Kusanagi managed to put up an outstanding 20 points before game 7 of the finals. She then added another goal to her point total of 21 throughout the playoffs. Those 21 points were nearly enough to tie the league leader in points (Patrick Laine: 23) which is an incredible feat for a first-year draftee. Her play had some analysts wondering why she wasn't awarded the Conn Smythe trophy instead of her teammate and friend Lundqvist. Kusanagi admits she struggled through the start of the regular season but there was a clear turning point in her mind. "I can't lie, there was an adjustment period when making my debut in the GHL. Let's face it, everyone is simply bigger and faster than the players in the minor leagues but I remember the day that we were told that we had acquired Ricky Spanish from the Thunderbirds and I thought 'Great! Someone who gets what I'm going through.' and he did! We developed chemistry on the ice nearly immediately and I started to see my point production rise because of it.".
Ricky Spanish, the other GHL rookie sensation on the team, had a remarkable regular season as he scored 35 goals and potted 21 assists. He started his season in Burnaby with the Thunderbirds but ultimately he didn't feel there was a fit there. "If I'm being honest I didn't feel like they (Burnaby now Baltimore) were utilizing me properly in their system. My ice time wasn't cutting it and I could just tell that things weren't going to work out for me if I were to stick around. The Thunderbirds management was surprisingly understanding and found a deal to deliver me to the Steel pretty quick and I appreciate the hell out of them for that. Sometimes trade requests can go south real quick, you know what I mean?". Ricky also had some kind words for his fans in Burnaby stating "I can't thank the fans in Burnaby enough for their support. I guess they're all Stockholm fans now, right? I was definitely sad for the community when I found out the team was moving to Baltimore. They were amazing every game while I was there and they certainly deserve a GHL team.".
Stockholm thought they had the Cup in their grasp when they were presented with the opportunity to close out the series in Games 5 and 6 but the Stingrays were relentless, ultimately pushing the series to a Game 7. The Steel were sharpened to a fine point in the series having both their wills and their bodies tested but in the end, they were victorious.
Many firsts come along with becoming Stanley Cup Champions. Hendrik Lundqvist will have his name etched on the cup for the first time at the age of 37 years old. Ricky Spanish will get his name on his first championship trophy in any league "It's funny, you almost start to doubt yourself even early in your career." Ricky divulges as he relives his previous Memorial and Calder Cup final losses. This first, however, may go down in the record books as Kana Kusanagi becomes the only female player to have her name on Lord Stanley's Cup. When asked how that makes her feel she stated "It's an amazing honor. You grow up watching all of these great players and idolizing them. The next thing you know you're playing shoulder to shoulder with them. Now to have my name next to theirs on the Stanley Cup is a truly indescribable feeling. A dream come true and I hope it's an inspiration to women everywhere.".
The Steel will look to continue where they left off when the first game of the 2020 season gets underway, only this time they'll have a bit more hardware to show off.