The St. Paul Canadiens had a rare home-and-home stand this weekend, first hosting the Vermilion Tigers on Friday and the Killam Wheat Kings on Saturday. The Canadiens split the weekend, losing a tight 4-3 game to Vermilion and just barely edging out Killam 3-2 in overtime.
On Friday, St. Paul and Vermilion swapped goals back and forth all night long. In a penalty-less first period, Jesse Reeds opened up the scoring for the Tigers twelve minutes in. Less than a minute later, Brayden Goulet got the puck over to Zach Bendall, who scored his third goal of the season. St. Paul had a handful of excellent shots and scoring chances, but just couldn’t seem to make anything else stick in the first period.
In the second period, Vermilion got back on top with a 2-1 lead with a goal by Ryan Jackson in the seventh minute. At the halfway point of the game, St. Paul found themselves a man short coming off an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for Braden Burak. On the penalty kill, Bendall broke out of the play and scored an unassisted, breakaway goal to tie the game at two goals each. Despite good pressure by the Canadiens in the second period, St. Paul couldn’t manage to get ahead and surrendered another goal before the close of the frame.
Down 3-2 to start the final period, Alex Astasiewicz got to work quickly for the Canadiens. On the power-play from a very early penalty, Astasiewicz scored on a textbook man-advantage play set up by Bendall and Bailey Lonsberry. The goal tied the game at three, but once again, Vermilion was able to pull ahead with a goal in the final five minutes of the game, bringing the final score to 4-3 for the Tigers.
“I thought Vermilion’s goalie played well, and he made some key stops for them,” Canadiens coach Joe Young said after the game. “They started getting a little physical with us and we tried to take the easy way out. They’re a hard-working team and they out-worked us tonight. We talked about it before the game tonight, that they wouldn’t out-skill us but they could out-work us, and that’s what happened tonight. Overall, it’s early and the boys are still working hard. We just need to finish more around the net.”
Saturday’s game against the Wheat Kings was an exceptionally even matchup. “With Killam coming into our barn, they bring a lot of physicality and skill,” said Young. “We needed to be ready for that, and have a bounce-back game.”
And the Canadiens did just that, despite surrendering a two-goal lead in the third period and going to overtime.
Goulet scored the opening goal on the power-play; the only goal in the first period. The second period looked deadlocked, with both teams swapping scoring chances for the entire frame. Eventually, Goulet scored again, with just five seconds left in the period.
With a 2-0 lead going into the third period, St. Paul looked slightly overconfident and allowed Killam to take advantage of them. The Wheat Kings scored their first goal in the first five minutes of the third. In the final minute of the game and with their goalie pulled, Killam scored again, to tie the game and send it to overtime.
Killam had a few excellent chances to score, including one that went off the post and sat right near the goal line before goalie Brenden Williams smothered the puck. But after four minutes of overtime, Dyson Roy emerged as the OT hero for St. Paul, scoring to win the game 3-2. St. Paul had 50 shots on net while Killam had 49; a clear indication of just how tight and hard-won this game was.
With the weekend behind them, the Canadiens’ record improves to an even 5-5-0 as the first third of the season begins its close. They sit in fifth place in the league. The Canadiens will be back in action at home on Friday night, hosting the Wainwright Bisons, after which they will hit the road to play the Tigers once again.