Host 4 East 3
By Dan Kinvig
Classic. Epic. Unforgettable. There just aren’t enough words to describe the Weyburn Red Wings’ incredible 4-3 triple-overtime victory over the Hawkesbury Hawks in the Royal Bank Cup semifinals.
Colby Nichol was the hero at 16:54 of the third OT, canceling an amazing overtime performance from Hawks goaltender Mitch O’Keefe, who stopped the first 29 pucks he saw in the extra periods.
With the win, the host Red Wings continue their Cinderella run at the RBC. The squad suffered through a difficult Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League regular season, and was eliminated in the first round of the SJHL playoffs after blowing a 3-0 series lead to the Humboldt Broncos. But on Sunday, they’ll be playing on national television for Junior A hockey’s top prize.
Weyburn outshot Hawkesbury 52-50 en route to the victory, including 30-18 in overtime.
Hawkesbury generated the best scoring chances during a cautiously-played start to the game. Mathew Calabrice got the first good chance five minutes in after stealing a puck at the Weyburn line, but Wings goalie Brenden Cuthbert squeezed his pads together to make the save. Moments later, Hawks forward Scott Way had a great chance on a rebound in the slot, but he whipped a wrist shot high of the net.
Weyburn found their stride midway through the period, and got on the board after forward Peter McDougall drew a holding penalty with a strong forecheck on a penalty kill. Kai Magnussen walked out of the corner and fired a shot that was blocked by Hawks goalie Mitch O’Keefe, but Colby Nichol and Justin Schmidt were there to whack away at the rebound, and Nichol managed to golf the puck past the Hawkesbury goalie at 15:19.
The Wings cashed in on another power play early in the second to make it 2-0. Rick Wood scored one of the easiest goals he’ll ever get, steering a cross-ice feed from Ryan Kuntz into a yawning cage at 3:48.
Jordan Stevenson narrowly missed making it 3-0 on a breakaway with nine minutes left in the frame. His deke got O’Keefe on the ice, but the Hawkesbury goalie got enough of Stevenson’s backhand with his right pad to deflect the puck over the net.
That save would prove to be huge, as Tom Mele drew the Hawks back to within a goal at 14:29. The Hawkesbury forward faked a pass of a two-on-one break and ripped a wrist shot by Cuthbert.
But Stevenson made good on his second crack at O’Keefe, scoring a highlight-reel goal at 4:35 to put Weyburn ahead 3-1. After taking a pass on the fly from Rick Wood, the Weyburn winger weaved between two Hawks defenders and flicked the puck top corner as he was being hauled down.
Mathieu Picard cut into the two-goal lead at 9:46, firing a shot through traffic that Cuthbert never saw for his RBC-best seventh goal.
A five-minute major to Hawks forward Scott Way with only 3:09 left seemed to kill any chance of a Hawkesbury comeback, but with just under two minutes to go, Rick Wood was whistled for high sticking. With O’Keefe on the bench for a 5-on-4 advantage, Masimo Alfieri put a rebound by Cuthbert to send the game to overtime.
O’Keefe was a brick wall in the first overtime, gloving a shot from Wood that was headed for the top corner. And he single-handedly kept his team alive during the second extra frame, during which Weyburn outshot the Hawks 14-3.
But O’Keefe couldn’t hold the fort forever, and after dominating play again in the third overtime, Weyburn finally broke through. Justin Schmidt carried a defender as he lugged the puck behind the net, and when he finally fell down, Colby Nichol picked up where he left off. The Weyburn winger took the puck to the front of the net and placed a pinpoint shot in the top corner, setting off pandemonium at the Colosseum.
Players of the game were Hawkesbury’s O’Keefe and Rick Wood of Weyburn.
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