The Huskies may have saved their best effort for the final game of the season, but Sunday afternoon’s season finale will go down as the one that got away.
The game started 45 minutes late, after the previous game ran long, and then a gate at the Huskies bench needed some welding.
It was the Wolverines who again drew first blood, and once again it was on the counter-attack. After some extended pressure from the Huskies, Whitecourt a Mitch Maisonneuve point shot was deflected by Grayden McMann and past Zack Blain. Two minutes later, Wolverines starter Foster Cote spilled a rebound on a long Dan Pappin slap-shot, which was banged home by Cody Kalb.
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Early in the second, Dylan Apsassin took a shot, and after Cote saved Cody Kalb’s rebound attempt, Dan Pappin made good on the second attempt, to give the Huskies their first lead over Whitecourt all season long. Moments later, Fort St. John’s Brandon Smith was run into the boards by Wayne Quaife. Quaife would be assessed a five-minute major penalty, while Jesse Disher would negate the first two minutes of powerplay time with his two-minute roughing penalty. Quaife was ejected from the game, while Smith would play only one more shift before leaving the game (though he is expected to be ready for the start of the playoffs)
13 minutes into the second, Steven Fast added to the lead, when he tipped a Jon Spence point shot past Cote, to give the Huskies a 3-1 lead. Moments later, Fort St. John was awarded a penalty shot, after the Wolverines illegally gloved a loose puck in the crease, but Cody Kalb’s attempt was stopped on the goal-line by Cote, to keep it a two-goal game. The Wolverines had two powerplay chances late in the second, after consecutive interference penalties to Kyle Porter and Luke McInerney, but the Huskies penalty kill stood tall, and the second period ended with the Huskies up 3-1.
After the Huskies had played 40 minutes of outstanding hockey on Saturday night, they came into the third period looking to protect their two-goal lead, and finish the season on a high. But, the defence would come up short. Seven minutes into the final period, with Payden Wongstedt in the box for holding, Jeff Chalifoux tapped home a great feed from Mitch Ternan, to put the Wolverines within one. Less than a minute later, Darcy Charrois picked up the puck in the neutral zone, and passed by five different Huskies before burying a snap-shot past Zack Blain from the high-slot. The game was tied 3-3, and the Huskies were reeling. But, they would regain their composure, and after Zack Blain denied Rod Lavoie’s breakaway chance with 1:30 remaining, Cody Kalb’s line worked the cycle, but couldn’t get the puck to the net, and the third period came to a close.
And so, the final game of the 2008/09 season would go to four-on-four overtime. The Huskies were appealing for a penalty early in the extra-frame, when Cam MacKinnon was knocked down in the neutral zone, but play continued, and the Wolverines took the puck into the Fort St. John zone. Finally, Captain Ryan Hore would end the game, when he faked a shot around a sliding Jon Spence, and fired it short-side past Zack Blain, to give the Wolverines a 4-3 win.
The players soon filed back onto the ice, as NWJHL awards were presented to Whitecourt’s Rod Lavoie (for the league scoring title), Darcy Charrois (as the top defenceman), and Ryan Demharter (as the top goaltender).
And so, it was a dramatic finish to the season for the Huskies. The team was discouraged by letting a lead slip away, but encouraged by proving to themselves that they can play with the Wolverines. The Huskies will now look forward to their first round playoff series with the Slave Lake Wolves. Round will will start at the North Peace Arena, on Friday night (Feb. 20th).