It was a wild affair in Harbour Grace Friday night as the Clarenville Caribous defeated the hometown CeeBee Stars 7-6 in Game 3 of the best-of-seven semifinal in Newfoundland Senior Hockey League playoff action.
And it was a former CeeBee who broke the hearts of the home team's fans as Brandon Roach blasted the game winner with just 28 seconds left in the contest, ending what was a back-and-forth affair at a crowded S. W. Moores Memorial Stadium.
The win gave the No. 1 ranked Caribous a 2-1 series lead as the teams prepared to do battle once again Saturday night in Harbour Grace.
The game featured some dazzling playmaking on both sides, some costly miscues that saw the CeeBees give up two shorthanded tallies, and less than stellar goaltending at both ends.
But it was the top guns for the Caribous that proved to be too hot to handle for the CeeBees, with Andrew Sweetland taking over in the third period, scoring two huge goals and adding a helper on Roach's winner.
Chris Hulit also had a goal and added two assists, while Steve Yetman and the speedy Dale Sullivan each had a goal and an assist for the winners.
The Delaney brothers had an exceptional game for the CeeBees in a losing effort, with Keith Delaney scoring twice, and brother Ryan adding a goal and one assist.
Ryan Delaney netted what was arguably the goal of the game in the second period, showing incredible control and skill on a play that saw him pick up the puck at the side of the net, calmly wait for goalie Devin O'Brien to commit, and then slickly maneuvred the puck into the net.
Kyle Doucet also netted a pair, while defenceman Mike Dyke added a goal and two helpers. Donnie Gosse and Mark Tobin chipped in with two assists each.
After trailing for most of the game, including falling behind 3-0 in the first, the plucky CeeBees looked to have staged a dramatic comeback midway through the final stanza to take a 6-5 lead on a goal by Doucet, but Clarenville battled back.
Sweetland fired a shot that sailed over goalie Doug Jewer's right shoulder to deadlock the game at 6-6 with four minutes, 11 seconds left on the clock.
Then, with most sensing the game was headed for extra time, Roach one-timed a pinpoint pass from Sweetland and fired the winner with less than 30 seconds to play. It silenced the crowd, prompting many to head for the exits.
For Roach, a Bay Roberts native who played last season with the CeeBees, the winning goal was sweet.
"It was unbelievable. It's a backbreaker right now," Roach said after the game.
"I know what the CeeBees are like. If they had been up a game after tonight, they would have been riding a natural high going into Game 4 in their own building. So we can now put the pressure on them."
It was a heartbreaking loss, said CeeBees' captain Matthew Thomey, but he said his team is not ready to throw in the towel.
"We have the most important game of the season here (Saturday) night, and we have to get over this fast," he said.