In the end, it wasn't really about skating and scoring at all.
In a classic Cup Grand Final, two fine high-scoring teams played a characteristically Borschic game, with only 5 goals scored (the over-under was 6.5) but with plenty of grit and determination.
Green fireworks go off in the sky over Erichels after the team's Flowering Branch Cup victory. Image by Gisela Merkuur from Pixabay
Holtzlund's Green Axe crew came out the 3-2 winners, raising their first Bloomentwejg Koop since 315.
But the biggest news had to wait until well after the game.
Sybrandy Spillers, heroic goalie who made 30 saves on the game, almost became the late Sybrandy Spillers when it was discovered at game end that he had been bleeding into his skate boot for much of the third period. He was rushed to St. Noos Hospital in Staff Borsch and because blood transfusions are not normally given in Borschic medicine, he spent an uncertain night in critical condition.
The initial injury to Spillers came with 3:51 left in the third period and the score knotted at two. Rjaward's put a shot on net, there was a rebound, and Anvorian forward Dieter Strudelmacher fought his way to the puck and slipped it home.
On the play, Strudelmacher encroached on Spillers's goal crease and then was pushed into Spillers by defenseman Steen Dunkel. No one saw it, but it was likely that Strudelmacher's skate cut through Spillers's sock and into his calf.
The wound was such that it began bleeding into Spillers's skate boot, and because of adrenaline Spillers waved off help from the trainer, thinking it was just a surface cut.
The bleeding was much worse than that, though, and Spillers played through it till the end of the game, stopping 6 shots in a furious final sequence in Holtzlund's own end.
He then staggered and fell as his teammates were celebrating, and a pool of blood was seen in his vacated crease.
Luckily no artery was hit or Spillers might have lost his life.
It was fitting in a way that the game end with blood on the ice, as no quarter was given by either team throughout the game.
Rjaward looked to be in charge at the end of the first period after goals by Jens Klijnehoop (24th on the season) and Koort Strijker (17), the "Purple Rain" combination that has fueled so many Rjaward wins this year.
But Holtzlund roared back in the second period, after scoring a short-handed goal to make it 2-1. Dujtrick de Jong, so valuable to the team this year, took a headman pass from defenseman Koldar Vorochel and beat Franck Pharendaal to his stick side low.
"We'd never seen him before; maybe there was some gamesmanship on their coach's part," said de Jong after the game, referring to coach Norbert Grimm's decision to play backup goalie Lemdeveel Schmeechtpujtr in both regular-season games against the Axe Men this year. "But we had plenty of scouting and I knew he liked to waggle his stick a little bit off the ice. You can't keep that kind of thing quiet."
De Jong's goal was followed up by Kaameron Luudjeron, a 24-year old who's been making his presence felt on the ice for several weeks now. The goal followed pinpoint passes around the circles from Paul-Frujdrick Henricks and Saruman Gloostick; Luudjeron finished with a wrister that again beat Pharendaal under his stick.
Most of the third period was tense and guarded on both sides. After Rjaward had appeared to score the third goal from Strudelmacher, Holtzlund put on a two-shift rush: Axe Men coach Dirk Eechen skipped the third line's shift, re-inserting the first line but double-shifting the hot skater Luudjeron and sitting Tyger Oostende, who had had a flat game up to that point.
"They (Rjaward) were gassed and no one was matching up against Kaam," said Eechen after the game. "It was then or never. I don't like overtime and I don't like shootouts."
Luudjeron finally broke through with 2:33 left in regulation, getting the final pass on a 3 on 2 rush after Gerd Zijterwoode, Rjaward's second line, and defenders Henrick van Koorker and Adam Reemerswaal had gambled everything on a big push in Holtzlund's zone.
"I can't believe we didn't score in that sequence," Grimm said afterwards. "Spillers should have been off the ice. But instead he stopped everything. All thanks to the Saints." And he looked skyward, perhaps wondering why the Saints hadn't helped him.
Schmidt Max will be back in goal for Holtzlund in Week 26 as the Timber Boys pursue the double: a Cup and Championship.
"It will be a hard road without Sybby," Eechen said. "But we can do anything now. We've proved it."