CLARENVILLE, NL — You could almost smell the relief.
Just over five minutes into the third period, Caribous assistant captain Ryan Desrosiers found the target to ring the buzzer and put the Caribous ahead 4-2 in what was one of the most crucial gams of the season for Clarenville.
The goal seemed to be just what the team needed after a lackluster second period put them on the defensive. The Caribous got just nine chances in that period to score on Cataracts’ netminder Jason Stone, while the Cataracts took 17 shots at Jason Churchill.
Add to that a problem with math — the Caribous earned a penalty early in the period for having too many men on the ice — and the second period was one best to be forgotten, and especially after coming away from the first period with a 3-1 lead.
Tonight’s game was proof that every second counts in hockey and every minute the momentum can change.
It also proved that when these two teams meet, no one can be counted out until the final buzzer sounds.
And as the clock ticked down to that last minute, the Cataracts managed to make the Caribous sweat it out just a little bit more.
Brandon Bussey scored with 1:06 left on the clock to raise the specter of a possible tie game and overtime.
With 14 seconds left on the clock the Cataracts pulled their goalie to give them an extra man on the ice.
And in the last second of the game they managed a shot on Jason Churchill that drew gasps from the audience.
But the point they were seeking to tie the game did not materialize.
Tonight the Caribous and their fans breathed a collective sigh of relief over a 4-3 final score, and the knowledge that the scenario they were hoping for might play out this weekend.
Tomorrow night the Cataracts face the Gander Flyers in Gander.
So while Caribous’ fans might have been wishing the worst for the Cataracts tonight, they will be hoping for the best for that team tomorrow night.
That’s because the fortunes of the Caribous for their position in the Central West Senior Hockey League playoffs will depend entirely on how the Cataracts fare in Saturday night’s game.
If the Cataracts defeat the Gander Flyers, the Caribous will secure first place in the regular season and a bye into the final series.
However, if the Cataracts lose, the Caribous and their fans will have to sweat it out again on Sunday when Clarenville meets the Flyers in Gander for a game that will determine first place position and a guaranteed spot in the playoff series.
Stay tuned to The Packet for a wrap-up of tomorrow night’s game.