When Clarenville Caribous defenceman David Victor slammed Stony Plain Eagles forward Justin Cox into the boards midway through the second period of the Allan Cup round-robin contest at the Arena Wednesday, it was a play that could well have spelled the end of the Caribous chances of taking first place in their division.
The Eagles already held a 2-0 lead and with Victor being assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for boarding all the momentum appeared to be on the Eagles side. Cox was injured on the play and they even brought the stretcher out before he regrouped and skated off. He later took a regular shift.
On the hit the boards broke to the right of the Clarenville net on the south end and had to be replaced forcing a delay of an hour.
By the time the teams got back on the ice to play the final 9:18 of the period the Caribous were a different team. They allowed only three shots during the power play, and 13 seconds after it was over Ryan Desrosiers beat Eagles netminder Wade Waters to make it 2-1.
“During that break we got a chance to sit down and change our plan,” said Caribous head coach Ivan Hapgood, who had to give his penalty killers credit. Much like he gave the power play credit when they scored five times on a five-minute power play during a 9-3 win over the Fort St. John Flyers Tuesday.
“All special teams are important in a tournament like this,” he said. “We rolled straight through (the major) with eight guys and then later killed off another minor penalty. And in between we ended up getting a goal.
“I can’t say what was wrong the first half of the game . . . I just don’t know, but then give the other team credit as well. They came at us real, real hard. They work hard and any time you play a team that works that hard they’re tough to play against.”
Eagles head coach Mike Thompson agreed with Hapgood.
“The first period and a half we were excellent, but that break killed us, it absolutely took all our momentum away and it swung the other way. Then we had no traction in the third.
“In the first two periods, five-on-five we were good, giving up only 11 shots and five or six of those came when they had a two-man advantage. But during the break they got energized and started to generate some chances. As well we had seven minutes of power play in the final 9:18 of the second period and couldn’t get one goal. We needed one goal for sure. All that was the turning point in the game.”
The Eagles held a 12-8 edge in shots in the first period and took a 1-0 lead with a power play goal at 3:41 when Joel Andresen’s weak unscreened shot from the left point trickled between Jason Churchill’s legs.
“It must have hit something,” said Hapgood. “He said he seen it all the way and just couldn’t pinch his pads together.”
The second Stony Plain marker came at 8:09 of the second period when Tate Locke’s pass went in off a Caribou defenceman’s skate.
The goal put the Eagles within sight of first place in the three-team pool. If they won 3-0, or even 4-1 they would have won the three-team tie-breaker. However, that’s when everything changed.
“We knew that the magic number was three, but we didn’t discuss it at all,” said Hapgood. “There was no need. We wanted to go out and win plus if we stayed close we knew we were safe.”
The Caribous tied the game at 7:46 of the third period when Steve Yetman one-timed a loose puck in the slot and went ahead at 10:39 when Brad Cann beat Waters from the right faceoff circle on a scramble during the draw.
The Caribous held a 17-5 edge in shots in the third period but Stony Plain finished with a 31-28 edge.
The win gave Clarenville first place in the division and a bye into Friday’s semifinals, along with the Bentley Generals, who won the other division.
Stony Plain will face the Rosetown Redwings tonight at 8 p.m. in quarter-final play.
“It’s a grind now,” said Thompson. “But we have to take it one elimination game at a time. Game 1 is tomorrow (today) and if we don’t win we’re going home. So we worry about it, then worry about the next day.”
l The other quarter-final at 4 p.m. sees Fort St. John facing Kenora . . . Bentley goes into the semifinals as the top seed with Clarenville second . . . The final is set for 5:30 p.m. Saturday.