By Darren Lum
Published Feb. 28 2017
Losing in the playoffs is never easy particularly when you have to watch the visiting team celebrate in your home rink.
This scenario played itself out when the Crestwood Mustangs ended the Red Hawks boys’ hockey team’s season handing them a gut-wrenching 3-2 overtime loss on Thursday Feb. 28 at the A.J. LaRue Arena in Haliburton.
Coming into play the Hawks were down a game after losing to the Mustangs 4-2 earlier in the week and needed to win to stave off elimination from the best-of-three series.
The Hawks started well carrying the pace finishing their checks in the defensive and offensive zones and had the momentum. Despite penalty troubles the red and white still took a 2-0 lead into the second period from a pair of goals by Owen Smith who scored the first goal shorthanded during a two-minute minor penalty kill. Smith was not just a threat to score as he was always throwing his weight around finishing checks.
When the pace was slowed Crestwood took advantage and scored late in the second and then again early in the third on a powerplay. The high pace of play was in favour of the Hawks.
Tied 2-2 going into the three-on-three overtime Yake took the time to remind his players of the basics: timely line changes move the puck up the ice and score.
Even before the overtime the Hawks had their chances to send their fans home happy.
“Really we had our chances good chances near the end of the game in the last five minutes. We had a powerplay there. We had some really good chances and their goalie did make some saves” he said.
With a little less than four minutes to go in the game Haliburton had a five-on-three opportunity for 52 seconds. Mat Wilbee drew two consecutive penalties. Although the Hawks were penalized only seconds later the home team still had a four-on-three for 41 seconds. There were two chances for the Hawks to end it in regulation but the Mustangs goalie Matt Curphey made the stops to keep the tie and ensure a chance for his team to win.
“That probably was our best opportunities in the dying moments you might say of the game. So you get to three-on-three you know there is going to be chances. That’s why you do three-on-three to create opportunities to end the game. Both teams got those opportunities and they scored” he said.
He acknowledges the team did not play like this to start the year. The Hawks improved over the season despite the challenges related to snow days robbing them of important game time with the cancellation of two hockey tournaments.
There were only four league games after exams and the team did build some momentum with a pair of consecutive wins.
“We got a little bit of a roll going not nearly what I was hoping we would have to start the season with those tournaments it would have helped our team to get together a little more and play at a higher level but … the game today was a nice highlight level game fast paced. I think our guys played extremely well” he said.
In a short series though everything is magnified.
“There really was no room for mistakes and they capitalized on their few chances that they had. I give kudos to both goalies [Hawks rookie goalie Carson Sisson and Curphey]. They played extremely well. Lots of chances on both ends” he said.
Sisson temporarily saved the game with a pad save on a partial breakaway. Unfortunately it wasn’t long after when the Mustangs Evan Downer ended the game with 6:26 left in the overtime on a subsequent partial breakaway.
The team had five starters (three suspensions injury and team issue) related to an incident after Tuesday’s first series game in Peterborough. Among the starters watching included blue liner Max MacNaull and winger Paydon Miscio. The shortage on the bench was apparent late in the third and in the 10 minute overtime particularly with the three-on-three format. They weren’t outclassed or out-chanced in that final frame but didn’t have the extra step if they had their full complement of players.
Yake couldn’t have been prouder of the players he leaned on in this must-win game.
“The guys I expected a lot from had outstanding games and they played their hearts out. They should feel proud of their efforts. It’s always tough losing. That’s part of sport especially when you know you had a chance to win and you put out everything into it. You got to feel pride in the effort that was there and the grit” he said.