On Saturday evening, the Senior Hawks beat Shaunavon Badgers 7-6 in a nail-biting game at Maple Creek Community Arena that went into sudden-death overtime. It was the opener in a five-game playoff series in the White Mud Hockey League.
Games like these should carry a health warning: those of a nervous disposition don’t watch.
With the clock showing barely a minute left before the end of the third period, the Senior Hawks’ powers of recovery were tested yet again in a see-sawing battle with Shaunavon.
The Badgers had just gone 6-5 up and their fans sensed victory in the opening game of a five-match playoff series.
A little over 25 seconds remained when the Hawks mounted another frenetic attack.
There was a goalmouth scramble, then the Hawks’ players arms went up in jubilation. Lane Sanderson had become Captain Fantastic, scoring the goal to tie the game. Fans of both sides could hardly take in what they were witnessing.
For the Hawks, the comeback was complete after they had trailed 3-0 in the first period, despite putting in an impressive shift, full of drive and energy.
The drama, however, was not complete. There had to be a winner in this do-or-die confrontation … so the two sides squared off again in sudden-death overtime like bloodied gladiators in the Colosseum. The clock at Maple Creek Community Arena was reset to 10 minutes.
Momentum seemed to be with the Hawks as they flew at opponents still reeling from Sanderson’s strike.
This time the Hawks found another goal-scoring hero … Jordan Forsythe, the veteran forward.
Scenes of joy and agony erupted around Shaunavon’s goalmouth. As Hawks players gathered to celebrate, Shaunavon’s keeper sank to the ice, while his team-mates looked shell-shocked.
For spectators, games likes these are rare gifts.
Al Fournier, the Hawks manager, who was standing in for the absent head coach Sean Chapman, was full of praise for his team.
He pointed out that several key players were missing: David Haaf, Ryatt Bayne, Blake Fournier, and Kyler Hawley.
The absences meant other players had to step up – and they did so, said Fournier.
“We didn’t quit and I’m really proud of the guys. I know that our head coach isn’t here, but he’s going to be proud of the fact that we are up one-nothing and next week we hope to build on that.”
Fournier said he wasn’t downhearted after the first period.
“We played a great game. Even in the first period, when we were down three-nothing I was really happy, except for the score, of course.”
He added: “I thought in overtime we kind of controlled it. We had some solid shifts and we just kept attacking the net. It was nice to see a veteran like Forsythe get a goal. That’s big for him, and big for the team.”
Fournier said winning the first game in a series is huge.
“I can’t speak to it enough. It’s just the way it is. If you are down one-nothing you have to regroup and you’ve got to win three out of four. Now it’s in our court. You have to take care of home ice, you’ve always got to take care of your home ice. That’s why we earned second place over them in the league.
“Hopefully, the series is now in our favour. We’ve kept our trump card, if you want, just by keeping home base advantage. You have to. These series are tough, they play hard, you have got to be ready.”
• The next game in the series is on Friday, February 18 at Shaunavon. The following day the two sides meet in Maple Creek.