As Stanley Cup fever returns to the springtime, so too does the amateur playoffs for many communities across the land. This past hockey season, Pitkat competed, unexpectedly, in the Northern Rhode Island Amateur Hockey League, with his team winning the single-game elimination playoffs on Sunday night.
“I’ve won some in the past, but this was a different situation. Chad Labastie who works with the Tinio’s and I know through Bobby (Santos), he was the one who reached out when they were looking for a goalie. I was playing a pick-up game in Attleboro (MA) and one of the people with the team was looking for a goalie because theirs got hurt. I just thought I was going to be a sub, filling in until their goalie came back, they didn’t come back, so I played the whole season, and we won the championship,” Pitkat told Speed51.
As a driver, Pitkat has gotten used to building relationships with race teams in both Modifieds and Late Models over a longer period of time. But, every so often he has provided a fill-in roll. That is the situation that he was faced with this time, with a team that also had an experienced player as a first-time captain.
“It’s pretty cool, the girl that runs the team it’s her first time playing as a captain. She’s played for 14 years, and it’s her first time as a captain. It’s cool, it’s a draft league so every year you’re playing on a different team. At first, I wasn’t a fan of it, you make all these relationships, and then you move on at the end of the season. But the nice thing is you’re always meeting new people.”
The ice and the asphalt nearly crossed paths during the semi-finals over the weekend, as Pitkat competed in the Stan Mertz No. 6 Modified, Saturday at Star Speedway in New Hampshire. A few small delays in the Tri-Track Open Modified Series race, as well as a near miss by a thundershower, made Pitkat feel a bit uneasy.
“We played Friday night, that was the first playoff game, we won 6-0. Saturday I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it, because I knew I was racing. But, once I saw the schedule it looked like I was going to be alright if we didn’t get any weather or anything.” – Woody Pitkat
“We were close on that, plus they had to take the ambulance in practice, and the speedy dry when the race started. I was a little worried, but I was thinking more about the race at that point.”
After posting a top 10 finish up in Epping, NH there was still time to spare to get down to Rhode Island, where Pitkat shrugged off a tough start, locking down while his teammates rallied for a third period comeback.
“Once I got out of the car and changed, looked at the time I knew I was good. We played that night and we actually went down 3-1 going into the third. Then the guys rallied to win 4-3. Sunday we played the championship. It’s great to be able to win for her and the team. I think maybe we were the underdog, but I think I was a little spoiled to go in there first season and win the championship. It was cool how they just brought me in like I was one of them.”
Despite this not being his first time playing for a title on the ice, Pitkat admitted that there were some butterflies this time around.
“The championship game, I let a goal in 19 seconds in because the nerves were going. But after that I settled down and that was it, that was the only one they got. We were tied at regulation, then ended up scoring with 50 seconds left in overtime. It was a long game, back and forth, but we got it.”
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Correspondent – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Woody Pitkat Facebook