By Ross Forman
The Chicago Black Wolves clearly were the most dominant team at the annual Coops Cup hockey tournament, played Sept. 1-5 in Los Angeles, combining an aggressive offense with a stingy defense.
Playing in the Coors Cup for the first time, the Black Wolves cruised to the championship in their 12-team division, marking the first out-of-state tournament title in the three-year history of the Chicago Gay Hockey Association.
“It was great to finally win our first tournament,” said CGHA founder and president Chuck Jacobson. The CGHA previously has competed in tournaments in Toronto and New York City.
The Chicagoans out-shot their five Los Angeles opponents 155-32 and out-scored their foes 27-7, including a 3-0 championship game win over the White Russians. In the Black Wolves’ first three games (the seeding round for the playoffs), the team acquired 22 of a possible 24 points, thus earning the No. 1 seed for the semi-finals. Two points were awarded to the team that won each of the three periods, and two more for the team that won the seeding-round games.
“Everyone played exceptional, with great positioning throughout,” said CGHA tournament coordinator Billy Rey. “The defense was outstanding and the offense’s fore-checking was phenomenal, not allowing the other teams to get (their offense) started.”
The Black Wolves’ tournament lineup featured 10 Chicagoans, and three ‘free agent signees’ from the Los Angeles area: defensemen Tory Christopher and Curtis Young, and winger David Knepprath.
Center Larry Zyks of Chicago (four goals, three assists) was named the tournament’s Offensive MVP, while Young (10 goals, 10 assists) was the Defensive MVP. CGHA goalie John Adams was the co-Goalie MVP.
“I was honored to win the award,” said Adams, a Chicago resident. “I didn’t see too many shots, a credit to the team’s defense, which was phenomenal keeping the puck out of our (defensive) zone. The shots I faced were quality and I tried to step up.
“It was terrific getting the shutout in the championship game; that was the icing on the championship cake, especially because it was my first team championship.
“I couldn’t be happier.”
The Black Wolves’ offense struck early, literally. Zyks scored on an assist from Young 35 seconds into the team’s first game – against the New York Lions. The Black Wolves ultimately triumphed 10-3, as Young had a goal and five assists.
Shane Thompson (eight goals, one assist) anchored the Black Wolves’ second win, a 4-2 triumph over the Arizona Snipers, with a two-goal game.
Rusty Fleury (two goals, four assists) keyed the Black Wolves’ third win – a 6-1 thrashing of the Blue Russians – with a three-assist game. Young and Thompson each had two goals in the win.
The Black Wolves defeated the San Francisco Earthquakes 4-1 in the semi-finals as Laura Moss scored once and had two assists.
“The tournament was a blast,” said Moss, the Black Wolves’ lone female participant. “This really is a great bunch of guys to play with.”
Thompson scored what proved to be the game-winning goal in the championship game, converting at 13:10 of the second period on assists from Zyks and Young. Fleury gave the Black Wolves a 2-0 edge at 13:15 of the third period, scoring the best goal in CGHA history – a blistering slapshot from the left side into the upper right corner – and further expanding his legacy as the all-time leading scorer in CGHA history. Brian Merlot capped the scoring with 2:42 remaining.
“It was a total team effort throughout,” Rey said. “Michael Ko battled through food poisoning to contribute, while Brian Merlot was solid throughout on defense. Everyone did their part to bring the Cup to Chicago.”
With the title, the CGHA received a $1,000 prize check, with $700 being donated to Vital Bridges in Chicago and $300 going to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
“I think we showed the gay hockey community that Chicago is ready for the Gay Games next summer in Chicago,” Jacobson said.