Game Four proved the wildest and most entertaining game yet in the Anavet Cup series between the Battlefords North Stars and Portage Terriers.
There was no shortage of passion, and comebacks, for both sides. Unfortunately for the North Stars, they would have preferred a better outcome as Portage has pushed them to the brink of elimination with a 7-5 win.
The Terriers won despite the North Stars taking a 2-0 lead in the first period, and despite the North Stars outshooting them 34-28. Most ominously from a North Stars perspective, the Terriers seem to have found a way to solve goaltender Joel Grzybowski. The North Stars netminder had been a rock in net for the club all playoffs long, but he was driven out of the net after the Terriers’ sixth goal.
The North Stars now face elimination for just the second time in the entire playoffs Thursday at the Civic Centre. Regardless of the result it is the final home game for the North Stars this season. A win sends the series back to Portage and a chance to make it to the national championship in Brooks, Alberta, but a defeat ends the North Stars season.
How game four unfolded:
After three straight games where Portage opened the scoring, on this night it was the North Stars who took the early lead. Just 1:16 into the game Quintin Loon-Stewardson scored from Ryan Gil to make it 1-0 North Stars early. It was his first goal of the Anavet Cup. (Of note, Quintin’s brother Elijah Loon-Stewardson was a scratch due to a lower body injury.)
The North Stars would extend their lead while shorthanded. With Matthias Urbanski serving a tripping minor, Regan Doig scored from MacGregor Sinclair to make it 2-0.
But the Terriers clawed their way back, as Reilly Funk scored at the 11:19 mark to make it 2-1.
The tempers started to boil over in the period, asfights flared up in front of Joel Grzybowski with 7:09 to go. Garrett Johnson and Ocean Weisblatt took roughing penalties and ten-minute misconducts for that melee; Weisblatt’s was a double minor that put the North Stars on the man advantage.
But the North Stars couldn’t capitalize on that ensuing power play, and the period ended with the score 2-1. Shots favored Portage in the first period 11-7.
It was clear the series was taking a physical toll on the North Stars. Midway through the second period, North Stars’ Braydon Buziak, already banged up, was seen helped to the dressing room by the trainer.
The North Stars then gave up the lead at the 12:11 mark. Right off the faceoff Caelan McPhee scored to tie it at 2-2. That would be the only goal of the period. Shots favored the North Stars through two 21-18.
In the third, Portage took the lead on a crucial goal by Scott Mickoski at the 3:10 mark.n Then, after the North Stars furiously tried to tie the game on a power play opportunity, Portage took a two goal lead as Funk scored his second of the night.
Then it was time for the North Stars to erupt with some fireworks of their own. MacGregor Sinclair responded at the other end at the 6:46 mark to make it 4-3. With 10:45 left in the third, Matthew Fletcher then tied the game up with his first of the series.
Portage responded with McPhee’s second of the game at the 11:05 mark, stunning the Civic Centre crowd. The fans were silenced again after Mickoski made it 6-4 at the 13:26 mark, for his second goal of the night. That brought out the hook for Grzybowski, who stormed off the ice in disgust.
The North Stars seemingly had every reason to throw in the towel by this point. Instead, they dug deep, and managed a goal to stay in the game. Brett Gammer scored from Dayton Heino and Austin Becker.
The North Stars then had a golden opportunity to tie the game up again. With 5:03 left, Ocean Wiesblatt was sent to the box for roughing, giving the North Stars a power play. But the Terriers killed off the penalty, and soon afterwards they ended all doubt about the outcome with an empty net goal from Kolton Shindle for a 7-5 win.
It was certainly a game in which fans got their money’s worth, with both clubs raising their level of play with so much at stake. But the fans didn’t get the win from the home team that they wanted, and now the North Stars must win three in a row to keep their Anavet Cup hopes alive.
Game five is tonight at 7:30 pm.
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