After finishing second in 1956-57, Indianapolis Chiefs coach Leo Lamoureux had a definite goal in mind - close the gap on the Cincinnati Mohawks.
The Mohawks were the IHL's greatest dynasty. In the 1957 Turner Cup Finals, the Mohawks swept the Chiefs in three games, outscoring them 16-2. In the Mohawks' five years in the league, they had never been challenged for first place and only once challenged in a playoff series - going seven games with Troy in the 1956 final.
|The 1958 Turner Cup champion Indianapolis Chiefs.|
They were the team to aim for. And Lamoureux wasted little time trying to bridge the gap. Two weeks after the Chiefs had been swept out of the 1957 Turner Cup Finals, their coach was scouring Canada, looking for the half-dozen players who would turn the Chiefs from a good team into a Turner Cup contender.
Lamoureux knew championships. He had played on two Stanley Cup winners with Montreal in 1944 and 1946, leaving hockey to run a restaurant. He sold the restaurant in 1956 to take over the Chiefs, and he slowly built the team into his image.
With a strong nucleus back - led by the reunited "B Line" of Pierre Brillant, Bob Bowness and Marc Boileau and the stellar goaltending of Cliff Hicks, a goaltender who was once traded for Gump Worsley - the Chiefs were set, and close to being a championship-caliber team. While Brillant took the headlines, Bowness and Boileau were great players in their own right. Bowness was an NHL-caliber pivot whose son Rick Bowness later coached the Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins. Boileau - whose father played for the New York Americans in the 1920s as Rainy Drinkwater (His name was, in fact, Rene Boileau - "Rene" sounds like "Rainy", in French, "Boire" means "to drink" and "eau" is "water", hence "Rainy Drinkwater"). Boileau was a late bloomer, having been talked into playing the game by Sylvio Mantha in 1950. He would go onto a long coaching career that reached the NHL in the 1970s with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Some other key players were back - 22-year-old winger Myron Stankiewicz would be one of the key ones, as he had improved his skating and shooting strength over the previous two seasons. Both times, the Chiefs picked him up from Toledo at mid-season. Frank Kuzma was back, as was Lloyd McKey and defender Ed Calhoun.
Among the newcomers were two-way defenseman Billy Short, rugged blueliner Sam Gregory and forward Ross Hughes, who spent his non-hockey time at Indiana University working on an MBA. Gregory, was a boxer in the off-season and apparently on the ice, too, as evidenced by his triple-digit PIMs. He brought a measure of toughness to the team.
The Mohawks had to be knocked off their pedestal. The third-year Chiefs had as good a shot as anyone else.
They began things on the last Saturday in October, heading a few hours down U.S. 31 to Freedom Hall in Louisville, to help inaugurate the Louisville Rebel franchise and, for that matter, hockey in Kentucky. The Rebels were largely the reincarnation of the Huntington Hornets from the year before. Brillant went on a tear, scoring twice and assisting on three others, but the Chiefs fell 6-5. The teams traveled back up the Dixie Highway to open the Chiefs' home schedule the next day. Playing twice in less than 24 hours didn't warm the teams to one another, as Myron Stankiewicz and Louisville's Johnny Ubracio dropped the gloves just 11 minutes in. Three other fights would break out during the contest. "A real bitter rivalry is in the making," said the Indianapolis Star's Jep Cadou Jr. There was a 15-minute delay in the third period for more fisticuffs, and the fans threw taunts at the Louisville defense all night.
On the ice, Brillant had another big night, with two goals and two assists. The Chiefs roared out to a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes and rolled to a 6-2 victory. What had to make Chief boss Mel Ross just as happy as the final outcome was the opening-night crowd - 3,509, much larger than the season average of a year before.
The B Line continued its torrid pace in Game 3, a 5-2 win over Fort Wayne, in which Brillant had two goals and two assists. In just three games, the nifty Chief right wing had 13 points, including six goals. The Troy Bruins would hold him to one goal the next day - a 5-2 loss on the road - but Brillant would explode for two more, both on assists by Bob Bowness, in a 4-1 win at Toledo that concluded a successful 2-1-0 road trip.
Brillant's streak finally ended when the Chiefs returned home Nov. 10. Toledo's Mercurys scored an early goal, and made it stand into the third period. But at 8:39, Gregory and Claude Carroll teamed up to feed Stankiewicz, who scored to deliver the Chiefs a 1-1 tie against the Mercs. Another good-sized house of 3,609 was on hand for home game No. 2. After the game, defender Ed Calhoun was sold to the EHL's Clinton Comets, as coach Lamoureux wanted another forward.
Still, the Chiefs' record would dip thanks to defensive lapses in the next two games - a 4-2 loss to Fort Wayne on Wednesday in which Cadou wrote, "Hicks got as much protection from the Indianapolis rearguard as a motorist crossing a railroad track would get from one of those sets of wooden crossbucks." He got less protection with a visit to mighty Cincinnati that Saturday. While the crowd of 4,500 in the Gardens was wowed by several of Hicks' saves, nine pucks did get past in a 9-1 Mohawk win.
