The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote a poetic narrative called “The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner” in 1798. It is probably one of the best poems I’ve actually read, and is a masterpiece of English Literature. So what does this have to do with hockey I hear you ask? Well it concerns a curse that befalls someone, and a certain French-Canadian has had his own curse: one he was so willing to end.
When Omar Pacha became player-coach of the now defunct Hull Stingrays, little did he know that he would go through a drought that would last almost five seasons. Pacha saw this follow him when he went to Manchester after Hull’s sad decline and then onto Dundee. It was like a permanent dark cloud hanging over the Quebecer and refusing to budge. He just felt like he could not get this particular monkey off his back.
That literal primate in question was the Sheffield Steelers.
Many a time Pacha would be in a position to beat the Steelers, then see it go oh so horribly wrong. From a play-off weekend semi-final, to overtime losses: Steelers always found a way to win and extend the curse. This season has been no exception, with the Steelers squeaking two overtime wins over the Stars when the Dundonians looked certainties to take the points. Talk about breaking someone’s hearts. It had to end sometime right?
Stars made a bright start to the latest encounter, scoring with the games first powerplay opportunity through Fabrizio Ricci as Steelers’ defenceman Mark Matheson sat a hooking minor; and then doubling it when Drydn Dow cut his way through the flimsy Steelers backline to beat Jackson Whistle for 2-0 at 6:39. Not the best start, especially when the Steelers had honoured skipper Jonathan Phillips pre-game for his 800 game achievement, and it caused Steelers coach Tom Barrasso to call a very early time out. Steelers got on the board when Matheson forced the puck over the line from close range but Stars would have the final word in that opening period when Ricci scored his second of the game at 17:33.
The middle period was dominated by the Steelers as they outshot the Stars 19-5, but for all that dominance: they could only beat Pontus Sjogren in the visiting goal once and that was when Robert Dowd got to a loose puck first to defeat the Swedish netminder. I’m sure that Pacha was then having flashbacks, and thinking “Oh no, not again..please don’t do this to me.” That thought must have got worse when Ryan Martinelli netted the Steelers third to tie the game just 3:53 into the final period. But Steelers started to pick up a few penalties, some which annoyed sections of the home support, and Stars took advantage gleefully to record powerplay markers from Matt Marquardt (against his old club) and the impressive Francois Bouchard. Pacha must have felt the curse was lifting and when Ricci completed his treble with 2:40 left with an empty net – the Steelers goose was well and truly cooked.
So at the 30th time of asking Omar Pacha has finally recorded a win against his personal bogey side, I bet he celebrated the win as if he had just coached a team to win Lord Stanley. It will mean the world to him, and who can begrudge him that? For Steelers it is now four losses on the spin and they have to find a way to arrest this slide. Perhaps they could take a leaf out of the book from the man who was desperately wanting to defeat them? Tomorrow (Sunday) is going to be interesting, very interesting to say the least.