After losing two straight games, the Calgary Hitmen looked determined to halt the slide and save their season.
They did it in dramatic fashion, beating the Kootenay Ice 6-2 in Game 7 at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Monday evening.
Connor Rankin was the hero of the game, scoring a natural hat trick in the first period to give Calgary a commanding early lead. Chase Lang, Radel Fazleev and Kenton Helgesen added further scoring for the Hitmen squad.
The dynamic duo of Sam Reinhart and Jaedon Descheneau replied for the Ice.
Ice netminder Wyatt Hoflin was shelled in goal, facing 35 shots for 29 saves. Mack Shields went the distance for the Hitmen, turning away all of 11 shots.
Calgary handily won the special teams battle, scoring one powerplay goal in three opportunities with the man-advantage, while killing two of Kootenay only chances with the extra man.
It was a tough start for the Kootenay squad, as Rankin got his first goal 1:12 into the game.
While Calgary didn’t add to their lead till later in the frame, they carried much of the play in the Kootenay zone. Indeed, the Hitmen gave up only one shot on goal all period.
Rankin’s second goal came on the powerplay when he snapped a shot from the top of the face-off circle at the 17:34 mark.
Ninety seconds later, hats rained down onto the ice as Rankin scored again, coming in off the sidewall and beating Hoflin stick side.
The second period started off much the same as the first, with the Hitmen carrying most of the play.
Five minutes into the frame, Chase Lang was rewarded for driving the net, tapping home a cross-ice feed from Helgesen at the sidewall.
After robbing Troy Murray from the point, Shields eventually had a puck go by him on a deflection from Sam Reinhart, who tipped a shot from Cale Fleury at the blue line.
By the second half of the period, Kootenay was able to get some sustained pressure on Calgary, but quality chances were few and far between.
Calgary continued to pile on in the third period, adding to their three goal lead when Fazleev took advantage of a turnover and beat Hoflin.
However, the Ice rallied not even 30 seconds later, as Descheneau stole the puck in the Hitmen defensive zone and wristed a shot past Shields.
However, it was too much too late, and as Kootenay played some desperate hockey late in the game, Helgesen stole the puck at the Calgary blueline and went in on a two-on-none rush with Jake Virtanen.
Helgesen finished his own tic-tac-toe play with Virtanen to seal up the final at 6-2.
It was a tough way to go for the Ice, which had earlier won 4-2 on Saturday night in Game 6 and 5-4 in overtime in Game 5 on Friday.
After being down 3-1 in the series, those two wins forced a seventh deciding game.
The Hitmen will now move on to face the Medicine Hat Tigers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.