The Mohawks must've used up all their goals. Or Hicks was just warming up. Either way, they probably weren't worried when Chief defender Don Busch scored 4:06 into the Sunday afternoon game at the Coliseum. And Cincinnati got a break when a goal by Marc Boileau was disallowed later in the first period because Myron Stankiewicz had a stick in the crease - a point Lamoureux vehemently protested, claiming Stankiewicz wasn't anywhere near the crease. It turned out to be moot. When the Mohawks advanced, Hicks kicked the shots away. He stopped 36 in all, and the Chiefs had a 1-0 win in what might be their best, tightest performance in their two-plus seasons.
Before the next game, a pair of players were called in from Chicoutimi of the Quebec league - right wing Germain "Red" Leger, a 5-11, 170-pound veteran, and 21-year-old defenseman Marc Parent, a 6-1, 190-pound defenseman. But their presence didn't cause an immediate turnaround, as the Chiefs proceeded to drop their next three games by close margins - 2-1 to Louisville, 2-0 at Toledo and 5-4 against Fort Wayne, a game in which the Komets scored four rapid-fire second-period goals in seven minutes. Fed up, Lamoureux fined the entire team $25 a man. "I want 60 minutes of hockey out of every player, not 45 or 50," he said. "That's what the fans are paying for and that's what they're going to get, even if I have to get a whole new club to do it."
Lamoureux kept trying to change things. For the second time in as many years, the B-Line was broken up, as Myron Stankiewicz moved up and Bob Bowness dropped to the second unit. It was a move largely to spread out the scoring and take some pressure off Brillant. "Stankiewicz has size, speed and tremendous power, but he's never been quite able to realize it," Lamoureux said.
Bowness' new assignment produced three assists in his first game on the second line, as the Chiefs jumped out to a 3-1 lead. But Troy rallied to tie the game by the end of the second period and score again in the third to win 4-3. After giving up five third-period goals in Fort Wayne the next night and losing 6-1, the Chiefs were 4-9-1, had won just once in their last nine games, and needed a turnaround.
Amazingly, it came at the hands of the Cincinnati Mohawks. On Dec. 1, the Mohawks sauntered into the Coliseum in their usual position - way ahead in first place - and were their usual prohibitive favorite. Cincinnati jumped out to a 2-1 lead after two periods, but the Chiefs knotted the game early in the period. With the contest tied 2-2 late, Billy Short took a feed from Brillant and fired a long shot from 40 feet out. It eluded impenetrable Mohawk goaltender Glenn Ramsay, and the Chiefs held on for a 3-2 win. In addition to scoring the game-winner, Short also had two assists in the game. "The Chiefs are a hockey team with a strong faculty for beating the best and losing to the lousy," Cadou wrote the next day. In their last 10 games, the Hoosier sextet was 2-1-0 against the Mohawks and 0-7-1 against everyone else.
The Chiefs weren't dominant over Cincinnati, however. Three days later in the Queen City, the Mohawks handed the Chiefs a 6-1 scalping.
That weekend, the Chiefs and Louisville Rebels were to renew their seemingly-heated rivalry with a home-and-home set. The Rebels and coach Leo Gasparini were fuming over the Chiefs' signing of "Red" Leger a month before, claiming it was illegal, adding some more heat to the pot of an already-festering fued between the Chiefs and their closest rival. Leger had the last laugh on this weekend. On Friday, he and Frank Kuzma had two goals and an assist each in a 4-2 Chief win. Back in the Coliseum on Saturday, Stankiewicz scored twice and Hicks made 44 saves as the Chiefs routed Louisville 5-1 for their first back-to-back wins since the opening week of the season.
They'd make another roster move, picking up blueliner Ken Willey from the Quebec Senior League's Chicoutimi team.
The Chiefs wouldn't come out of last place for another couple of games, thanks to back-to-back losses. On Dec. 11, the Troy Bruins visited the Coliseum for a Wednesday night game. It was supposed to have been played two weeks prior, but a Lawrence Welk concert kicked the hockey teams out of the Coliseum Nov. 27. So they tried again. Indiana's governor was in attendance, but few others were - only 986 showed up. The small crowd wasn't just because of the scheduling snafu. It was a bitterly-cold weeknight, as the temperature was five below zero. The Chiefs were much warmer than the temperature. Brillant had two goals and an assist. The Bruins couldn't solve Hicks, who stopped all 32 shots for his first shutout of the year - a 4-0 Chief victory. "The squad is beginning to jell in all departments and only needs a few more games like that to jump right into a fight for first place," Lamoureux said after the game. Cadou said it was the best display of combined offense and defense of the year.
The Troy win brought the Chiefs out of last place. A three-game skid put them back there - in one of the games, the Chiefs blew a 3-1 second-period lead and fell 5-3 to Toledo. Before that contest, 188-pound defenseman Ron Morgan joined the team, as did forward Alex Viskelis. To make room, Claude Carroll and Marc Parent were waived. "I don't care if Ron scores a point as long as he can get in there and break up the opponent's attack," said Lamoureux. "He's big enough to live up to his reputed aggressiveness and that's what we've been needing on defense of late."
