What’s meant to be, will be. Just like in the first 3 games of the series, the Canmore Eagles and the Drumheller Dragons needed Overtime to decide a winner tonight in Game 4 at the Canmore Recreation Centre. The Eagles who were on the brink of elimination being down 2 games to 1 in their 1st Round, best-of-5 series were able to keep their season alive! They won game four 2-1 in Overtime on a goal from Tian Rask at 3:07 of the 1st Overtime Period to send the 610 fans in attendance into a frenzy!
“I mean Rattie and Colton Young were great on the forecheck, turned the puck over. To be honest, I’m not a passer, so I saw the puck, I just ripped it and hoped for the best and see it go in was a positive for sure, everyone was pretty excited,” said Tian Rask about his game-winning goal in Overtime.
Rask who leads the team in points in the playoffs with 6, scored both Eagles goals and he now has 3 goals and 3 assists in 4 games.
In the 1st period, the Eagles came out with a lot of energy and determination to keep their season alive as they fired 22 shots on Dragons’ netminder Daniel Allin, including many scoring chances. They could not solve Allin and both teams went to the dressing room at the end of the 1st period scoreless.
In the 2nd period, the Eagles were finally able to solve Allin at 7:28 with Rask scoring the first of his 2 goals when he fired a shot from the point that found the back of the net. Jesse Sheen and Michael Spafford picked up the assists. It was the only goal of the middle frame.
In the 3rd period, the Eagles had chances to extend their lead, but they could not beat Allin. The Dragons who got better as the game went on were able to tie the game at 12:59 when Forward Scout Truman found himself on a breakaway and slipped the puck past the right pad of Eagles’ netminder Thomas Davis. The goal energized the visitors in the final 5 minutes of regulation, but Thomas Davis stood tall to send the game to Overtime.
As mentioned above, it was Tian Rask who ended the contest at 3:07 of the 1st Overtime period. Colton Young picked the lone assist.
“I thought we started the game really well and obviously their goaltender stood on his head. I thought he made some big saves,” said Eagles Head Coach and General Manager Andrew Milne. “We started the game well, we made a lot of positives, I just told them to keep going and build off that.”
Thomas Davis who has started all 4 games of this series for the Eagles stopped 36 of the 37 shots he faced. For the Dragons, Daniel Allin made his 1st start of the series and first career AJHL Playoff start stopping 35 of the 37 shots he faced. It seemed a bit surprising that Dragons Coach Kevin Hasselberg decided to start his rookie netminder after that Dragons’ 20-year-old Hunter Virostek started in the first 3 games performed really well.
However, Coach Milne was not surprised by the decision of his counterpart saying, “He’s a good goalie, he’s had great numbers all year, he’s been good for them all year. They have a 1 and 1a in goal. Obviously, we saw it tonight, he’s a great goalie, that wasn’t a fluke game, that was a great game by a good goalie. At the end of the day, Kevin as a coach, that’s a pretty unique situation to have 2 goalies that are capable to play like that. You know I’m assuming in Kevin’s mind, that’s 4 games in 5 nights and he didn’t want to tire his guy [Virostek] out.”
One forward line that has stood out so far in this series is the line of Tian Rask-Colton Young and Taden Rattie. That line has a combined 15 points, including scoring 7 of the Eagles’ 10 goals.
“They’ve been outstanding, I think that whole line has been driving our group,” said Coach Milne. “Obviously you know when you put two 20-year-olds on a line and Tian Rask, the energy they play with, the excitement, the passion, it has been outstanding. They’ve been horses out there for us. They’re leading the charge, I’m glad to see them getting rewarded. Tian has been outstanding in this series and he’s been rewarded with a big goal tonight.”
The series is down to a winner takes all, with the two teams battling in Game 5 back at the Drumheller Memorial Arena on Wednesday night to determine who gets to advance to Round 2 of the Playoffs. Game time is 7 pm.
“Tonight we had our backs against the wall and we saw how well we played,” said Coach Milne. “The advantage we had is that we’ve done it tonight and we’re just gonna do it again tomorrow. We talked about it after Game 3 that we’re gonna have to play 2 more games with our backs against the wall in both of them. And I think right now, we got one out of the way and we've got one more to go.”
Tian Rask also spoke about that decisive Game 5 that the Eagles are ready to take on saying, “We obviously played with our backs against the wall tonight, I think everyone was great. So I think we got them in Drumheller. There will be a lot of energy in that rink, so we’re gonna rest up tomorrow and get our best effort forward. It will be a fun game.”
EAGLES FUN FACTS:
– It will be the 1st time since 2006 that the Eagles will be in a deciding game of a playoff series. The last time was also against the Dragons in Drumheller in a Game 5 of the opening round of the playoffs. On March 9 2006, the Eagles won game five 6-5 on a goal from 20-year old Forward Clark Lowry at 4:12 of the 1st Overtime period in front of 1582 fans. In that series, the Eagles rallied back down 2 games to 0 and just like tonight, they won Game 4 in Overtime to force Game 5.
UPDATE IN THE OTHER SERIES:
In the North Division, all the series are now done. The 2nd seeded Bonnyville Pontiacs finished off the 7th seeded Whitecourt Wolverines in a 3-game sweep on Sunday night and they will now face the 3rd place and defending champs, the Spruce Grove Saints. The Saints eliminated the 6th seeded Drayton Valley Thunder in 4 games. The 4th seeded Fort McMurray Oil Barons eliminated the 5th seeded Grande Prairie Storm in 4 games Monday night and they will now take the top-seeded Sherwood Park Crusaders who enjoyed a first-round bye.
In the South Division, the series between the Eagles and the Dragons is not the only one that will require a 5th game as the 5th seeded Calgary Mustangs defeated the 4th seeded Camrose Kodiaks 5-3 in Game 4 Monday night to force a decisive Game 5 in Camrose on Wednesday night. The 2nd seeded Okotoks Oilers swept the 7th seeded Calgary Canucks in 3 straight games. The top-seeded Brooks Bandits who have a bye await their 2nd Round opponent. If the Eagles win the series, they will take on the Bandits and the Oilers will take on the winner of the Mustangs-Kodiaks series. If the Dragons win, they face the Oilers, while the Bandits will battle the winner of the Mustangs-Kodiaks series.