T.R. AVALANCHE TRUCKING OLDTIMERS GAMBLE IN LAS VEGAS

?Sir, calm down, and tell me one more time exactly what the problem is?, firmly stated the Elevator emergency-button dispatch lady. ?Okay?, replied the disoriented defenseman, taking a deep breath; ?I?ve had a few cocktails; I?m all piled up; and I can?t get to the 16th floor?. ?Sir?, replied the operator directly, ?that elevator does not go to the 16th floor?.

That was just one example of the tremendous hurdles the TR Avalanche Trucking Oldtimers had to overcome at the 2008 CAN/AM hockey tournament in Las Vegas, February 1 to 3. ?We were going to stay at the Bellagio, but the boys there were full up. So I had to pull some strings, but I got us into the Circus instead?, commented tournament organizer Dave Taylor.

The roster of 16 players found themselves in the ?A? division, aka the ?Jackpot? division. The first game opponent was the ?Flying Pigs? from Toronto. Don McQueen started between the pipes, as back up Taylor had a sore stomach after hanging over the edge of the 1968 Diesel-powered, red double-decker, no roof tour bus we rented to get back and forth to the arena. ?I strongly suspect that neither this bus nor Dave would pass a safety inspection at this point?, observed Jim Jung.

The Pigs came out flying all right, and opened up a two-goal lead after the first period. The jet lag was evident in the legs of wingers Trim and Golob. Coach Muise lambasted the boys with a motivational speech; ?Boys! We can out skate these guys. Pigs can?t fly!? But those Pigs kept on flying and pushed the score to 6-0 after two periods, in spite of a number of good saves by goalie McQueen. The game?s bright spot for the good guys came when the speedy Jay Lenart forwarded the puck to Jim Ford, and he skated in and ripped a shot into the top corner to break the shutout bid with 1:53 to go. ?A 6-1 loss is hard to swallow?, noted power forward Don Kelly at the post game press conference, ?But maybe that will be a wake up call?.

Saturday morning at 9 am, the team lined up against the Sin City Hitmen from Las Vegas. Player/Coach Rob Muise juggled the line trying to find some chemistry with this rag tag bunch of mishaps. ?Big Train? Phil Dufresne was added to the roster with the departure of the speedy centre Fred Banham. Dave Taylor was the last line of defense. Don McQueen was the bench coach. Sean O?Reilly started us off by scoring the first two goals, both slap shots from the blue line. The team gained some confidence, and went on to score a 9-0 victory; shut out for Dave. Robbie Dunlop, genius line juggler, had a pair of goals, with Jim Jung, Peter Thomas, Don Kelly, Jason Collison, and Paul Payne adding singles.

The next game was Saturday afternoon against the Mullets from Vancouver. Phil and Jim were out to go watch an Ultimate Fighting contest at Mandalay Bay. The two teams were evenly matched. The Mullets opened the scoring on a nice play, deceiving Taylor in the net. 24 seconds later, Collison went coast to coast and drilled a shot along the ice for a short-handed marker to tie the game at one. With just under 2 minutes to play in the first, Collison added a second goal for a 2-1 lead. In the second period, Dan Golob took a pass from Rob Muise and slid one along the ice to make the score 3-1. The team took that 2-goal lead into the third period. The Mullets replied with two quick goals 17 seconds apart with 9 minutes to play. The Avalanche scrambled and had a few good chances, but none saw the back of the cage. With a buck 17 to go, the Mullets intercepted a clearing pass, and shot an insurance marker between diving bodies for a 5-3 lead, and eventual win.

That loss was the difference between playing for gold or bronze. Super Bowl Sunday morning at 9 a.m. saw the Jackpot division Bronze medal game between the Avalanche and the Hitmen. ?The Hitmen have had a change of personnel, and they all left the club before us last night, so don?t take this game lightly?, cautioned coach Robbie Dunlop. ?And I predict a Giants win by 3 points in the big game today?, added Scott Trim, but no one was listening.

Rookie elevator operator Larry Urness showed why he was wearing the ?C? by drilling a shot from the point for a 1-0 lead. That was all we needed. Lenart scored one, Scott Trim potted one on a wrap around, and Muisey recorded a hat trick for a solid 6-0 team win. Shut out for McQueen. Dufresne leaves the country 2 wins, no losses.

?Boys, all these teams are here, coming from all over to play in this International tournament, and little old TR is taking home the Bronze! We?ll see you in two years in Hawaii!?, summarized Taylor. ?Aloha!?, replied the reticent stay at home defenseman Wade Inkman.

Thank you to the wives for coming and keeping us all safe. Well doing what you could anyway.