In mid-December, Toledo owner Andy Mulligan began campaigning for Cincinnati to be expelled from the IHL, claiming the Mohawks violated the league's salary cap and had too many players on their roster. Certainly, they were in a league by themselves. Lamoureux had a different take in responding to the claims, saying, "Why not just go out and get better talent and beat Cincinnati? Mulligan would like to turn this into an industrial league to save money."
Lamoureux kept trying to one-up the Mohawks. And the new acquisitions paid immediate dividends against them. One night after falling 3-0 in Cincinnati, the Chiefs hosted the Mohawks in a Sunday matinee. Just like earlier in the year, the Chiefs scored in the third to knot the game at 2-2. And with 54 seconds left, Viskelis beat Glenn Ramsay to give the Chiefs a 3-2 victory heading into Christmas.
This win would be the harbinger of bigger and better things. On Dec. 27, the Chiefs brought their weapons to Louisville. Facing ex-Chief goaltender Bob Lalonde, who was filling in for regular Rebel starter Lou Crowdis, the Chiefs got first-period goals from Ken Willey, Myron Stankiewicz, Sam Gregory, Red Leger, Bob Bowness and Marc Boileau, and held a 6-2 lead after one. Pierre Brillant jumped into the action with two goals in the second, while Boileau scored again, but all three Chief goals were answered, so the advantage was a still-comfortable 9-5 headed into the third. Louisville could only beat Hicks twice, and the Chiefs had come away with a 9-7 victory in one of the wildest games in IHL history. It was the highest-scoring game of the year.
The Chief turnaround continued. They beat Fort Wayne 4-1 behind two goals by Frank Kuzma on Dec. 28. Kuzma had two goals and an assist in a 3-3 tie against Toledo the next night, and Leger scored with 4:04 left to beat Troy 4-3 on New Year's Eve. He had two goals and an assist in the game, while the suddenly-hot Kuzma had a goal and two helpers. The suddenly-hot Chiefs had a five-game unbeaten string going, credited largely to tighter checking. The record was 12-15-2, and the team that was in last place in mid-December was now just three points out of second as the ball dropped to usher in 1958.
The Chiefs took their streak into overtime at Louisville on New Year's Day in a cleanly-played game - the only penalty was a minor to the Rebels during regulation. But Chick Chalmers gave Louisville a 3-2 OT win with a goal 5:28 into the extra session. The Chiefs would trade wins and losses throughout much of January. Among the highlights was a hat trick by Brillant in a 6-1 win over Troy Jan. 4, and an overtime goal by Brillant Jan. 11 to give the Chiefs a 5-4 OT win over Cincinnati. Brillant beat Glenn Ramsay from 10 feet out on the right side after a short pass from Boileau for the game winner with 3:17 to go.
Turnabout was fair play, however. The next night, Brillant scored nine seconds into a game with Fort Wayne. Boileau took a feed from Brillant and made it 2-0 just 44 seconds in. Shades of Louisville were beginning to form, but Komet goaltender Phil Hughes held serve from there and watched his team rally to win the game 3-2 in OT.
Another highlight was a 4-2 victory in Cincinnati Jan. 19, as the Chiefs got goals from Stankiewicz, Viskelis, Bowness and Kuzma. Combined with a 6-3 win over Louisville the night before, the Chiefs were 17-20-3.
Brillant was named an IHL All-Star - the only Chief to be named to the team - and headed to Philadelphia to meet the Eastern Hockey League's best Jan. 22. He scored a goal as the IHL beat the EHL 5-4. It was the beginning of good relations between the IHL and EHL, two counterparts with largely the same caliber of play. In addition to holding a joint All-Star game, the leagues talked about playing an interlocking schedule and a common championship series. The year before, a proposal to have the Chiefs and Cincinnati Mohawks - the IHL's finalists - join to play EHL champ Charlotte was scuttled. But talk of uniting the two champs in 1958 continued.
Before thinking about playing the EHL, the Chiefs had to just get into the IHL playoffs. A five-point weekend at the end of January helped, bringing the record to 19-21-4. It started with a Friday night visit to Toledo. Bob Bowness scored a hat trick - with all three goals assisted by linemates Stankiewicz and Kuzma - in a 7-4 Chief victory. Brillant, Busch and Bowness scored the next night in a 3-3 tie with the Troy Bruins, and the Chiefs rounded out the weekend with a double-hat trick. Bowness and Brillant both beat Toledo's Andre Binette three times in a 7-2 Chief win. Bowness could've had five goals, but two were disallowed because one was kicked into the net and the other was waved off because a player was in the crease. Binette, interestingly, started the year as the Chiefs' spare goaltender, but was sent to Toledo early in the season in exchange for defenseman Bob Leek, who played just 10 games in an Indianapolis uniform.
