It doesn’t get much closer than that.
Third game of a three game series, tied at one a piece, with less than five minutes to go in the third period, Paul Girodat leads a two-on-one into the Luckies zone, with Tomassetti backing him up. Girodat drops the puck for Tomassetti, who flicks it past David Little, who had almost single-handedly kept the Luckies in the game, to put the ‘Roos up 4-3. After that it was the Luckies fighting for life and the ‘Roos scrambling to save their own, with action that didn’t let up until the whistle blew to seal the home team victory.
It’s almost a Stompin’ Tom Connors song.
Stompin’ Tom was the patron saint of this round, as the series was won by good-old, dig deep, blue-collar work ethic.
It was finished checks and working in the corner and scrambling for the puck even while falling over, because the Luckies did not give up.
“We’ve got a more talented team; they just work really hard,” assistant coach Bob Marsh said.
“They’ve got good size and finish their checks and work really hard.”
The weekend, and all that work, was all about comebacks, with the ‘Roos coming back from a deficit in the series and a Luckies team that would not stay down.
“It’s just one of those thing – they seem to come back. They do it to us in every game that we play them,” Marsh said.
Game one, Saturday evening, a good crowd showed up to watch the ‘Roos, already one game down as they made their playoff debut at home.
Though the score board didn’t show the action of the first period, the penalty box saw it’s share of visitors, with no love lost in a battle to be the first on the scoreboard.
Early in the second, the ‘Roos got on a tear, taking control of the play for the first 10 minutes.
Just over three minutes into the period, Harley Gilks digs the puck out of the corner and dumps it in from to Tomassetti, who buries it at 5:42.
The goal is followed by a couple of penalty to the ‘Roos, reducing the ‘Roos to three men on the ice for a minute. Despite this, Justin Fulton dodged in all alone up the right wing and fired it past Little for an unassisted goal that gave the ‘Roos some room to breathe.
Up two men on the ice as a result of Houston penalties, Girodat, with the help of Tomassetti and Fulton, put the ‘Roos up by three at 10:23, when Little didn’t get enough pad on the puck, allowing it to dribble through.
Less than 45 seconds later, while the Luckies killed off the remaining penalty, Joey MacDonald rinds himself in from with the puck thanks to Matt Stang and Tomassetti and rockets it past Little to give the ‘Roos a 4-0 lead, which was just enough to make them complacent, as the Luckies, for the third time in the series, fought back.
Tyler Poznikoff batted in a bouncing puck at 13:10, with the helper going to Blair Dinelle.
With a minute and a half let in the period, Steve Powers put in the rebound from Jaden Janzen, with Derek Dinelle also receiving a nod with a helper, putting the ‘Roos back in uncomfortable territory again as the second wound down.
Despite a lot of effort from the ‘Roos and some good chances, it was Powers who scored in the third, coming up the side and sniping it past Ryan Manderson to make it a one goal game at the midpoint of the period, with Alonzo Slaney and Anthoni Shepherd credited with the assist.
Seeing a chance to finish the series, the Luckies went on the offensive as Little made some great saves to keep them in the game. But Manderson was equal to the challenge, making his own great saves to keep the ‘Roos in the lead.
With a minute left, the Luckies pulled little for the extra man, but couldn’t take advantage, pushing the series to the final game and second 4-3 final, this time with the ‘Roos on top.
The third game started fast and rough. Every player worked, but two shone throughout the game, with Little making over 50 saves and Girodat taking a hat trick and a helper, which had his hands in every goal for the ‘Roos.
With 20 shots on net in the first, only Girodat was able to unlock Little as the first minute passed, as Harley Gilks dug the puck out of the corner, getting it to Girodat, who buried it. Stang also got a credit for the assist.
The precarious nature of the game did a lot to focus the players on the ice, though,
Little kept the ‘Roos from any other goals, despite some impressive attempts.
The second opened up with hard hitting and fast shots as the Kangaroos searched for a goal to keep them safe. Just over five minutes in, Girodat caught a loose puck, deked in and found the sweet spot once again, with Stang getting the nod for the assist.
Despite some impressive shots, Little kept pulling out the saves, keeping the Luckies in it for a very active third.
The ‘Roos worked through the first five minutes, pushing for their third, which came courtesy of Girodat at 5:28, who sniped it five-hole, with the assist going to Gilks.
The Luckies continued to push, despite a depressing spread, and it finally paid off midway through the period as they ripped through the ‘Roos lead in two minutes.
First it was Darren Crump popping it over Manderson’s shoulder at 10:20, with Shepherd getting the assist.
Then Dinelle got the puck on the wing, courtesy of Shepherd and Slaney, and scored with a wrist shot 44 seconds later.
Finally, it was Janzen who tied it up at 11:50, with a shot from the point, Dinelle and Powers getting the assists.
And suddenly, it was anybody’s series with less than 10 minutes left.
“It was a bit of a downer – we had to fight through it. It’s always a kick in the pants when you lose the lead like that so close to the end of the game,” Girodat said.
For five minutes both teams pushed, until Girodat and Tomassetti put the ‘Roos back on top with their pretty goal, which gave the ‘Roos something to cheer for after getting the wind knocked out of them in the middle of the period.
The Luckies didn’t give up though, pulling Little in the dying minutes and keeping the puck in the ‘Roos end through a tension filled last minute.
With the win, the ‘Roos find themselves facing off against their rivals, the Williams Lake Stampeders, starting in Quesnel at the Twin Arenas at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.
And the ‘Roos have a pretty good plan for that series.
“We’re going to smash through the Stamps and we’re going to end their reign and take the coy cup right out of Williams Lake right back into Quesnel where it belongs,” Girodat said.