The Frog Lake T-Birds and the Lac La Biche Clippers kicked off the first round of the NEAJBHL playoffs this weekend. The T-Birds hosted the first two games at home and put up a dominant effort to win the first matchup 7-3 on Friday night. But the Clippers showed up in full force on Saturday to bring the series back to an even 1-1 with a solid 8-6 victory.
Lac La Biche struck first and struck early on Friday night. Neil Vermillion nabbed the Clippers’ first goal of the game, with a helper by Brody Rosychuk, less than two minutes into the night. But before a surprisingly clean first periodcame to a close, which saw zero penalties assessed, Tayon Metzier was able to answer back for Frog Lake to even out the score while Cody Hodgson scored once more to put the T-Birds up 2-1.
Michael Cardinal and Ryder Prue combined for back-to-back goals to open up the second period, giving Frog Lake a healthy 4-1 lead. But Cardinal also took a hooking minor five minutes into the period to give Lac La Biche the first power play of the game. The Clippers made quick work of the disadvantaged T-Birds, and Dawson Boucher was able to score on the power play to bring Lac La Biche back within two. But Frog Lake still had more work to do, and Courage Omeasoo notched a goal, again assisted by Prue, before the second period expired.
Isaac Barr grabbed a quick goal for Lac La Biche to kickstart the third period, but the Clippers got into some penalty trouble, giving Frog Lake ample time to strike back with another two goals to wrap up the game with a final score of 7-3. Prue had a four-point night with three assists and a goal.
“There were a few times when we got a bit flat-footed and got stuck in our own end,” Clippers head coach Clint Trimble said. “We allowed too many goals right at the start of the periods, and once you kind of get stuck like that, it takes time to recover, which is time that we didn’t have. Not to mention that Frog Lake’s goalie [Justin Fedoruk] was outstanding.”
Jump forward to Saturday night, and the Clippers redoubled their efforts to mount a fantastic comeback win.
Jayce Matson scored the first goal for Lac La Biche in the third minute of the first period, followed by another goal by Ty Funk at the halfway point to take a 2-0 lead. Prue answered for Frog Lake, bringing the game back to a one-goal lead for Lac La Biche at the close of the first.
Rosychuk scored another quick goal for the Clippers, but their lead was negated by back-to-back goals for the T-Birds by Prue and Hodgson.
The entire period was full of back-and-forth offensive prowess, and Lac La Biche fell into a 5-3 hole early in the third period. But then, successive goals by Neil Vermillion, Linden Jackson-Alook, and Tobie Opikokew gave the Clippers a 6-5 lead.
Hodgson scored another goal, his third of the game, to tie it up back at 6 goals each with less than five minutes remaining. But Rosychuk scored his second of the night, and the ultimate game winner, just forty seconds later, with an insurance goal coming from Keaton Willey at the close of the third.
“Frog Lake plays this long-stretch game, and we changed up our formations to try and counter that better,” Trimble said. “That seemed to work pretty well, and focusing on our defense allowed us to get more offensive opportunities and score more goals.”
The series will now head over to Lac La Biche for games on Monday and Tuesday night, before heading back to Frog Lake for Game 5 on Thursday evening.