But the Chiefs would win just twice in their next six games to fall four games below the .500 mark - with the two wins getting some big offensive numbers. Brillant had three goals in a 6-3 victory over Troy Feb. 1. On Feb. 5, the Chiefs scored four straight goals to break a 3-3 tie and beat Toledo 7-4, as Kuzma had a hat trick and an assist. Leger returned to the lineup after a long injury, which would help the team for the stretch drive. "If I could have a healthy Leger for a full season, it would make a tremendous difference in our hockey club," Lamoureux said.
Leger's return set the lines as such - Brillant, Boileau and Stankiewicz would team up on a first line that was averaging more than a goal a game. Leger, Kuzma and Bowness formed a formidable second unit. And Viskelis, Busch and Gregory put together a strong defensive third unit.
On Feb. 9, Stankiewicz scored with 7:15 left to break a 4-4 tie and give the Chiefs a 5-4 win in Troy. Three nights later, Marc Boileau broke a 1-1 tie 2:41 into the third period against Cincinnati. Viskelis scored 24 seconds later to make it 3-1. Ken Willey had a hand in both with assists. Hicks held on, making 38 saves in a 3-2 victory. The game was key for the Chiefs, as it moved them into second place - the highest they could finish, as the Mohawks had already clinched first. Just like the year before, the Chiefs would find themselves in a mad scramble for position with Fort Wayne, Louisville and Toledo, with three of the four teams getting postseason bids.
After beating Cincinnati at home, the Chiefs headed to Ohio for a weekend trip. But they did so without Leger, who missed the bus. They could've used his offense. Toledo beat the Chiefs 2-1 in OT on Friday, and Cincinnati posted a 5-4 win on Saturday, thanks to goals by Bill Sutherland and Bun Smith in a 2:20 span midway through the third. Back home on Sunday Feb. 16 against Fort Wayne, Boileau broke a 2-2 tie 5:42 into the third to give the Chiefs a 3-2 victory. On Feb. 19, Leger provided the third-period heroics, scoring with 17 seconds left to salvage a 4-4 tie with Cincinnati. Against Fort Wayne the next Saturday, Leger's second goal came with 4:07 to play and gave the Chiefs a 3-2 win in Fort Wayne.
It set up a Sunday matinee with Louisville. The Chiefs - minus Kuzma, who was attending his mother's funeral -- trailed 3-2 in the third, largely thanks to stellar goaltending by Hicks, who made 38 saves. Late in the third period, Alex Viskelis bore down on Louisville's Lou Crowdis. Viskelis got Crowdis down and appeared to beat him, but Rebel d-man Grant Morton dove on the puck, grabbing it with his hand. By closing his hand on the puck, Morton gave the Chiefs a penalty shot with 3:30 left. Brillant was chosen to take it. He picked the puck up at center, bore in on Crowdis, got him down with two fakes and pushed a seven-foot shot into the net to tie the game. It stood, and the teams skated away with a 3-3 tie thanks to yet another clutch play by the Chiefs - who had pulled out many victories and ties with late goals.
The penalty shot was just one of many wild moments in the game. At one point, the teams had seven players between them in the penalty box. Lamoureux didn't get to see the thrilling finish. He was ejected for throwing a stick onto the ice.
A playoff spot appeared safe, as Toledo began to fade, but the Chiefs found themselves locked in a tight duel for second with Louisville and Fort Wayne. A weekend series with the Komets would be key in determining playoff position. On Saturday, the Chiefs led 4-2 when they exploded for four goals in the final 10 minutes to beat the K's 8-2 in the Coliseum. Stankiewicz, who was in the midst of a career year, had a hat trick and an assist on a goal by Boileau. Brillant, Boileau and Bowness all had a goal and an assist the next day, as the Chiefs beat Fort Wayne 5-3 in the Summit City.
The Chiefs were without use of the Coliseum for a while, thanks to the Boat, Sport and Travel Show taking over. They practiced for a week in Cincinnati, before heading to Louisville March 8 for a game. The Rebels had vaulted the Chiefs in the standings - tallying 61 points to Indy's 60 with three games to play. The Rebels pushed it to a three-point advantage by making an early lead stand in a 5-3 decision. The Chiefs whipped Troy 6-2 the next night to move to 28-29-6 and 62 points, as Boileau had a hat trick. The win put them in a third-place tie with Fort Wayne. Both teams were one point back of Louisville.
On March 12, the Chiefs headed into Toledo with a chance to move into second. With a win, they'd clinch second. A loss could put them in fourth, two points back of the Komets and one behind Louisville. The game meant nothing to the Mercurys, who were out of the playoff picture. But Toledo still won 4-2. Fort Wayne, which had beaten Louisville 1-0 the Saturday prior to put them in position, beat Cincinnati 3-0 March 13 to clinch second and put the Chiefs into fourth. It would create a first-round matchup between the Chiefs and Komets.
