The CeeBee Stars and Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts needed extra time to settle Game 3 of its Herder Memorial Trophy semifinal and it was Ray Dalton scoring the winner for the home team.
Just over a minute into overtime, Dalton found a rebound and deposited the puck over the left shoulder of Cataracts starter A.J. Whiffen to give the CeeBees a 2-1 series lead over the favoured Cats.
“It was at a bad angle, and I was just trying to get on the net, if nothing else, and it found the corner,” said the overtime hero, moments after the victory.
When the puck reached the back of the net, it set off an explosion of energy the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace had not seen in some time.
Fans jumped on the glass, sirens sounded and the faint whisper of relief could be heard as Dalton raced towards his goaltender, Mark Yetman.
Crossing the blueline on one leg, his arms extended in celebration, Dalton was mobbed by his teammates.
“It’s like, when we scored that goal, there was so much adversity this year … it was just a sigh of relief, really,” he said. “When we scored that goal, everyone just let it go, finally.”
The Cataracts started off the first period with one goal in mind – make things uncomfortable for CeeBee Stars goaltender Mark Yetman.
On multiple occasions, Cataracts forwards crashed the goal hard. Yetman was snowed, clipped and had his personal space invaded in the first 20 minutes.
On one occasion, as Yetman came out of his crease to play the puck, Cats forward Dan Evans crashed into him.
Drawing a penalty on the play, the CeeBees went to work on the power play. After some initial trouble getting things set up, Doug O’Brien’s snapshot found the back of the net through a maze of bodies in front of Whiffen. Keith Delaney and Jordan Escott assisted on the play.
The teams played even hockey until Escott took a boarding penalty, followed by a slashing penalty by O’Brien.
With the CeeBees forced to kill of a two-man disadvantage, the Cataracts threatened to even the score. Each time, Yetman was up to the task, including a magnificent glove save in close on sniper Andre Gill.
With both penalties killed off, the Cataracts got the equalizer.
After a strong forecheck forced a CeeBees turnover, Gill took a pass from Colin Power and one-timed the puck under the right pad of Yetman.
When the buzzer sounded to end the first period, both teams were deadlocked 1-1.
The Cataracts had abandoned attempting to fluster Yetman when the second period rolled around.
Instead, the visitors attempted to pull the CeeBees into the up-and-down brand of hockey. That worked for a couple of minutes as the Cats put some pressure on the home side.
With each shot on net, Yetman stood tall, turning aside each advance.
The CeeBees took advantage of some sloppy passing by Grand Falls. Escott scooped up a loose puck and darted into the Cataracts’ end.
Sliding a pass to a trailing Colin Feehan , it looked like the CeeBees were going to take the lead. However, Whiffen had other plans, making the pad save and keeping the score locked at one apiece. Minutes later, O’Brien slid a precision pass to Feehan, who tipped it into the top of the net. Escott assisted on the play.
Later in the frame, the Cataracts threatened to even the score. The team even thought it had the second goal, but the puck had not crossed the line and was subsequently waved off by the officials.
Both teams would trade chances, with the CeeBees having the more quality attempts on the goal. The period would end with the score 2-1 in favour of the CeeBees
At the end of the second, shots were 25-18 for the Cataracts.
The Cataracts turned up the pressure in the final period.
Trailing by a goal, the Cats kept the play in the CeeBees’ zone. The home team could only muster multiple icing attempts to break the pressure applied by Grand Falls.
Again, Yetman stood tall in the CeeBees’ goal. However, a bad change by the CeeBees’ defence gave the Cataracts their best chance to tie the game.
Ryan Graham took a pinpoint stretch pass from his former St. John’s Fog Devils teammate Luke Gallant, turned at the blueline and saw nothing but ice between him and Yetman.
Graham beat Yetman five-hole to knot the score at 2-2, at 9:24 of the final stanza, setting up an exciting finish in overtime.
Dalton said it will be key for the CeeBees to have a “strong first five minutes” in the first period of Game 4.
Dalton suggested the CeeBees have finally peaked following a less-than-stellar regular season.
“I like the direction our team is going in. It’s a great attitude here now, everyone is having lots of fun and I think we’re going to be hard to stop,” he said with ACDC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If you wanna rock n’roll)” playing in the background.
The CeeBees will look to take a stranglehold on the series when the two teams meet Sunday (Feb. 24) at 1:30 p.m.