Lane Sanderson had few options as he guided the puck down the left flank, deep into the Huskies’ territory.
With nobody to pass to, he unleashed an improbable shot that became the post-match talking point on Friday evening.
From an acute angle, the puck flew like a rising, laser-guided missile into a narrow gap between the goalie and his net.
There was a gasp from the stands as jubilant scenes erupted on the ice as Maple Creek Senior Hawks players gathered around their Captain Fantastic, who has a reputation for seizing big moments in games.
Not only was it a scintillating goal, it was also a sudden death-winner, 41 seconds into overtime at Maple Creek Community Arena.
It meant the Hawks had won the opening game in the best-of-five Round 2 playoff series against a youthful, energetic Eatonia Huskies.
Having secured an important safety net, they travelled the next day to Eatonia for the second game, the bench depleted by injuries and the absence of Cody Florkowski because of a work commitment.
In another tight game, the Hawks lost 4-3; two of their goals came from Clayten Wenaas, the other from Dayton Reinboldt.
The loss leaves the series tied 1-1. Game 3 is scheduled for Wednesday, February 15 in Eatonia at 8.30pm.
“We played really well,” said Chapman. about Saturday’s game. “They capitalized on a couple of power plays, but overall we were disciplined. Officials became a bit of a factor and they really didn’t need to be, but we’ll dust ourselves off and be ready to go Wednesday.”
In Friday’s game, a packed house was treated to a thrilling exhibition of hockey by two evenly matched teams, even though frustration was voiced at what appeared to over-zealous refereeing.
Entering the third period, the teams were tied 3-3. The Hawks goals had come in the second period from Sanderson, Florkowski and Brady Resch.
The Hawks looked to have scored a decisive goal at 9:53 of the third, with Clayten Wenaas providing the final touch, after assists by David Haaf and Denyn Smith.
They held on to their lead until a late penalty left them short-handed. The Huskies grabbed the opportunity when Jonathon Guidinger levelled the score with just 2:29 on the clock.
It was a gut-wrenching setback, requiring the Hawks to dig deep and regroup as overtime loomed.
The Huskies suddenly seemed reenergized … until Sanderson’s super strike.
Sean Chapman, the Hawks coach, emitted a sigh of relief when the perfectly struck puck found its target.
“We didn’t start the game great,” he said, adding the performance improved markedly in the second.
“The whole issue is we get some momentum then we get undisciplined. Until we figure out that we can’t continually kill penalties and play undisciplined and be successful, we are never going to win this thing.
“We are a veteran team and we are better than that, and we need to use our brains and keep our emotions in check.”
Chapman said the Hawks had control of the third period until conceding a penalty, which resulted in a goal.
“That was disappointing, but credit to our team. We dug deep. We picked it up and I’m proud of them.”
Chapman praised the performance of goalie Don Schmaltz.
“He made saves when he needed to. I thought Kyler Hawley at the back had a heck of a game. He is so poised. David Haaf is always great.”
Chapman likes the odds of the Hawks winning the series.
“I just know we have got to fix the discipline. When we do that, we are good. We are really good.”
• The White Mud Hockey League playoff series between Gull Lake Greyhounds and Shaunavon Badgers is also tied at 1-1. The Greyhounds won the first game at Gull Lake 6-5 after an overtime goal, while the Badgers won the return fixture 7-3 at Shaunavon Crescent Point Wickenheiser Centre.
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