Indy's sights were set high. If anyone had a good shot at the Turner Cup, it would be the Chiefs. They had a 6-7-1 record against Fort Wayne, but had the upper hand the second half of the season. They were the only team in the league to have a winning record against Cincinnati (6-5-1), who they figured to meet in the finals. For the sixth straight year, the Mohawks had run away with the league, going 43-16-5 and posting a 27-point spread over second-place Fort Wayne. But the Chiefs figured they had a shot. They just had to get past the Komets first, a team they'd beaten four straight times. The loss to Toledo had given the Chiefs a 28-30-6 mark, spoiling their chance at a .500 season.
Boileau had a huge year, with 26 goals, 61 assists and 87 points, and was the league's third-highest scorer. Brillant (45 goals, 71 points) was second in goals. Bowness (24-44-68), Stankiewicz (25-36-61) and Kuzma (23-35-58) had all posted huge years, as well, giving the team two lines worth of firepower going into the playoffs.
The Chiefs entered the playoffs with a slight handicap. The Boat, Sport and Travel Show had left them without a place to practice, so Indy's training consisted solely of dry land calisthenics and running. The Komets were led by Len Thornson, a player who the Chiefs had found, but traded a year before. He was the league's fifth-leading scorer with 34-47-81. His eight game-winning goals were an IHL high. Eddie Long (38 goals) would have to be shut down, as would Art Stone (21-57-78), Fort Wayne's top playmaker. Two other ex-Chiefs, goaltender Phil Hughes and Len Ronson - another player who was found by the Chiefs and shuttled to Huntington with Thornson - were now on the other side. Hughes entered the playoffs with a 3.50 GAA. Hicks' 3.25 mark was second-best in the league.
The series opened in the Allen County Coliseum March 16. The Chiefs were smarting from being bumped into fourth, and quickly took their aggression out on their hosts. They silenced most of the 2,768 fans - save about 100 Chief supporters who braved snow and ice to make the trek up Ind. 37 to Fort Wayne - quickly. Myron Stankiewicz drew an early penalty, but while the Chiefs were shorthanded, Boileau took a feed from Viskelis, crossed over in front of Hughes' cage, and fired. The puck bounced off the Fort Wayne netminder's pads and into the net. Just 3:20 in, the Chiefs led 1-0. They'd keep pouring it on. Five minutes later, Brillant cruised in from the right, drew Hughes out of the net by faking a shot. At the same time, Boileau was flying in from the left corner. Brillant slipped him a goalmouth pass, which Boileau deposited into the open net for the Chiefs' second tally. At 15:28, Boileau drew the attention of a defenseman and took him out of the play by dropping the puck back to Brillant, who fired through the screen set up by Boileau and the defenseman and made it 3-0. From there, the Chiefs played defense, helping Hicks preserve a shutout. It appeared he had it. Early in the third, Hicks had pinned a shot under his leg. At the same time the whistle blew, Komet Jack Armstrong dug in and poked the puck free and into the goal. It was ruled good despite the pleas of both Hicks, Ron Morgan and Boileau, the team captain. But the Chiefs would allow nothing more, posting a 3-1 Game 1 victory.
In Game 2, Fort Wayne jumped out to a 3-1 third-period lead, starting with a goal by Art Stone just 13 seconds in. Stankiewicz tied the game 1:13 into the second, but Fort Wayne scored just 34 seconds later to regain the lead, and pushed it to 3-1 when Ronson and Thornson hooked up 3:02 into the third. The Chiefs fought back. At 4:52, Leger picked the puck up at the blueline, swooped into the slot unmolested and blew a shot from the hashmark past Hughes to make it 3-2. Fort Wayne clung to the advantage, but the Chiefs kept coming. Finally, they scored again when Don Busch converted Leger's rebound, tying the game with 2:39 to go. The crowd of 1,930 in Fort Wayne was settling in for OT when Thornson deked Hicks and scored with 1:04 to play. Now delirious, the Komet fans figured their team was headed to Indy tied 1-1. Not so fast, my friend. Lamoureux pulled the goaltender for an extra attacker. Moments later, Brillant scooped up a draw and fed Viskelis for a shot. Hughes made the initial save, but couldn't stop Viskelis' second whack. With 39 seconds to play, the game was amazingly tied once again.
The Chiefs team that wouldn't go away had a leg up in OT. But Fort Wayne got the early territorial advantage. Hughes kicked out one Chief shot, and then the Komets began buzzing Hicks' goal. The Chiefs' deal with Huntington the year before began to haunt them again in overtime. Three minutes into the extra session, Ronson fed Thornson on the right side. Thornson fired a 15-foot shot from the angle and scored, giving his team a sudden 5-4 overtime victory and knotting the series at 1-1. Hicks had done everything he could to keep his team in it, stopping 37 of 42 Fort Wayne shots. If he kept his performance up, the Chiefs would be OK.
