Team Saskatchewan staged a dramatic last-minute comeback when Nolan Renwick (Swift Current Broncos) scored with 30 seconds remaining in regulation time to make it a 2-2 game before Jaydon Dureau (Portland Winterhawks) scored just 16 seconds into overtime to propel Saskatchewan to Saturday’s semi-final. Swift Current Broncos first-rounder Logan Barlage continued to impress with a three-point outing (1g-2a) which included the game’s first goal.
For Team Manitoba, Reese Vitteli (Everett Silvertips) tied the game early in the second period while Kyle Bettens (Brandon Wheat Kings) gave the Manitobans the lead 14:10 into the second frame. Vancouver Giants first-rounder Trent Miner was terrific with 25 saves in a losing cause. Team Manitoba will fight the loser of Saturday’s semi-final for bronze on Sunday.
For two teams that couldn’t buy a break over the opening two days of the 2016 Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup, something was bound to give Friday afternoon at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary. Unfortunately for Team Manitoba, it wasn’t in their favour.
With goaltender Nolan Maier on the bench for the extra attacker, Nolan Renwick put the game-tying goal past Trent Miner with only 30 seconds remaining in regulation, knotting the must-win contest for both teams and giving Saskatchewan one last chance to advance to Saturday’s semifinal.
“We stayed positive throughout the whole period,” said Renwick, a sixth round pick of the Swift Current Broncos, following his team’s victory. “We kept pounding pucks in on Miner – he’s a great goalie. The only way we were going to score in that third period was going to be a greasy goal. I happened to be in front of the net, tipped [the puck]. It was real exciting.”
The green and gold didn’t waste their extra opportunity as Jaydon Dureau checked in as the overtime hero only 16 seconds into the extra period, sending Saskatchewan to a 3-2 victory and punching a ticket to the semifinal, renewing hopes of a gold medal appearance.
“Our team just doesn’t give up,” said Dureau, an eighth round pick of the Portland Winterhawks. “We’re a bunch of people that battle really hard and that’s one thing we stuck with. We never got down on ourselves. We went through some adversity through the game and we came out on top. That’s all that we wanted.
“Our team has been battling through a lot of bad luck with those past two games. It feels great to get that [win] under the belt and move on to the semifinals.”
While jubilation reigned for Saskatchewan, Manitoba sat in defeat after having battled long and hard through round-robin play, only to come up short through three outings.
“That was our most complete game yet,” said Rob Smith, head coach for Team Manitoba. “We battled. They stuck to the game plan right to the end and two shots deflected to the back of our net. Sometimes there isn’t anything you can do about those situations.”
What existed through 60 minutes of regulation play was a goalie battle for the ages between the counterparts Maier and Miner. At one end, Maier, a third round pick of the Swift Current Broncos, kicked out 22 pucks to collect his first win of the tournament in what was, arguably, the biggest game to date for Saskatchewan. In the other crease, Miner did everything in his power to go save for save, turning aside 25 pucks.
“Trent looked really confident,” Smith said. “Coming out of Game 1, he wasn’t happy with his performance, but he’s a warrior and we knew he’d come back and battle. He looked very comfortable and confident in the net tonight.”
Outside of Dureau’s overtime heroics and Renwick’s last-second tying tally, captain Logan Barlage once again played a vital role in the outcome for Team Saskatchewan. The 6-foot-3 Humboldt product, a first round pick of the Broncos, collected a goal and two assists, including opening the scoring in the first period.
Two consecutive goals from Reece Vitelli and Kyle Bettens put Manitoba in front during second period play before Renwick tied the game late in regulation.
With the win, Saskatchewan keeps its gold medal hopes alive by finishing third in round-robin play. Undefeated through two games, both BC and Alberta remain in gold medal contention. The team that takes first place will be decided Friday night when BC plays Alberta to close the round robin. The second-place finisher will play Saskatchewan in semifinal action on Saturday.
“We’ve played pretty solid through three games here,” Renwick said. “We just want to keep up that momentum and we’ll get after whoever we’re facing in that game and check them hard, get shots on net and we’ll have the same result as we did today.”
As for Manitoba, a tournament in which they were so close, so often, has reach a disappointing crossroads. While they won’t have the opportunity to play for gold, Manitoba will take to the ice in the bronze medal game on Sunday, facing whichever team fails to advance from semifinal action.