Thursday’s game started as ideally as a hockey game could for the hometown Huskies. The team’s newly assembled second line of Tyler Norris, Shawn Holliday and Owen Barker went to work in the offensive zone, as Norris showed some solid board play to protect the puck along the wall. Barker located the puck, took it to the net, and Holliday finished the play off, beating Vipers goaltender Braydon Glinnum for a 1-0 lead.
The offence began to snowball as the period progressed, as Brighton Campbell laid a big open ice hit causing a turnover, which was picked up by Robbie Sidhu, fresh off a one game suspension.
He skated half the length of the ice with the puck, and went wide on two Viper defenders, shooting and scoring glove side, producing a 2-0 Huskies lead.
The lead was extended further before the conclusion of the first, as the Huskies second line went to work once again, a theme that continued throughout the game. Barker carried the puck into the offensive zone, making a pass to Norris stationed to the left of Glinnum along the goal line. Norris spotted Holliday back door, made a nice pass to get him the puck, and Holliday made no mistake, burying the puck into the partially empty net.
Credit must also be given to starting goaltender Travis McLean, who made a gigantic save with 11:30 left in the frame. After a Sexsmith shot rebounded to the right of McLean, leaving a Viper a wide open cage to put the puck in, the Huskies goaltender showed his lower body strength by kicking out his left pad, preventing the puck from crossing the goal line, a play that eventually would prove extremely important for the Huskies.
The second period increased the intensity inside the North Peace Arena from level five to a solid nine. The middle frame started with Sexsmith showing they had no intention of being shut out Thursday, scoring on the power play with 5:02 into the second, bringing the score to 3-1.
The Sexsmith goal seemed to motivate the Huskeis, as the pups responded courtesy of the team’s top line. Blair Karasiuk scored 5:02 into the second, with fellow first lines Robbie Sidhu and Dylan Houle registering assists on the play.
The Huskies didn’t stop there, as roughly two minutes later, Fort St. John’s second line furthered their case to continue playing together, as Shawn Holliday scored to complete his hat-trick, with assists going to Barker and Norris.
With the Huskies leading 5-1, the cakewalk became an uphill grind, as Sexsmith came to life with 7:21 left in the second, scoring three goals before the period concluded, all of which were at even-strength, wrapping up the middle frame with a 5-4 Huskies lead.
Thursday’s game seemed to be following the same route as the Huskies’ previous two meetings with the Vipers, when they led entering the third in both of those games, only to fall victim in comeback losses. That theme was close to continuing, as the Vipers scored with 3:51 left in the period, tying the game at 5-5, and sucking the life out of the North Peace Arena.
However, the Huskies showed strong mental toughness, and following being awarded a power play in the final two minutes of the game, they executed the man-advantage to perfection. With the puck along the half wall, Sidhu spotted a pinching Daylen Pearson, passing the puck through two sticks to reach the D-man, who made no mistake, scoring the game winner with only 12 seconds remaining, sending the Huskies, and their fans into a frenzy of cheers, as the team secured a hard fought 6-5 win.
Following a string of losses in November, Thursday’s win marks the team’s second straight win, bringing them just one point behind both Sexsmith and Fairview in the standings.
The game was a solid one for Fort St. John’s offence, as the team’s leading scorer Robbie Sidhu had three points (1 G, 2 A), while the newly assembled second line of Holliday, Barker and Norris combined for 9 points. It was also a strong performance from goaltender Travis McLean, who made 29 saves for the win.
Following the game, Huskies head coach Gary Alexander spoke about his new creation of the team’s second line.
"They had some good chemistry with one another out there, and we’ve been mixing line and bodies all winter long to try to find some chemistry that would give us some secondary scoring, and that’s going to help big time if they can carry it on."
Alexander added that the game winning play was one the Huskies have worked in practice, and the coaches praised his players for ‘executing it to a ‘T’".
He says it’s a big win for his club, who can hopefully carry that momentum into Slave Lake this weekend, when the Huskies play back-to-back games against the Wolves on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.
Saturday’s game will begin at 8 p.m., with Sunday’s matinee starting at 2 p.m. Both games can be heard live on 100.1 Moose FM, with the Moose FM Pre-Game Show starting 15 minutes before puck drop.
To listen live, click here.