Stinging from the defeat, the Chiefs made sure their goaltender got plenty of support the next night in the Coliseum in the pivotal third game. They began blitzing Hughes' net early, and midway through the first period, finally cracked him when blueliner Lloyd McKey buried a rebound shot to make it 1-0. Just over a minute later, Fort Wayne's Billy Richardson answered with an unassisted goal. But the see-sawing kept on. At 13:54, Hughes left a rebound on Bill Short's blast, which Boileau gobbled up and deposited into the net for a 2-1 Chief lead. Unlike the see-saw finale the night before, this goal would go unanswered by Fort Wayne. Late in the period, Brillant scored through a screen to give the Chiefs a 3-1 advantage. Thirty-three seconds later, Brillant took a feed from Viskelis on a two-on-one, bore down on the right side, faked Hughes as he skated across the goalmouth and slipped the puck underneath the Komet goaltender on the other side of the net to make it 4-1. Bowness and Stankiewicz would add second-period goals within a 26-second span to make it 6-1 and put the game out of reach. Brillant would complete the hat trick and Ron Morgan would score in the third period as the Chiefs rolled to an 8-2 Game 3 victory.
With the season on the line, the Komets resorted to tight checking in Game 4 March 21. For nearly half the game, neither team could score, even though the Chiefs put much pressure on Hughes early and the Komets did the same in front of Hicks' net in the second period. Fort Wayne followed an early strategy of harassing Boileau, the Chiefs' high-scoring captain, into heading to the sin bin. Art Stone picked a fight with him just 1:26 into the game, spearing Boileau in the head to get it started. When Boileau got out of the box, Billy Richardson tried to goad Boileau, but the two players received high-sticking minors.
Meanwhile, the 3,250 fans held their breath, knowing the first goal would be critical in such a game. Midway through the second period, Chief blueliner Ron Morgan shot from the faceoff circle. Sam Gregory was camped out in front. Seeing Morgan's shot, he reached out and deflected it into the Fort Wayne net. Indy had a 1-0 lead. Just over half the game remained. The Chiefs, playing some of their best defense of the year, were determined to hold the powerful Komet attack. With 12:25 left, they got some breathing room, as Billy Short beat Hughes through a screen to make it 2-0. Just 39 seconds later, Bowness found himself on the receiving end of a 3-on-1. He made it 3-0. And the Chiefs were on their way. Hicks made a sprawling save on Thornson to preserve the shutout in the closing minutes, and for the second straight year, the Indianapolis Chiefs were headed to the Turner Cup Finals.
The Chiefs would have a surprise opponent, however, as the Louisville Rebels did what no other IHL team had ever done - beat the Cincinnati Mohawks in a playoff series. The Rebs disposed of Cincinnati in four games, officially ending the Mohawk dynasty. Turns out it also ended the Mohawk franchise, as Cincinnati would withdraw from the league in the off-season.
It was fitting - the two teams had forged a rivalry that had festered from the moment the season began. Now, two of the IHL's most bitter rivals were going to match up for the championship. Louisville, the third-place team, would've had home-ice advantage solely by virtue of finishing one point ahead of the Chiefs in the standings, going 30-31-3 to the Chiefs' 28-30-6. But the Coliseum was unavailable except for the opening games, so the final five would be played in Freedom Hall.
The Rebs were an offensive juggernaut, scoring 239 goals during the regular season - second only to Cincinnati, and 30 more than the Chiefs. Chick Chalmers (23-58-81) was the IHL's fifth-leading scorer. The Rebs had given up a league-high 263 goals, but Lou Crowdis had played in only 41 games and allowed 141 of those goals. His GAA was 3.44, and with him in net, the Rebs were a much better team. Leo Gasparini's team finished with a 6-5-1 record over the Chiefs during the season.
The series began in the Coliseum March 23, and was - not surprisingly, given the two combatants - an offensive show. Chalmers and George Raineri scored power-play late in the penalty-filled first period to give the Rebels a 2-1 lead, rubbing out an early goal by Viskelis. The Chiefs answered in rapid-fire succession. Starting the second period on a power play, Lloyd McKey fired a rapid shot past Crowdis' "chubby" frame to tie the game just 20 seconds in. Thirty-seven seconds later, Brillant - who had assisted on McKey's goal - would tally one himself on another quick shot, giving the Chiefs a 3-2 lead. Raineri scored shorthanded to tie the game and Tommy Wilson gave the Rebs a lead one second after another Chief power play ended. Ken Willey stuffed the puck past Crowdis early in the third to knot the game at 4-4 and send it into OT.
Through a 10-minute sudden-death session they played. Brillant had a breakaway chance to end things, but hit the post. They headed to a second OT. Crowdis stoned Stankiewicz on a short shot early. At 3:48, Louisville's Fiori Goegan held the puck at the point. He faked Brillant out of his shoes, then fired a long blast through a screen at Hicks, who moved to get a better view of the puck. When it came, he couldn't get back into position to prevent the puck from entering the net and ending the game with the Rebels up 5-4 and leading the series 1-0.
