It was the kind of hockey game one could make a movie out of. Down 3-2 with two minutes left in the third period, the Frog Lake T-Birds pulled off a grand comeback to win the game and eliminate the Lac La Biche Clippers from the playoffs, paving the T-Birds’ way to Round 2.
The first period saw the Clippers swapping goals back and forth before settling in on a deadlocked tie at 2-2. That tie lasted until late in the second period when the Clippers scored to put themselves up 3-2.
But, at home with nearly 1.000 fans cheering them on, Frog Lake’s determination helped them swing momentum in their favour. Hitting the ice for the third period, the game was all Frog Lake. They had chance after chance in front of the Lac La Biche net but just seemed unable break through goalie Davis Houle’s expert netminding. Time began to wind down and the T-Birds’ desperation began to show. But with less than two minutes remaining, they finally lifted the puck past Houle to tie the game at three. The home crowd erupted and the entire arena was buzzing with anticipation as the game headed into overtime, making this the second time in as many games that Frog Lake managed to score just in the nick of time.
“I think for a good part of the game, we just weren’t skating that well and had trouble moving our feet,” head coach Harvey Smyl said. “We were getting some chances but they were all one-and-done. Lac La Biche was very committed in the neutral zone and to their defensive game, and we had a tough time getting past them to set up a strong offensive play. They shut down our speed, and that’s a big part of the game that we play. But we got a stretch pass through at the end of the third, and it paid off for us just in time.”
Frog Lake’s victory celebrations were almost cut short in overtime when Lac La Biche took off on a two-man breakaway. With no defenders in front of them, the Clippers made a smart passing play to open up a gap in the Frog Lake net. But Justin Fedoruk came up huge with a game-saving stop to keep the T-Birds’ hopes alive.
Just moments later, as the Clippers were carrying the puck out of their own end, they suffered a lapse in communication and turned the puck over to Michael Cardinal, who has been red-hot for the T-Birds all series long. Cardinal made his way, uncontested, to the Clippers’ net and slid the puck right around Houle to win the game, and the opening round of the playoffs.
“You know they always say that the fourth win is the hardest to get, and that was certainly true tonight,” Smyl said. “But it’s great to be done early, and now we can get some rest and look forward to round two.”
The only other team in the league to have moved on to the second round at this point is the Wainwright Bisons, so the T-Birds will have some waiting to do until the rest bout of playoff matchups begins.