Don’t count the Yorkton Harvest out yet.
The plucky team of underdogs is playing its best hockey at the perfect time, as evidenced by their February victories over the fifth place Tisdale Trojans, second place Battlefords Stars and, more recently, fourth place Moose Jaw Generals that allowed the Harvest to clinch the eighth and final SMAAAHL playoff spot.
And while the Harvest didn’t make it that easy for themselves, they could have clinched the eighth spot with a win over Notre Dame on Wednesday but, instead, lost 7-6, they still managed to succeed thanks to a successful weekend in Moose Jaw with a 3-3 tie on Saturday followed by a 4-3 overtime win on Sunday.
The Yorkton Harvest dropped a track meet 7-6 decision to the Notre Dame Hounds on Wednesday, February 19 at the Farrell Agencies Arena in a game that, had the Harvest won, would have clinched them a playoff spot.
Gavin Apperson gave the visiting Hounds a 1-0 lead when his shot eluded Carson Bogdan.
The Hounds doubled their lead just over two minutes later on a goal by Rhett Kingston at 10:29 of the first period.
Yorkton would get one back late in the frame, however, when Harvest leading scorer Chase McKersie snapped the puck past the glove hand of Hounds goalie Clarke Flegel to cut the Notre Dame lead in half heading into the break.
Tanner Jeannot’s 13th of the season drew the Harvest even with the Hounds a mere 22 seconds into the second period.
The Harvest took the lead at the 8:44 mark of the second period via the powerplay when Corwin Stevely deftly redirected a Turner Ottenbreit point shot past Flegel for his 10th goal of the campaign and a 3-2 Harvest lead.
The lead did not last long however, as Notre Dame’s Vincent Lavoie tied the game less than a minute later.
Lavoie was at it again 45 seconds later as he gave the Hounds back the lead at 4-3 with his second of three on the night.
Tyumen, Russia, native Egor Popov would give the Hounds a two goal lead 35 seconds after the second Lavoie marker to make it 5-3.
Yorkton’s Logan Leslie and Notre Dame’s Alex Farquhar then engaged in some fisticuffs as soon as the faceoff was taken.
The scrap appeared to energize the Harvest as they began to carry the play.
As a result the Harvest would draw to within one later in the frame. Defenceman Levi Morin read the play and came in from the point to snap the puck past Flegel on the powerplay to cut the Hounds lead to just one heading into the final 20 minutes of play.
Stevely’s second of the contest once again tied the game, this time at five.
However Lavoie would round out a solid performance with his third of the night to once again give his team the lead.
Hounds’ captain Angus Scott upped the Notre Dame lead to two midway through the third period to make it 7-5.
The Harvest got back to within one late in the frame when Morin wristed a shot from the point that beat Flegel cleanly. Unfortunately for the Harvest time was not on their side as the Hounds ragged the puck for the remaining 1:19 to ensure the Harvest demise at 7-6.
“We had an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot and we didn’t do it,” said a frustrated Dan Cross, head coach of the Yorkton Harvest, immediately following Wednesday’s defeat. “So now we’ve got our work cut out for us.
“We’ve scored enough goals. We were just sloppy in our own end which is something we’ve been pretty good at up until now. We just weren’t prepared to play today.”
‘Tying’ the playoff knot
The Harvest hit the road on the weekend for two games against the fourth place Moose Jaw Generals knowing that one point would be good enough to secure a playoff berth.
On Saturday the Harvest came out flat, getting outshot 12-3 in the first period.
If not for Carson Bogdan the score would have been much worse.
However the Harvest netminder only allowed one goal, a powerplay marker off the stick of Rykr Cole, as the Harvest escaped to the locker room down just one goal.
Whatever head coach Dan Cross said to his team between periods worked as the Harvest seemed like a completely new team, outplaying the Generals for the majority of the middle frame resulting in two goals.
Jaden Kreklewich got Yorkton’s offence started with a powerplay goal, his 11th of the year, to even the score at one just 5:07 into the second period.
Riley Cannon restored the Moose Jaw lead with 11:11 remaining in the period but a late goal by Korwin Shewchuk, his 10th of the season, sent the Harvest and Generals into the second intermission deadlocked at two.
The third period was much like the first with the hometown Generals dominating the play.
However Bogdan stood tall, turning aside attack after attack until, finally, Josh Miller beat the Harvest netminder to make it 3-2 with just 1:07 left in the game and send the hometown fans into a frenzy.
The frenzy didn’t last long though, as Jeannot scored the biggest goal of the Harvest season to tie the game with just three seconds remaining, sending the game to overtime.
The five minute overtime period solved nothing, but smiles were abound in the Harvest locker room after the game and for good reason.
The 3-3 tie officially clinched the eighth and final playoff spot for the Yorkton Harvest, ensuring the Harvest at least one round in the SMAAAHL’s second season.
And while the Jeannot goal was key in getting the Harvest into the postseason, it was the performance of Bogdan that really stood out. “We got outplayed really badly in the first period and Bogdan kept us in it,” stated Cross. “He (Bogdan) obviously deserves credit for the way he played.”
With the pressure of making the playoffs over, head coach Dan Cross decided to rest starting goaltender Carson Bogdan for Sunday’s afternoon game in Moose Jaw.
Instead, starting in net for the Harvest was AP call up Rylan Palchewich, who, apart from relieving Bogdan for a period earlier in the season, has never played in the SMAAAHL.
Palchewich made Cross seem like a genius, rewarding his coach for the playing time with a 35-save overtime win; his first victory in his first start at the AAA level.
“He played great,” offered Cross, continuing, “To come in and face 38 shots and stop 35 of them for the win really shows how competitive he (Palchewich) is.”
The Harvest offence also helped out the AAA rookie. Regulation goals from Riley Rozdeba (fifth of the season), Marc Shaw (eighth of the year) and Chase McKersie (19th of the campaign) ensured at least one point for the Harvest.
An overtime goal by Korwin Shewchuk gave the Harvest the second point of the day and three of a possible four points from the weekend road trip.
More importantly, however, the Shewchuk goal gave the Harvest a momentum building win right before playoffs. Something Cross believes will benefit his team in the post season. “Any time you can beat a good team it helps the momentum,” mentioned Cross, adding, “It definitely gives us some momentum going in to playoffs.”
The Yorkton Harvest played the Regina Pat Canadians in their final game of the regular season on Tuesday night, however statistics were unavailable at press time.
The next action for the Yorkton Harvest will be in the playoffs. As the SMAAAHL regular season is still underway playoff dates have not yet been solidified.
The Harvest will take on the top seeded Notre Dame Argos in the first round of the SMAAAHL playoffs.
Yorkton is 0-3-1 this season against the Argos, having been outscored 13-8 in four games.