By Jason LaRose, Hockey Canada
CHILLIWACK, B.C. – Nick Lalonde hammered in a one-timer at 6:10 of overtime, giving the Ottawa Jr. Senators (CCHL) a come-from-behind 5-4 win over the Steinbach Pistons (MJHL) on Wednesday night and a semifinal berth at the 2018 RBC Cup.
The Jr. Senators came back three times, including a pair of one-goal deficits in the third period, to become the first team ever to have all four of their preliminary-round games reach extra time.
With Steinbach captain Braden Purtill off for slashing midway through overtime, the puck worked its way around the outside before Lalonde went five-hole on goaltender Matthew Radomsky to complete the comeback and ensure Ottawa will join Wenatchee and Chilliwack on the weekend.
The West Region champions opened the scoring when Brendan Martin showed off his patience in close before tucking a backhand around Ottawa netminder Connor Hicks at 10:08, but Conor Smart snapped a quick shot short-side on Radomsky two-and-a-half minutes later to get the Jr. Senators even.
Steinbach restored its advantage at 16:03 when a Riese Gaber rebound bounced off Purtill and beat Hicks, and quick puck movement on the power play led to a Darby Gula goal at 19:37 that sent the Pistons to the dressing room up 3-1.
Ottawa poured on the offence in the second period, directing 19 shots at the Pistons goal, but could only get one past Radomsky; Finn Evans spun in the slot and went upstairs for his third goal of the tournament to make it a one-goal game after 40 minutes.
The teams combined for three goals in just over four minutes in a busy opening half of the third period.
Gabriel Morin was first, finishing a pretty feed from Ethan Manderville from behind the net to pull the Jr. Senators even at 5:45.
Austin Heidemann put the Pistons ahead again on the power play at 8:47, redirecting a pass from Purtill in the high slot, but Ottawa captain Owen Guy jammed in a rebound at the side of the net only 68 seconds later to tie the game again and eventually force overtime.
Radomsky turned in a standout performance in only his third start of the playoffs, and first since a series-clinching double-overtime win over Swan River on March 14; taking over for the injured Matthew Thiessen, the 18-year-old finished with 37 saves, 32 of them coming in the last two periods and overtime.
While the Jr. Senators will wait for the conclusion of the preliminary round Thursday to find out who and when they play in the semifinals, the Pistons find themselves in a must-win situation against the host Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL) on Thursday night (7 p.m. PT), although depending on the result of the Wenatchee-Wellington game, they might be eliminated before the puck drops.
Photo credit: Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images