It was a solid start to Wednesday’s game, as the Huskies and the Vipers began to trade scoring chances at an even pace, with both starting goaltenders, Travis McLean for the Huskies and Nigel Heath for the Vipers, up to the early task. Both goaltenders made countless saves keeping either team off the scoreboard.
As the intense period progressed, the road team was the first to strike at the 17:12 marker, as Tyler Norris tipped in a quick shot from the high slot off the stick of Dylan Houle, providing the road team that ever important first goal.
The fans of Sexsmith were sent into the first imtermision with something to talk about, as with one second remaining, Travis McLean made an unbelievable glove save from point-blank range, causing an eruption of cheer from the Sexsmith fans, but more importantly, keeping the Vipers off the scoreboard entering the first intermission.
Much like the first, the middle frame tested the goaltenders on either end of the ice, as shots and scoring chances began to pile up for both teams. With the game clock reading 13:19, the newly assembled line of Apsassin, Pederson and Whieler cycled the puck low in the Vipers’ zone, getting the puck to the net, where Dayne Pederson fought hard to locate a rebound, sliding it in on the back hand for his first goal of the second. Pederson’s first provided the Huskies a 2-0 lead entering the third.
That lead could have easily been 3-0, as Dylan Houle was awarded a penalty shot midway through the second, where he showcased his sweet set of hands, only to be robbed by the glove of Heath, a huge save in the period and a major turning point in the game's momentum.
Recently, the third period has been a dreadful one for the Huskies, who fight so hard in the first and second to build significant leads, only to allow their opponents to crawl their way back to an eventual victory.
Unfortunately, that theme continued Wednesday evening, as the Vipers stormed back for a three goal third period, completing the comeback for the win. The Vipers struck first at 7:30 of the third, as Jordan Chase scored on the power-play, after ripping a gorgeous one-timer over the glove of McLean.
At 11:44, Sexsmith tied the game, as Colby Klassen got a step up on the Huskies defence, snapping a shot low far side to tie the game at 2-2. Then finally with just 1:41 remaining in regulation, the Huskies' nightmares came to fruition, as a flip pass from the Vipers' zone cleared everyone on the ice, and was retrieved by Colby Klassen in the Huskies zone, who made a nice move to cut hard to his forehand and shoot the puck high glove for the game tying goal.
The Huskies were awarded a power play in the final minute of the game, but were unable to capatlize with the man advantage, a theme that was prevalent throughout the entire game. Wednesday, the Huskies went 0 for 6 with the man advantage, two of which were four minute majors. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Vipers scored on their only power play of the evening.
It was a busy night for both men in net, who each faced over 40 shots, with Heath seeing 42 fired his way, while McLean faced 41. Their busy nights in net weren’t missed, as Heath was named the game's first star, while McLean was awarded the second star.
Following the game, Vipers Head Coach and GM Neil Magill said his team responded to a rather strong message delivered in the second intermission.
"We had a bit of a blow up at the boys in between the second and third, and said listen, this team is going to pass you in the standings if we don’t come out and win this hockey game and I thought the boys did that, coming out and dominating the third."
Magill also talked about the play of his goaltender Heath, who said he and his fellow coaches recently challenged to be better, and said his goaltender stepped up to the challenge, fought hard and provided the Vipers the necessary chances to complete the comeback.
The schedule doesn’t get much easier for Fort St. John, as Friday, the team welcomes the NWJHL’s most dominant force, the undefeated 12-0 Grande Prairie JDA Kings. Then Saturday, the team is back on the road Fairview bound to take on the Flyers.