Game 1 Slips, Game 2 Sticks... Series Tied!
If the first two games are any indication the Major Atom Lakers quarter final series against the Hamilton Reps is destined to be a classic. The Lakers coming off a remarkable comeback victory over the Brantford 99ers were faced with the daunting challenge of a powerful Hamilton squad that in addition to being the defending Alliance champions also finished first overall this regular season. The Lakers were not intimidated however and continued to work hard and play the smart, unselfish hockey that has been the hallmark of their recent success. Both games were decided in sudden death overtime with Hamilton winning the first game 3-2 and the Lakers answering back with a dramatic 4-3 victory of their own - with game three scheduled in Hamilton on Friday.
Game one started out fast and furious as the hard working Reps came out of the gate strong with the Lakers answering in kind. Hamilton drew first blood and jumped out to the early lead but the Lakers battled back to tie after Noah Kuno deposited a rebound into the Hamilton goal with assists going to Jacob Rooke and Dillon Weinheimer. Ashton Stockie then put the Lakers up by one with a high backhander that eluded the Rep netminder and the team was pumped. The Lakers settled in to a nice flow as they tried to grind out the victory but disaster struck with eight minutes left after a couple of unbelievable calls had the Lakers down two skaters. The tenacious Reps capitalized and scored the equalizer to send the game to OT and then later won it in the closing minute to break Laker hearts and grab the series lead. Mitchell Newson and Tanner Hertel had strong games up front while Brock Baier had a great performance in the Lakers goal as he repeatedly turned aside the Rep attack.
The team had to put the tough loss behind them as they faced off for game two the following day. Hamilton once again opened the scoring but the Lakers in an almost carbon copy of game one responded with two of their own. Carter Collinson scored from Kuno and Brett Denny to tie it and then the Lakers took the lead when Weinheimer found the top of the net with Ben Derrough drawing the assist. As in game one, the Lakers were sailing along holding a 2-1 lead in the third before another questionable call resulted in the Lakers being shorthanded. Once again the dangerous Reps capitalized and scored two quick goals to take the lead with just minutes left. There was no quit in the boys as they went all out and were rewarded late as Will Thibeault banged in the dramatic tying goal off a Denny point shot to send the game in to OT and the crowd into a frenzy. Collinson also assisted. The drama did not end there - with just seconds left in the overtime period Thibeault was hauled down on a breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot. The crowd was standing as he broke in and took a shot that the Hamilton goalie got a piece of but could not hold on to and it trickled across the goal line with 3 seconds left on the clock. The crowd and bench erupted in celebration of a huge victory over a terrific opponent to even the series. Baily Paquette showed nerves of steel and was sensational in goal repeatedly making huge stops to help ice the win while Justin Beuermann worked relentlessly fore and back checking in the high tempo game.
In addition to great goaltending the entire defensive corp. of Denny, Derrough, Kade Landry, Evan Moorehead, Hunter James and Bradley Kraemer was outstanding on the weekend. The series continues…