Major-junior hockey fans are getting their money’s worth during the first-round WHL matchup between the Calgary Hitmen and the Kootenay Ice.
For the third game in the series, Friday night’s tilt went into the extra frame, and Kootenay forward Luke Philp broke the spell to lift his team to victory.
Off an innocent-looking shot while entering the zone, the puck bounced out in front of Hitmen goaltender Brendan Burke before redirecting off a Calgary defender and into the back of the net.
It wasn’t the prettiest goal, but it won the game.
The series returns to Cranbrook for Game Six on Saturday night. The box office will open at 9 a.m. for game tickets.
The Ice battled back from a two-deficit in the second period to force overtime before the end of the frame and playing the Hitmen to a draw in the final 20 minutes of the affair.
Kootenay got a pair of goals from Luke Philp, while Rinat Valiev, Sam Reinhart and Levi Cable chipped in offence. Responding from the Hitmen were a pair from Radel Fazleev, Jordy Stallard and Kenton Helgesen.
In the crease, Wyatt Hoflin made 24 saves on the road to victory, while Brendan Burke played the whole game for Calgary, making 31 saves in defeat.
It was a special teams battle, with Kootenay getting a whopping eight chances on the man-advantage and converted twice, while Calgary got a pair of power play goals in three opportunities with the extra man.
Calgary opened the scoring halfway through the opening period when Fazleev, taking a pass from Elliot Peterson, snuck in down low, cut around Hoflin—who was way out of his crease—and tucked the puck in past the post.
However, five minutes later on a two-man advantage, Valiev sniped the top corner stick side on Burke from the top of the face-off circle to even it up.
The goals came in bunches in the second period.
Ice defenceman Tanner Lischchynsky took a kneeing penalty at the buzzer of the opening 20 minutes, and 40 seconds into the middle frame, Fazleev went stick side on Hoflin to regain the Calgary lead.
Roughly a minute later, Philp threw the puck across the ice just above the crease, which redirected of Cable’s skate and into the net. It was whistled a good goal, but the officials took a brief look at the video before moving on with the game.
At the 4:54 mark, Stallard carried the puck into Ice territory on a three-on-one rush after Helgesen busted out of the box. Stallard waited out Hoflin before beating him blocker side.
Calgary padded their one-goal lead on the powerplay seven minutes later as Helgesen carved into the slot from the side wall and scored for a 4-2 lead.
Late into the period on the penalty kill, Jadeon Descheneau made a behind-the-back pass to spring Philp on a shorthanded breakaway, who roofed a slick backhand over Burke’s shoulder to climb back to a one-goal deficit.
Reinhart knotted it back up 4-4 on Kootenay’s seventh power play, jamming home a sharp angle rebound from Tim Bozon in the corner with nine seconds left in the period.
The third period was a scoreless affair, but the Ice did have one power play opportunity.
Hitman forward Chase Lang missed a wide-open cage with Hoflin sprawled in the crease while a goal was called back from Elliot Peterson, who thought he scored before the whistle went after shovelling away in front of Hoflin.
Despite some heavy pressure from the Hitmen in the final two minutes of the game, Hoflin and the Kootenay defence were able to force OT and keep their season alive.
Adam Tambellini—who scored both game-winning goals in the two previous OT affairs—nearly made it three, but a ridiculous save from Hoflin kept the Ice alive.
At the 6:05 mark, Philp entered the zone and put a shot on Burke. Cable took a Hitmen defenceman with him as he drove the net, but the puck bounced off the Calgary defender and into the goal for Kootenay’s first OT win of the playoff series.