Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
February 23, 2015, Saanich, BC (ISN) – One thing for certain is that the Saanich Braves will never give up. Trailing 4-0 and 5-1 to the Westshore Wolves Monday, the Braves made an improbable comeback, scoring with 2.4 seconds remaining to tie the game and then getting a goal from Hunter Atchison at 5:50 of the first overtime to defeat the Wolves 6-5 and knot their first round VIJHL South Division playoff series at two games each.
Saanich’s Nick Kean celebrates his game tying goal with 2.4 seconds left to play (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Atchison also played an important role on the game tying goal, cleanly winning a faceoff in the Wolves end with five seconds to play and moving it back to Nick Kean, who ripped a wrist shot past Westshore starter Blake Pearson, sending the Braves and their fans into a frenzy.
On one of the most important face-offs of the night, the Braves Hunter Atchison (14) wins the puck back cleanly to Nick Kean (11) who would bury a shot to tie the game with 2.4 seconds to play (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
That the Braves even had an opportunity for that faceoff was a bone of contention for the Wolves, who just prior, had cleared the puck down the ice towards the Braves empty net. The linesmen signalled icing, but the puck rolled slowly, curled and hit the post and bounced back, never fully crossing the red line. The whistle was blown anyway and with the Wolves arguing that the faceoff should be at centre ice because of the error, referee Jeff Eden ruled the puck had indeed crossed the line and hit the side of the net and that icing and the resultant faceoff in the Wolves end was the correct call.
The Wolves, including Connor Krupa (4) would push Cameron Kovesdi (13) and the rest of the Braves around early, jumping into a 4-0 lead (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
While the Wolves can be upset with that call, they should perhaps be more upset at not being able to close out a game that they were clearly in control of. Playing less than 24 hours after their own dramatic 3-2 double overtime win on Sunday, the Wolves came out with purpose and built on the emotions of that win by jumping into a 3-0 first period lead thanks to goals from James Severs, Quentin McShane and Dylan Grant.
Saanich’s Scott Henderson (23) and Westshore’s James Severs battle for the puck off a draw (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Surprisingly, it was the younger Braves who seemed to be more fatigued early on, especially starting goaltender Brandon Ward, who looked nothing like the same goalie who stopped 47 of 50 shots the night before, surrendering the three Westshore goals on just ten shots before being relieved by Riley Mathieson just 13:55 into the game.
Saanich defenceman Liam Sproule (3) leads the charge out of his zone (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
That Braves fatigue carried over a bit into the second period and after the Wolves Spencer Preece and the Braves Evan Horvath had exchanged early goals, the Wolves Kayle Ramsay scored at the 7:40 mark to put the Wolves into a commanding lead. While the Braves Horvath notched his second at the 7:54 mark to close out scoring in the period, the Braves, who were outshot badly over the first two periods 27-10, still faced a daunting 5-2 deficit at the break.
Westshore’s Spencer Preece (9) would have one of the Wolves goals Monday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
This is a Westshore team however that has had their ups and downs all season and in this case their “ups” in this series, which began midway through their 7-3 Game 2 win, seemed to get left in the changeroom after the second break Monday. The Braves meantime seemed to find a second wind and suddenly began to dominate play, while the Wolves, now seemed to be the team stuggling to find their breath.
The Braves Jordan Parmar (24) would earn an assist Monday to stay at the top of the list of Braves playoff scoring leaders (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Braves ultimate comeback started early in the third when Jack Rachwalski was left alone in the slot and took a nice feed from Jordan Parmar, banging in his third goal of the playoffs at 2:48 to make the score 5-3.
At 11:37, the Braves Evan Badry flipped a harmless looking shot toward the net, but a deft re-direct from Captain Dayne Ellison past Pearson gave him his first goal of these playoffs and set the stage for the last second dynamics by Kean, who scored on the Braves 14th shot of the period.
Saanich Captain Dayne Ellison (second from left) congratulates Evan Badry (7) after Ellison scored the Braves fourth goal Monday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Braves continued to dominate in overtime, allowing just one Wolves shot on Mathieson and scoring on their fourth shot when Atchison picked up a rebound in front and slid it past Pearson for the winner.
Saanich’s Evan Horvath would score the Braves first two goals Monday to help spark the comeback (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
So this series, which is by far the closest and most entertaining of the first round match-ups thus far, now comes down to a best of three affair, with the pivotal Game 5 taking place at The Q Centre on Wednesday night at 7:00 pm. Game 6 will be back at Pearkes at 6:30 pm on Friday. Game 7 if it is needed, and the way that this series is going it probably will be, goes Sunday night at 7:00 pm at The Q Centre.
Saanich’s Hunter Atchison (right) begins to celebrate his game-winning overtime goal along with Evan Badry (7) and Mackenzie Valentine (8) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Game Notes: The Wolves outshot the Braves 41-28 for the game and now have a 163-110 shot advantage over the Braves in the series. Goaltender Riley Mathieson stopped 29 of 31 shots in relief to get the win. In addition to his game winning goal and game tying assist, Atchison also assisted on both of Horvath’s goals for a four point evening and now leads the Braves in playoff scoring with six points. Sixteen different Braves have notched points in the playoffs so far. Seamus Maguire was back in the lineup after missing two games due to illness. Ben Meek did not play due to a shoulder injury and is not likley to return for Game 5.