The Yorkton Terriers clinched first overall in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League Friday with a 2-1 overtime win in Flin Flon.
Daylan Gatzke struck mid-way through the opening frame to give the Terriers a 1-0 lead.
The lead held until the 3:37 mark of the second when Bomber Tyson Empey put one past Terrier netminder Kale Thomson.
The 1-1 deadlock would hold through the remainder of regulation time, forcing the teams to the five-minute, four-on-four extra frame.
The game looked to be headed to the shoot-out until Brett Boehm scored an unassisted goal against his former teammates for the Yorkton win.
Simon Hofley took the loss in the Flin Flon net facing 33-shots, while Thomson had the win based on 31-shots against the Terriers.
The win in Flin Flon gave the Terriers the points needed to top the overall league standings, ensuring home ice advantage through to the league final in the playoffs.
Trent Cassan, Terrier head coach, said getting the win in OT was important as the Terriers wanted to secure first overall in the league.
“We didn’t want to rely on someone else,” he said.
Cassan noted the Terriers have played consistently on the road down the stretch.
“The guys have confidence playing on the road,” he said, but added starting each playoff series at home, and having game seven at home too, if needed, is certainly a positive headed to the playoffs.
The Terriers went 8-1-0-1 down the stretch to top the league with a record of 37-12-2-5 and 81 points. Within the Viterra Division Melville finished second with 74 points, Estevan is third at 63 points, with Weyburn in last with 49 points.
Cassan said the team has really shown focus down the stretch.
“Probably since that LaRonge game where we were up 3-1 going into the third, and gave up that lead,” he said, adding since that point the offence has clicked better, without it hurting the team’s defence.
So what has the change been?
“We’ve been able to get healthy,” said Cassan. “We’ve had consistent pairing on defence, and consistent line combinations.”
In terms of offence, an improvement coincided with the trade deadline arrival of Brett Boehm.
“He probably took a bit of the pressure off some of the other guys to do the scoring,” said Cassan.
The Terrier coach added Boehm has gotten better in his own end in recent weeks too.
“He competes very well in the defensive end too,” said Cassan.
The Terriers wrapped up the 2013-14 regular season in Humboldt Saturday.
The Broncos scored two late first period goals; Cody Pongracz at 18:41, and Brandon Long 20-seconds later, to lead 2-0 after 20-minutes.
Tyler Giebel put the Terriers on the board with a powerplay marker 2:47 into the second, and less than two-minutes later Riley Hunt knotted the score 2-2.
“We got down 2-0, but had real good pressure in the second,” said Cassan.
At 14:26 Jordan Ross gave the Terriers their first lead of the contest.
But the Broncos used a later powerplay to tie the game as David Stumborg tied the contest at 18:30.
The tie held through the last 1:30, forcing a five-minute, four-on-four overtime, an extra frame which did not decide the game.
The game went to overtime where the Terriers would prevail as their shooters scored twice while the Bronco shooters were turned away, giving Yorkton a 4-3 win.
Riley Medves had the win in the Terrier net facing 32-shots, while Cade Spencer faced 22 in the loss.
Winning in a shoot-out was also a sort of exclamation mark on the season-ending run as it was the Terriers first shoot-out win of the season. Cassan said while there are no shoot-outs in the playoffs, it was still a gratifying win.
On home ice
Wednesday the Terriers hosted their final regular season home game, with Notre Dame playing at the Farrell Agencies Arena.
Kailum Gervais scored on a Yorkton powerplay 6:31 into the contest, a goal which would prove the game-winner as Thomson stopped the 18-shots the Hounds managed on the night.
The Terriers would add two more first period markers, from Brett Boehm and Tayler Thompson on the powerplay to hold a comfortable 3-0 lead after 20-minutes.
Matthew Cox and Riley Hunt would add second period markers for the home team, with Boehm adding his second of the night in the third period to round out the 6-0 win.
Overall the Terriers had 32-shots on Hound netminder Alexi Thibaudeau.
The SJHL playoffs begins this Friday with the best of five Survivor Series.
The quarter-finals and Road To The Canalta Cup starts on Friday, March 14, and that is when the Terriers will start defence of their league crown.
Until the Survivor Series are complete the Terriers will not know their opening round opponents, but have 10-days to ready themselves for the first playoff game.
Cassan said it is the third time in his four seasons at the helm of the Terriers he has had to await the Survivor Series outcome before seeing action.
“So we’ll go back on some of the things we’ve done in the past,” he said.
Cassan said the team will have a few days off, then hit the practice ice hard, working on systems and mimicking game-play as best they can to be ready for their first game.