By Brian Compton
ESTERO, Fla. — Steve Munn had been in the situation the Titans found themselves in last night before.
The veteran defenseman knows what it takes to win a championship and knows the emotions players go through on that morning when it could be only hours from raising the Kelly Cup.
Munn was expected to address his teammates during a meeting before opening face-off of Game 6 of the finals against the Florida Everblades.
“It’s one of those things where you want everybody to understand exactly what’s at stake,” Munn said during yesterday‘s morning skate. “But at the same time, you don’t them to get so emotional that they lose track of little details. This is exciting as it gets right here. This is what you play for. I‘ve been thinking about what I’m going to say.”
Munn was fortunate enough to win a Kelly Cup in his rookie season. Under Mike Haviland, the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies defeated the Columbia Inferno in five games to win the 2003 ECHL championship. Two years later — and again under Haviland’s direction — Munn was in the same situation.
“That was the best hockey moment of my life,” Munn said. “I have a chance to duplicate it. It’s pretty damn exciting for me.”
What a season it’s been for Munn. It all started in Augusta, where Munn appeared in only 17 games due to a shoulder injury. Things turned for the better on March 10, when he received the news that he and Jarrett Thompson had been traded to Trenton. Munn has provided stability on a Titans’ blue line that features four rookies, while Thompson — who returned to the lineup last night for the first time since Game 5 against Alaska — has been a quality third-line forward and is outstanding on face-offs.
“We went to dinner together (after Game 5) and just talked about how lucky we’ve been,” Munn said. “We’re definitely not taking this for granted. We’re grateful for all the good things that have happened. It’s been a long journey. Both of us have had our ups and down this season. It’d be nice to finish on that high note.”
The same high note that Atlantic City finished on two years ago. After an intense seven-game series with Cincinnati in the conference finals, Munn, Haviland and the rest of the Bullies used talent and momentum to win the Kelly Cup against Columbia. Munn admitted he doesn’t remember much about the closing moments of that Game 5 victory that secured the championship.
“It was pretty crazy,” Munn said. “I think we were tied up going into the third. That whole game was just a blur to me. The crowd was electric. You’re so into it that you’re almost unconscious just from the sheer emotion and intensity. It’s a culmination. The craziest things go through your mind at that time. You think about guys that have sacrificed. You think about the guys where it could be their last game. That’s the kind of thing that just keeps you going.”
It’s very possible that Munn, who turns 27 on June 15, will be hanging up the blades following this series. Although he’s only played professional hockey for three seasons, the physical defenseman has been banged around during his career and it has taken its toll. Munn will also become a father this September.
“It could be my last game myself,” Munn said after yesterday’s morning skate. “I have plenty of things to draw motivation from. I just hope that we can do it for each other.”