A player the CanElson Drilling Estevan Bruins have come to rely on heavily in his own zone was the hero at the other end on Monday.
Tyler Kauk scored 2:38 into overtime to give the Bruins a 4-3 victory over the Notre Dame Hounds, and a three-game sweep in the Sherwood Conference survivor series.
The Bruins, who also won 3-2 on Friday and 4-3 on Saturday, will now face the arch-rival Weyburn Red Wings in the playoffs for the first time since 1998 (see B2).
Kauk scored the winner into a mostly empty net from the right faceoff circle.
"I saw (Tyler) Paslawski get it in the corner, so I pinched in a little bit to go kind of backdoor and he looked up and saw me and he just fed me the pass. I guess the goalie kind of got knocked over out of his net and I just put it in the net," said Kauk.
The Bruins needed a late goal from Kauk's defence partner, Dominic Perrault, just to reach overtime.
Greg Ferguson's power play goal with 5:45 left in regulation put the Hounds ahead 3-2, but the Bruins would respond exactly one minute later.
Perrault lofted a shot from the left point that got through traffic and beat Notre Dame goalie Ty Reichenbach over the left shoulder.
"I was surprised. I got the puck and I was just looking to get it through, get it on net. It happened to go in, so I'll take it," Perrault said.
Bruins head coach Keith Cassidy credited his team for the way it reacted after allowing the marker to Ferguson.
"That's another step in our maturity. We weren't fazed by it, we just went out and got it back. Taking it to overtime was a little nerve-wracking and we responded well there too.”
Paslawski opened the scoring 1:43 into the game when Josh Jelinski flew down the right side, hit Paslawski with a cross-ice pass in the slot and the latter scored stick side on Reichenbach, who got his first start of the series after Matt Smidt started the first two games.
Midway through the period though, Hounds defenceman Carson Grolla pinched from the point and ripped a wrister over Bruins goalie Steven Glass's blocker from the right circle to tie it up.
Catlin Foley would give the Hounds their first lead two minutes later when Austin Yano stabbed at a loose puck in the Notre Dame zone and missed to spring Foley on a breakaway, where he fired a shot off the left post and in.
"We came out in that first period and we got the start that we wanted, and then we, I don't know, we got uptight, started squeezing the stick a little much, gave them a couple of goals, flat out," said Cassidy. "But (we) battled back, so I feel good about that."
Tyler Poskus tied it 2-2 midway through the second, pounding a point shot off the post and in. It was the only marker of the period.
Cassidy said it was not a perfect game by his troops, despite getting the win.
"It was a sloppy game. It was almost a reverse of what we've been doing (lately). We actually went out and got the lead and found a way to give it up and battle back. I was at times very impressed with what we were doing," he said.
"Actually, I was very impressed with what Notre Dame was doing as well. They played a good game. They were disciplined, they made it tough for us to get to the net. That has to be an all-time high for me in blocking shots. They did a really good job of that."
Cassidy said the survivor series win is simply validation for the Bruins and that the real prize lies further ahead.
"This is a series that we were expected to win, and basically all it does is re-affirms that we should be in the playoffs and my feeling is playoffs now start on Friday."
With the Weyburn series starting Friday, Cassidy said it was important to end the series early, including a quick overtime in Game 3.
"I certainly didn't want it to drag out too late, especially if it had gone the other way, having to regroup, refocus and be prepared to go into their barn (on Tuesday), certainly we didn't want to do that. I want to get these guys as much experience as they can get, but that's not an experience I want them to have," Cassidy said.
Game 2: Bruins 4 at Hounds 3
As they did in all three games, the Bruins needed a late goal to earn the win.
Paslawski scored with 2:46 remaining to lift Estevan to a 4-3 win in Wilcox on Saturday.
The Hounds had taken a 2-0 lead after the first period on goals by Ben Morgan and Dayton Shaw. The Bruins, however, battled back in the second with an early goal from Cole Olson and a late one from Ben Johnstone.
Notre Dame again took the lead at 11:09 of the third when Grolla scored a power play tally. But Bruins captain Josh Jelinski would knot the score 3-3 two minutes later, setting up Paslawski's winner.
"That was encouraging to see that no matter what position we were in, we were still battling hard and working for one another," said Cassidy.
Game 1: Hounds 2 at Bruins 3
Defenceman Zach MacLellan carried the puck down the right side, fired a shot on Smidt and then knocked in his own rebound for the game-winner with 37.1 seconds left in the third period.
“I had (Calder) Neufeld and (Tanner) Froese both yelling drop the puck, so I said forget it, just shot it, saw it rebound out to me and just got it on net,” MacLellan recounted.
The Hounds came out flying and fired 20 shots at Glass in the first period, but he held them at bay and the teams were scoreless at the break.
Neufeld opened the scoring 5:32 into the second on the first of four power play goals on the night. Ferguson countered late in the period to tie it 1-1 after two.
Olson restored the Bruins’ lead six minutes into the third, only to see Shaw respond again five minutes later.