Needing a win in Game 2 - or facing the possibility of going to Louisville needing to win four of five - Germain Leger delivered. With the game tied 1-1, Sam Gregory - who was slow getting back on his check - picked a loose puck up at center, pivoted and fed Leger, who skated in alone and beat Crowdis to give the Chiefs a lead with 17 seconds remaining in the second period. Two and a half minutes into the third, Viskelis fired a pass out of the corner to Boileau, who corralled it and took two hacks before beating Crowdis to make it 3-1. At 4:40, Brillant scored from close range to give his team a three-goal edge. Gregory and Boileau would score late to extend the lead and give the Chiefs a 6-3 victory in Game 2. The Chiefs suffered a big blow when Hicks broke his thumb. Al Bennett was contacted in Toledo, but was unable to free himself from his summer job, so Hicks would have to go.
The teams headed for Freedom Hall to play the balance of the series, beginning with Game 3 March 26. The Chiefs and Rebs had split two high-scoring games on the large Coliseum ice, but a defensive battle would likely favor Indy, especially with Hicks in goal. Hicks made 18 saves to keep the Rebels at bay in the first, and the teams remained scoreless until midway through period 2, when Gregory took the puck on the left half-boards and sent a rinkwide pass to Leger, who was wide open in front. He whacked hard - splintering his stick - but the end result was a goal and a 1-0 Chief lead. Louisville's Chick Chalmers would tie the game 4:17 into the third, and it appeared OT was near as the minutes ticked down. But the Chiefs had pulled out some last-minute heroics throughout the year. They'd do it again. With less than two minutes to play, Kuzma and Bowness kept the puck alive in the zone and fed Short at the top of the circle. Crowdis sprawled to knock down Short's blast, but was too late. The puck went into the net, and the Chiefs had a 2-1 lead with 1:54 to play. Moments later, Crowdis was pulled, but Boileau scored into the empty net to clinch a 3-1 Indianapolis victory, giving the Chiefs a 2-1 lead in the series.
With its back to the wall in Game 4, the Rebels' high-octane attack came out firing. The backbreakers came sandwiched around the first intermission. With the game tied at 1-1, Rebel RW Eddie Dudych scored with 55 seconds left to give his team a lead. Dudych made it 3-1 with a rebound goal 2:11 into the second. At 3:43, Ronnie Spong beat Hicks cleanly for a 4-1 Louisville lead. The Rebels would pump 56 shots at Hicks, dominate territorially and skate away with a 6-3 victory.
With the series knotted at 2-2, Game 5 would be critical. After a day of rest, the teams convened March 30 for the first of what could be three games in three nights.
A crowd of 4,058 - the largest the Chiefs saw in the playoffs - showed up. The teams knew it was pivotal, too, playing a tight game that wasn't reminiscent of the shootouts that had marked the series. Through two periods, they played scoreless hockey. Indy fended off a 5-on-3 in the first, Louisville survived a second-period scare when Crowdis stoned Boileau on a breakaway. The Chiefs got a power play when Tom Wilson went off 2:29 into the third for hooking. But Lousville's Fiori Goegan pounced on a loose puck at center and beat Hicks on the ensuing shorthanded breakaway for a goal 3:13 into the period. The Chiefs began trying to knot the game, but Louisville's tenacious forecheck made it hard to get the puck out of the zone. Crowdis only had to stop five third-period shots to preserve the Rebs' 1-0 victory. Now, Louisville was up 3-2 and one game away from the Turner Cup.
Armed by a supportive home crowd, the Rebels smelled blood the next night in Game 6. They began swarming Hicks' net, putting 14 shots on him in the first and 15 in the second. But the best they could do was a 2-2 tie. Don Busch gave the Chiefs a 1-0 lead midway through the first by punching the puck into the net out of a scramble. Less than three minutes later, Rebel Garry Sharp beat Hicks on a rebound to tie the game at 1-1. In the second, Louisville's Laurie Peterson scored on a rebound at 8:52, but George Raineri went off for slashing at 11:28. The Chiefs took advantage, as Red Leger pounced on a rebound of a shot by Billy Short and scored to tie the game. The teams went through the third period without a goal, as Hicks stopped 15 shots and Crowdis 10. The only incident happened when Leger was checked hard by Grant Morton, requiring 12 stitches in the head. Leger returned to the ice later in the game.
So they headed into OT. The Rebels had swarmed the Chiefs through three periods, and one goal would deliver them the Turner Cup. If the Chiefs should score, there would be a Game 7 the next night. Louisville began swarming Hicks, but the Chief goaltender stopped all seven shots. With 2:05 to play in the 10-minute sudden-death session, Rebel defenseman Warren Back was sent off for slashing. Quickly, the Chiefs set up the power play. Short took the puck from Boileau and fed a goalmouth pass to Viskelis. Wide open, Viskelis chipped the puck past Crowdis and into the net at 8:34 of overtime, giving the Chiefs a 3-2 victory and setting up a winner-take-all Game 7. Although Short had three assists, and Leger a goal and an assist, Hicks was the star of the game, however, making 49 saves on 52 Louisville shots under the most dire pressure - where every shot can mean the entire season.
