East 3 Host 4 (overtime)
One night after a storybook upset over the top-ranked team in Canada, the host Weyburn Red Wings found some more Royal Bank Cup magic, downing the Hawkesbury Hawks 4-3 in overtime.
Weyburn blew an early two-goal lead, but rallied to defeat the winless Hawks (0-3) one night after beating the mighty Camrose Kodiaks. The Wings finished nine games below .500 during the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League regular season and were eliminated during the first round of the SJHL playoffs. But with Wednesday night’s win, Weyburn (3-1) improbably clinched the top seed for the RBC semifinals.
As has been their habit, the Red Wings burst out of the gate, buoyed by the home crowd. Forward Colby Nichol gave the Weyburn fans reason to cheer 5:18 in, when he claimed the puck at the Hawks blue line and snapped a shot from the right circle that seemed to catch Hawkesbury goaltender Mitch O’Keefe by surprise.
Brendon Vertefeuille scored a pretty goal less than two minutes later to make it 2-0. After sneaking behind the Hawks defense, the Weyburn winger plucked a waist-high pass from Rick Wood out of the air with his stick at the Hawkesbury blue line. Racing in alone on O’Keefe, Vertefeuille deked and slipped the puck between O’Keefe’s legs.
After dominating the first ten minutes, the Red Wings relaxed and allowed the Hawks to own the second half of the period. At 14:47, Tom Mele put a shot behind Weyburn goalie Brenden Cuthbert after accepting a long cross-ice pass that somehow made it through a maze of Red Wings sticks. 36 seconds later, Mathieu Picard grabbed a loose puck in the slot and wristed it by Cuthbert to tie the game 2-2.
Both goaltenders shone during a scoreless second. The most spectacular save belonged to Cuthbert. Already doing the splits after kicking out a hard shot by Chad Glode, Cuthbert flashed a quick glove to rob Glode again when the Hawks forward found his own rebound.
Hawkesbury got into penalty trouble late in the period, but emerged unscathed thanks to O’Keefe, who made big saves off Rick Wood and Justin Schmidt. Weyburn outshot Hawkesbury 9-5 in the frame.
Defenseman Marc Filliol put the Hawks ahead 3-2 at 4:54 of the third period, slapping a rolling puck that fluttered its way through a crowd and hit the twine.
Hawkesbury maintained their lead as the clock ticked down, but with Cuthbert on the bench for an extra attacker, Rick Wood found himself all alone in front of O’Keefe and slid the puck inside the far post, knotting the score with 58.7 seconds left.
Just 1:59 into the extra frame, Kent Lillejord sent an already-ecstatic crowd into hysterics, wristing a shot past O’Keefe’s blocker.
Players of the game were Lillejord and Hawkesbury’s Carl Hudson.
Hawkesbury must beat the 1-2 Portage Terriers tomorrow to qualify for a semifinal, while top-seeded Weyburn has two days to rest. The Georgetown Raiders and the Camrose Kodiaks square off in the other Thursday game, which will be a semifinal preview.
By Dan Kinvig
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