MANNHEIM – It all began on March 24, 1996, in an NCAA game between the Michigan Wolverines and Minnesota Gophers. Wolverines right winger Mike Legg had the puck behind the Minnesota net with an extra second to think about what to do with the puck. He hunched over a bit, flipped the puck from the ice to the blade of his stick, and quickly moved his stick out front where he could roof the puck without it leaving his stick blade.
Not only did Legg score on the play, it was the winning goal in a 4-3 game. Legg, a 20-year-old from London, Ontario, practiced the move all the time and made history with the goal. It was the first time a hockey player scored a goal with that lacrosse-style play, and you can watch the video on several YouTube clips over and over again.
Since then many players in many leagues around the world have tried the move, some successfully, many not. It has become a staple in any trickster’s repertoire, especially in shootout-type situations. Kids love trying it, and, of course, any shinny player worth his salt has tried it with his friends.
Last night in the Sweden-Latvia game at SAP Arena, Tre Kronor forward Fredrik Pettersson tried the lacrosse move against Edgars Masalskis. It didn’t work, but it enlivened an otherwise ordinary 4-2 win by the favoured Swedes.
"It's something I've tried before, but tonight the goalie saw me, I think, and was able to get over,” Pettersson said after the game. “But I was in a good position to do it, and if I see the chance I'll try it again."
And why this night at this point in the game? “I was in a good position behind the net,” he explained. “One defenceman was on the far post and the other was in front of the net. I did everything perfectly, but he [the goalie] could see out of the corner of his eye what I was doing.”
“I’ve tried the move a couple of times in the Swedish league [with Frölunda Gothenburg]. I scored once before. It’s something I practice and if I ever get the chance again I’d try it for sure.”
The strategy is simple. For a right-hand shot, once the puck is on his stick he has to come out to the goalie’s catcher side and try to stuff it in the top corner in a somewhat backhand motion. “Usually, the goalie goes down low on the short side to prevent a wraparound, so you have to roof it,” Pettersson explained. “The goal I scored, though, I put the puck in lower down. You can’t go to the far side because the goalie gets his body in the way too easily.”
Indeed, it was an awkward save, to say the least. Hunched over, Masalskis actually got his shoulder and mask into the corner of the net to prevent Pettersson from stuffing the puck in the roof of the net. Still, the marks he lost for artistic impression he gained in the more important category – save percentage.
Pettersson was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in 2005. The 22-year-old from Gothenburg played for Calgary in the WHL before returning to play in the Swedish Elitserien. Only 5’10”, he has yet to score in the World Championship this year, but had he counted his lacrosse move yesterday, it would have gone down in IIHF history as a mini-masterpiece.