(KINGSVILLE, ON) – With less than six minutes remaining, and a three goal lead, the Kingsville Kings seemed poised to take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven Russell Cup final. A controversial call changed all that, sparking a Tottenham Steam comeback that forced overtime and eventually a decisive shootout.
The Steam, winning 6-5 in Greater Metro Junior A action, have taken the hammer as the series moves to Tottenham for the next two games.
Brandon Yorke opened the scoring at only 38 seconds into the game, to give the Steam a 1-0 lead. Less than three minutes later, Mathias Gardiman, Ludwig Niederbach, and Zack Zulkanycz thundered into the Tottenham zone, all three touching the puck before Gardiman drew the game even.
Dmitri Beliaev hammered in a rebound, at 4:42 in, to give the Steam the lead again.
Late in the frame, Robert Lis was stopped on a wraparound attempt, leaving Tottenham goalie Denny Dubblestyne prone on the ice. Branko Oktavec found Lis’s rebound and buried the puck even the score at 2.
The Steam found themselves in penalty trouble in the second, allowing the Kings two power play markers in the period to make the score 4-2. Tottenham’s Matt Fischer, who led the GMHL in scoring during the regular season, was sent to the box at 7:03 for high sticking. Only 24 seconds later, Gardiman snapped a shot from the high slot past Dubblestyne to take a 3-2 lead.
Past the midway point of the period, Daniil Ovchinnikov and Dubblestyne were called for minor infractions just seconds apart, giving the Kings a 5-on-3 advantage. Niederbach would bend mesh on the odd man to extend Kingsville’s lead to 2.
During the intermission, the Steam coaching staff angrily pleaded their case to the referees outside of the officiants’ locker room. Tottenham was cited with six infractions in the middle frame, to the Kings’ 3.
The third period was marred by more penalties, very much to Kingsville’s detriment.
The Kings incurred two offenses in the opening three minutes, with Niederbach called for interference and Zach McDonough indicted for roughing. Kingsville survived the 5-on-3 advantage but, as Niederbach’s penalty expired, Tottenham’s Austin Fischer butt-ended goalie Jan Pechek in the high chest in retaliation for a slash.
Fischer was assessed a roughing minor for the blow. As he skated off the ice, Fischer then sucker-punched Niederbach in the side of the head, dropping him to the ice.
The Tottenham player was given another minor for unsportsmanlike conduct and ejected from the game. Both outbursts from Fischer could have been called as 5-minute majors or match penalties, but were not.
With 6:30 remaining in the game, Niederbach appeared to seal the deal for the Kings, making the score 5-2. Seconds after play resumed, Kingsville’s Ryan Gruszka made an open ice hit on a Tottenham player, and he was flagged for charging and ejected from the game with a major penalty.
The 5-minute power play would cost the Kings dearly.
On the advantage, the Steam hammered three goals past Pechek, as Kingsville continually failed to clear the zone. Marcus Rose netted the first two with the tying goal from Matt Fischer. The Steam could have taken the lead soon after, but Pechek stopped a one-timer with an extended pad late in the power play.
The unlikely scoring flurry on the extended power play allowed Tottenham to force overtime. However, the 5-minute extra frame proved nothing, as the Steam outshot the Kings 5-0.
The fans in attendance were then educated further in GMHL tie-breaking procedure as the two teams prepared for a 3-man shootout.
Ivan Hodulov shot first for the Kings, trying 5-hole, and was denied by Dubblestyne. Next, Rose was stopped by Pechek on a low, straight shot.
Oktavek then shot for the home side, but again the Steam goalie shut the door stick-side. Tottenham sent out their next shooter, but balked at the last second and threw Matt Fischer on the ice instead. Fischer was able to beat Pechek on a deke to take the lead.
Zulkanycz then missed the crossbar for the Kings and clinching the victory for Tottenham.
Kingsville outshot the Steam 45-44, but despite the loss have yet to lose a playoff game in regulation.
The next game in Kingsville will be Thursday night at 7:00pm in Kingsville.