The Yorkton Harvest squeaked into the SMAAAHL playoffs by virtue of a tie and an overtime win in Moose Jaw on Saturday 22 and 23, giving the Harvest the eighth and final playoff spot in Saskatchewan’s premier midget hockey league.
Their reward for making the post season: A series with the SMAAAHL’s top regular season team, the Notre Dame Argos.
The Harvest were in tough in Wilcox on Friday, February 28 for game one of the best-of-five first round playoff match up as it’s hard enough to play the top team in their building.
But when their building has Olympic/European sized ice and their team has a couple of Europe’s top midget aged players it’s even more difficult.
The two Europeans, Damien Riat and Makai Holdener, proved once again why it’s so difficult to beat the Argos on their home ice. The two Geneva, Switzerland, products combined for eight points, five by Riat (one goal, four assists) and three by Holdener (two goals, one assist) as the Notre Dame Argos beat the Harvest 8-0 to take a 1-0 series lead.
The host Argos quickly took advantage of the extra ice, scoring five times in the first period, twice on the powerplay, to crush any hope of a Harvest game one victory and chase Carson Bogdan from the net in favour of AP call up Rylan Palchewich.
The Argos welcomed Palchewich to the game properly in the second period with three more Argos goals to add insult to injury as the game began to get very chippy with Yorkton taking 15 minor penalties in the final 40 minutes.
After a rough second period Palchewich buckled down, stopping all 13 third period shots to give his team a little bit of momentum heading in to Sunday’s game two match up at the Farrell Agencies Arena.
Yorkton native Matt Kustra got the shutout for the Argos stopping all 13 shots he faced while Bogdan shouldered the loss, stopping just five of ten shots before being yanked from the net.
“After the first period it wasn’t much of a game anymore. It wasn’t a hockey game,” said Harvest head coach Dan Cross on Friday’s 8-0 drubbing at the hands of the Argos. “They caught us flatfooted, they got a good jump on us (and that was it).”
The Yorkton Harvest, fresh off their stinging 8-0 loss to the Argos on Friday, looked to gain some revenge on Notre Dame on Sunday, March second as they hosted the Argos at the Farrell Agencies Arena.
However revenge was not to be as the Argos edged the Harvest 2-1 on a late goal by Taylor Ross to send the series back to Wilcox with the Harvest trailing two games to none.
A scoreless opening frame played host to some strong goaltending as Carson Bogdan shook off a less-than-impressive game one to turn aside all nine Argos first period shots, all of which were quality chances.
Matt Kustra, making his second consecutive start for the Argos, also started off strong stopping all seven Harvest shots through the first 20 minutes.
Notre Dame would open the scoring in the second period. Cole Williams fired the puck past Bogdan to give his team a 1-0 lead. However the Argos goal seemed to spark the Harvest, as Yorkton began to carry the play.
Unfortunately Kustra was prepared for the Harvest offence, stopping all 13 Harvest shots in the second period to increase his playoff shutout streak to one hundred minutes.
The Harvest came out strong in the third period, pressing for the tying goal.
The offensive onslaught took the Argos by surprise resulting in four straight Notre Dame penalties, the third of which cost them as Tanner Jeannot, after some furious pressure, beat Kustra to tie the game with 1:59 remaining in the third period.
Unfortunately for the Harvest the tie game lasted all of 28 seconds as the aforementioned Ross beat Bogdan to give the Argos a late 2-1 lead.
A penalty to Notre Dame’s Damien Riat gave the Harvest a late powerplay, but 44 seconds was just not enough as the Argos staved off the Harvest attack to take a 2-0 series lead.
Matt Kustra stopped 29 of 30 shots for his second straight playoff win while Bogdan was great in a losing effort, turning aside 35 of 37 Argos shots.
After the game Harvest head coach Dan Cross shed some light on what he thought about the tough 2-1 loss. “I thought we played a great game,” said Cross. “It was an entertaining hockey game. Could we have played a little bit better? Sure we could have. But I was very proud with the way the guys responded from their performance in game one.”
Cross is also very aware that the Harvest’s collective backs are against the wall. One more defeat and the only hockey they’ll be playing is NHL 14.
With that in mind, Cross feels his team will take the hard to stomach 2-1 loss the right way, by looking at the positives and coming out for game three the way they did for game two. “I think we’ll go out there with the same kind of intensity we had today,” mentioned Cross, continuing, “Obviously we put ourselves in a big hole. We really wanted to win this game (before going) back there because we do struggle there but yeah, we’re just going to come out there with the same intensity and hope for the best.”
The Yorkton Harvest were in action last night in Game Three of their best-of-five first round playoff match up, however no information was available at press time.
The next action, depending on the results from last night’s game, is scheduled for tomorrow when the Harvest would host the Notre Dame Argos for game four of the series.
If the Harvest lost game three, however, then game four would not be played.