CLARENVILLE, N.L. — The fans at the Eastlink Events Centre chanted “Go ‘Bous, go!” as the seconds ticked away in the third period and the home team held on to their 4-3 lead in Game 5 of the Central West Senior Hockey League (CWSHL) semifinals against the Cataracts.
The ‘Bous led the best-of-seven semifinal series 3-1 and were on the verge of advancing to the league finals to meet the Gander Flyers.
But the game wasn’t destined to end in regulation. The Caribous would need almost three more minutes to win the game and series and return to the CWSHL finals this year.
The contest could hardly get much closer throughout as both teams scratched and clawed for the lead at every turn.
There was no score in the opening period, while the Caribous were able to kill off three penalties during the first 20 minutes. Clarenville goaltender Tyler Whiffen made several key stops both during the opposition’s man-advantages and at even strength to keep the game scoreless.
In the second, it was the Caribous’ turn to go to the power play, with a five-on-three several minutes in to the period. Unlike the first period, the ‘Bous were able to capitalize on their opportunity when Chris Sparkes scored to make it 1-0 Clarenville.
Minutes later, when Caribou forward Ryan Desrosiers went to the box for cross-checking, the Cats equalized on a point shot by defenceman Nick Lindstrom.
The one-goal-a-piece deadlock lasted until the dying minutes of the frame when Kevin Reid buried the puck to give Clarenville the 2-1 lead.
In the third, the back-and-forth play intensified, making for 20 minutes of edge-of-your-seat hockey.
Only about a minute into the period, Danny Wicks roofed a shot past Tyler Whiffen to draw the game even again.
And with 13:29 left on the clock, Clarenville defenceman Brandon Roach bulged the twine to put the ‘Bous up 3-2. But only 19 seconds later, Michael Hynes answered for the visitors to tie the contest again 3-3.
With Alex Dalley in the box for slashing, the ‘Bous took the lead on the power play with 8:35 remaining. Desrosiers potted the puck home after Ryan Delaney set it up for him.
Now behind 4-3, and with their goalie pulled for an extra attacker, the Cataracts’ Kyle McGuirk scored to tie the game with only 44 seconds remaining, silencing the crowd and sending the game to overtime.
Almost three minutes into sudden death, the Caribous finished what they had almost clinched in regulation when Keith Delaney fired the puck home, winning the game 5-4 and the series 4-1.
Netminder Tyler Whiffen made 33 saves in the win, while his counterpart and brother A.J. Whiffen saved 43 shots.
The Caribous will now meet the first place Gander Flyers next weekend in Gander for Games 1 and 2 of the CWSHL finals.
Cataracts ousted after hard-fought series
Grand Falls-Windsor’s head coach Pat Yetman told The Packet after Game 5, the result hinged on a couple of bounces and was a very emotional affair.
“I was pleased with the way we played,” said Yetman.
Yetman says, throughout the series, the Cats started each game with a lot of pressure and good scoring chances. He praised Caribous’ goalie Tyler Whiffen for his stellar play.
He says while Clarenville played well as a team, Whiffen was possibly the difference in a close series.
“We had a lot of good, quality looks at him and he played a strong game.”
Caribous look to Gander
Clarenville head coach Rebecca Russell says Game 5 was just like every other game this series — close, with no quit in the opposition.
“I was really happy with the way our team responded (to the Cats’ late goal),” said Russell. “That shows a lot of character of a team.”
She praised the veterans of the Caribous for leading the team to victory, both for shadowing Grand Falls-Windsor’s Steve Yetman-line and for Keith Delaney scoring the overtime winner.
“(Delaney) took a beating this series and for him to score the game winning goal, I can’t think of a better guy to get that.”
Russell says each game in semifinals seemed to carry more and more pressure, so they’re glad to finish the series in Game 5, both for the momentum and the extra rest it provides until next Saturday’s Game 1 of the finals.
Looking ahead to the Flyers, Russell says she knows Gander has a lot of skilled forwards they need to contain and Clarenville’s coaching staff will be constructing a game plan for that series this week.
Finally, Russell says while a positive result in overtime is often more of a feeling of relief than excitement for a coach, she was happy to see loyal fans in attendance who could enjoy the spectacular victory.
“Giving those fans who have really stick with us those types of moments, it’s really what it’s all about.”