Wolf Pack seal AJIHL Championship with OT buzzer-beater
Sunday, March 1, 2015 - Submitted by Stephen White
With an unbelievable finish, the 2014/15 AJIHL Grand Final between the Sydney Wolf Pack and Perth Pelicans will live on in the memories of those who witnessed it. Commentator Stephen White reflected on an incredible game.
One of the best games of hockey I’ve ever seen. Period.
On Sunday night at the Medibank Icehouse, the Sydney Wolf Pack defeated the Perth Pelicans 7-6 in overtime to capture the 2014/15 AJIHL Championship, in what proved to be an unbelievable display from both teams and a game that had everything bar the second coming.
The Wolf Pack had defeated the Melbourne Glaciers 1-0 the previous night in a tense game, to book their place in the final. The Pelicans were coming off a 6-4 win over the Perth Sharks the previous week in the WA State Final; a Sharks outfit who had led the league all season and many had tipped to be the favourite.
The pace of the game was frantic early. Both teams went into the break tied up at 2-2 thanks to goals from Jackson Knott and Scott Clemie for the Wolf Pack, with Rhys Dumpleton and Anthony Barnes responding for the Pelicans. The hits flew in hard and fast from both teams but things were relatively clean and under the watchful eye of referee Jeff Klinck.
Penalties got the better of the Pelicans in the second period and they paid for it. Two power play goals from Nick Air and “it’s on like” Brendan Kong put the Wolf Pack 4-2 up before the Pelicans responded through Kieren Webster to go into the second intermission down by one, at 4-3.
A howler from McCann early on in the third period, after a seemingly innocent misfire from Clemie ended up in the net, made it 5-3 in favour of the Wolf Pack. Jonathon Spalding responded for the Pelicans to pull the Pelicans back to 5-4 with 6:39 remaining. Clemie then added another with 3:24 remaining in the game for the hat-trick to make it 6-4 and drive a stake through the Pelicans heart.
Despite the scoreline, Stephen McCann made several ridiculous saves on both Clemie and Patrick Nadin, including a point blank double pad stack, towards the end of regulation to keep the Pelicans in it. As the clock became the enemy of Perth, head coach Darin Bryce called a timeout with just over a minute remaining in the third. Whatever he said during that timeout needs to be circulated to every NHL coach because what followed was insane.
With six skaters on for the Pelicans and the play in Wolf Pack territory, the puck found it’s way out to Lyndon Lodge who fired a slapper from the point past Jake Burgess, to pull the Pelicans back within one to make the score 6-5, with 41 seconds remaining in the game.
McCann returned to the net but not for long as again the Pelicans went for broke. Kieran Webster ended up in the corner with two Wolf Pack players in pursuit. He managed to thread a pass through to Ryan Smith, unattended at the far post just like his Edmonton Oilers namesake, who swatted it past Burgess to tie the game 6-6 with just 21.3 seconds remaining. Disbelief ensued on the benches, in the stands and in the commentary box. Barnes had a chance to seal the game for the Pelicans but blazed away wide with 5 seconds to spare.
Overtime saw an open and tense encounter with neither team really having the upper hand.
An undisciplined penalty from Anthony Barnes for roughing, with 2:35 remaining in overtime, put the Pelicans well and truly behind the 8-ball. However, Perth, led by McCann’s goaltending, killed off the man advantage and looked to force things to the shootout with just 30 seconds remaining in the overtime period.
With less than one second remaining, Jackson Knott threw a puck on McCann’s net that found it’s way through the Pelicans netminder, to give the Wolf Pack the win 7-6, and sent the Sydney bench into a frenzy.
The win gives the Wolf Pack their second AJIHL title in the three years the AJIHL has been running. Their first championship came as the Sydney Maple Leafs in the inaugural 2012/13 campaign and this is the third time the trophy will go to Sydney, with the Sydney Sabres winning in 2013/14.
Newcastle North Stars rookie and Wolf Pack forward Patrick Nadin was voted MVP of the game.
The game should be voted MVG and is a shining example of what the next generation of AIHL players will offer in the coming years.
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