So the teams headed back to Freedom Hall April 2 for Game 7. A throng of 3,517 leather-lunged Rebel supporters was on hand to lend their voices.
With everything on the line, another low-scoring game seemed to be coming - a pace that favored the Chiefs, who had won two of the three tight-checking games in the series. The Chiefs carried the play in the first period, but Crowdis was stellar, stopping 11 shots. But with 4:05 to play, Crowdis kicked aside a shot by Bowness. Stankiewicz flew in from the left side, pounced on the loose puck and scored the crucial first goal.
With the teams in a 4-on-4 situation early in the second, when Stankiewicz sidestepped a check by Goegan and passed the puck to Kuzma, who tapped the disc into a wide-open net to make it a 2-0 Chief lead. The Turner Cup began to close in on the Chiefs, who began to go into a defensive shell to keep the puck away from their stellar netminder. Louisville struggled to get through the neutral zone, as the Chiefs continually intercepted passes and cleared the puck into the Rebel zone. Viskelis had a chance to really put the game away, but Crowdis made a diving save with his chest to stone the Chief winger's breakaway six minutes into the period. Hicks stopped all 11 Louisville shots, and the Chiefs - armed with a 2-0 lead -- were 20 minutes away from an improbable comeback and the Turner Cup.
The Rebels had other plans, of course. Eddie Long - Fort Wayne's leading goal-scorer - was allowed to play for Louisville as a fill-in for Marius Groleau, who was injured in Game 6. He took a feed from Grant Morton and blasted a shot into the left corner of the net to cut the Chiefs' lead to 2-1 just 88 seconds into the period. But Hicks held the Rebs at bay, and with 7:35 to go, the Chiefs scored a highlight-reel goal to give themselves breathing room. Boileau dug the puck out of the corner in the Chief zone and fed Brillant at center. The speedy right winger moved in on the right side, while Boileau followed on the left. Brillant cut in on Crowdis' net, drew the goaltender, and then slipped a pass across the goalmouth to Boileau for a goal, which restored the Chiefs' two-goal advantage.
It would be needed, as the Rebels staged an all-out assault on Hicks' net. Dudych took a pass from Morton and slipped the puck under Hicks from close range to cut the Chief lead to 3-2 with 2:32 to play. The Chiefs would clear Louisville's advances, but the Rebels came in with one last shot. With Crowdis out of the net, the Rebs swarmed Hicks' net in the closing seconds. With five seconds left, Dudych fired. The puck hit the outside of the net - but the red light inadvertently came on, and the Louisville fans briefly thought they'd tied the game. But, as the referee ruled "no goal", the horn sounded. Louisville's fans howled wildly as the Chiefs celebrated. They had improbably won the Turner Cup, finishing the regular season with a sub-.500 record, coming up from fourth place, rallying from a 3-2 deficit in games, winning Game 6 in OT and hanging on for a championship.
They believed all season they could be the team to end the Mohawk dynasty. Even though they didn't get to play the Mohawks in the playoffs, they beat the team that ousted Cincinnati. And they fulfilled their goal of winning the Turner Cup.
The Chiefs had won this title as a team. Hicks' brilliant netminding. Stankiewicz's speed, which combined well with Leger's craftiness and Bowness' skill on the second line. Viskelis, another mid-season acquisition, joined the top line late in the year and provided a boost during the playoffs. Boileau's great all-around play. Brillant's nose for the net. Gregory's toughness. Busch's willingness to do anything - moving from D to center to wing. Boileau and Brillant would be named to the IHL's First All-Star team. Hicks and coach Lamoureux would be second-teamers. For the second straight year, Brillant would be given the James Gatschene Trophy as the IHL's Most Outstanding Player. Short (1-7-8) and Leger (3-5-8) had eight points apiece in the Louisville series. Kuzma had three goals and four assists for seven points. Boileau (4-3-7) also had seven points against Louisville. Brillant (6-8-14) and Boileau (7-7-14) tied for team scoring honors.
Once again, the Circle City was a hockey town. The Chiefs had brought Indy its third pro hockey title in 16 years - all coming in eight-year increments (1942, 1950, 1958). The Turner Cup they hoisted was named for the man who began the tradition - Joe Turner, whose goaltending spurred the Indianapolis Capitals to their first AHL Calder Cup in 1942, before going off to fight in World War II, where he would be killed in action.
The series with the Eastern Hockey League champions would never come to pass, falling apart due to rink unavailability and the length of league playoffs. Discussions included having the winner of the IHL-EHL series challenge the top Canadian senior team for the Allan Cup. Big dreams, they remained. Travel would have been prohibitive -the Chiefs' future was always a year-to-year thing announced every spring, and Ross said the Chiefs lost about $30,000 in 1957-58 despite taking in $100,000 in gate receipts. They probably couldn't have stomached a couple of trips to the East Coast, much less to Canada.
But the Chiefs had achieved their goal - breaking the Mohawk dynasty and winning a championship. It would be a tough act to top.