Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
It’s been decades since blackmail forced Troy Callahan to retire from playing professional hockey, and he’s built a successful career behind the bench. When he’s offered the opportunity to coach the Asheville Ravens—the most hated team in the ECHL—he’s convinced that his no-nonsense attitude is just what the team needs to put their focus back on hockey. But Troy is disheartened when he finds out the Ravens have signed Shane North, a player known for his aggression—especially when Shane’s rough good looks have Troy thinking inappropriate thoughts about a player, even if he’s set to retire at the end of the season.
Shane’s career in the majors never quite took off. Wanting to quit on his own terms, Shane agrees to a one-year contract with the Ravens and finds himself playing for a coach who thinks he’s an aging goon, and with a team that doesn’t trust him, Troy, or each other. Despite his determination not to get involved, Shane unwillingly becomes part of the team… and is just as unwillingly drawn to the gruff, out-and-proud coach. As the Ravens struggle to build a new identity, Shane and Troy succumb to the passion that might cost them everything.
I hate coming to the last of the released books in a series I love, especially this one. Scoring Chances has really grabbed at my heart with the stories of competing teams in the ECHL, whether it’s been the Jacksonville Sea Storm, Spartanburg Spitfires, and here finally the reviled Asheville Ravens, and the hockey players within those teams that love and fought hard on and off the ice.
What a group its been. Closeted players, tormented coaches, goalies tossed away by their families and rich kids coming into their own and finding love and themselves on and off the ice. Avon Gale has captured the essence of this game at its most basic while giving the readers great romance and yes, sexy men.
ECHL is a special place. Easy Come Hard to Leave as the author has mentioned the East Coast Hockey League is called. The players come into it not solely by draft, although those lucky enough to be drafted by the NHL are sent there first to learn the ropes and get seasoning. No, hockey players can just show up and try out, no draft needed. It lends itself to a special type of player and mentality. And a camaraderie between the players off the ice after the games are over. It’s an atmosphere where the pay is miniscule, the hours long, and the passion for the game hot.
We get that in these stories and from these men and couples. Certainly so here from the man trying to rebuild one of the most hated teams in the ECHL. That would be the Ashville Ravens. In Coach’s Challenge (Scoring Chances #5) by Avon Gale we finally get an inside look at the team we’ve only seen on the other side of the rink. Usually its after they’ve tossed slurs at some of our favorite men or even committed crimes against them. Now we get the flip side as Troy Callahan takes on the unenviable job of coach and rebuilding this team completely after the events of the last story.
Troy has given up the chance to coach in the NHL to rebuild the Ravens and all the reasons why fall out quickly. Troy’s character is hockey tough, his personal pain still driving him, and he’s easy to connect to. So is the man arriving late to training, Shane North, a hockey player in the last year before retirement and looking to go out the right way.
Shane North, older, looking for one last year of hockey, played honorably, is a perfect person to represent a ECHL player. Someone with years of playing behind them who still wants to play, that one more year. Who continues to love the game. He’s human, layered, and so personable that I just fell in love with him. And his rickety car that barely made it to Ashville.
Between Shane and Troy, the chemistry is immediately hot, the dynamics perfect, and I love the way their relationship plays out professionally and out of uniform.
There is still fallout from the scandal and NHL proceedings that entwine throughout the story. The intrigue and suspense just adds to the overall depth and enjoyment. But the real stars here remain the game and the romance. The action on the ice, the plays, the excitement! You can almost imagine these teams and players are real. That goes for the love and romance too.
I just adore this series and hope eventually to see another story release. There are other players here that need their HEA and story told. I’ll be waiting for it and them.
Until that happens, I’ll be content to reread this series as is. Are you new to it? I highly recommend each and every story but read them in the order they were written to understand the history of the teams, the players, and the Kelley Cup. It’s a journey you won’t want to miss out on.
Cover art: Aaron Anderson. Again, another great cover that brands the series and the story.
Sales Links: Amazon
ebook, 200 pages
Published June 26th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
Original Title Coach’s Challenge
Edition Language English
Series Scoring Chances #5
Reviewer note: arcs purchased directly from Amazon for the entire series.