It was win or go golfing for the Yorkton Terriers when they took to the ice against the Coquitlam Express in the Terriers final round robin game of the Western Canada Cup.
The Terriers went into the game Wednesday with only one win in three games, and the WCC's tie breaking formula would have favoured other teams had Yorkton not managed a win.
Tayler Thompson gave the Terriers a huge goal 4:11 into Wednesday evening's contest in Dauphin.
But 53-seconds later Joey Santucci knotted the game 1-1 for the Express, the champions out of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League.
A Terrier powerplay marker by Brett Boehm at 10:52 restored a one-goal Terrier lead and would prove the game winner, as Yorkton's Kale Thomson would stymie Coquitlam stopping 24-of-25 shots on the night.
Gordie Defiel, meanwhile, would face 43 Terrier shots in the Express net, giving up third period markers to Dylan Johnson, and Chase Norrish. The Norrish goal was on a two-man powerplay with only 34-seconds remaining in the contest.
Terrier head coach Trent Cassan said the strong game by the Terriers was not a surprise for him.
"It was the response we were expecting, and knew the guys could give," he said. "We didn't feel sorry for ourselves."
Cassan said the game play "was a credit to our leadership. They wanted to keep playing."
Cassan said in must-wins "you have to elevate your game even more," and the Terriers across the board did that.
While noting vets such as Thompson, Boehm and Norrish scored big goals, it was also players such as Josh Ellis who played well.
"He didn't show up on the score sheets, but how many hits did he have? Close to double digits?" he asked.
The Terriers had big games from a number of veterans, including Thompson.
"Definitely you look to your older guys for leadership," he said.
While veterans rose to the occasion injuries have forced the Terriers to play AAA Midget Turner Ottenbreit, Corwin Stevely, and Cortlan Proctor who saw only one playoff game this season.
Cassan said Ottenbreit has "been very effective as a defenceman as a 16-year-old" and Stevely "doesn't play with any hesitation, or fear."
As for Proctor, Cassan said it's not easy to have to sit in the stands for weeks, but he has stayed positive, and didn't look like a guy who has seen one game since the end of the regular season.
"Definitely we're comfortable with anybody we have in the line-up," said Thompson, adding Proctor stepped in to the game after Daylan Gatzke couldn't make it after an injury in Game 3.
Regulars Dylan Baer and Derek Falloon were already out from Game one injuries.
Thompson said the team knew what it had to do in terms of being a must win, adding "we stuck to our game plan."
A big part of the game plan was to be "hard on the forecheck."
Another aspect of the plan was to be disciplined after allowing eight powerplay goals in the two previous tourney games.
"We knew we had to stay out of the penalty box," said Thompson.
And when on the penalty kill the Terriers were more effective too.
"We just reinforced a couple of things," offered Thompson, adding part of that was "keeping a tight box and have good communication out there."
Cassan said the Terriers had been "trying to correct some things" in terms of the penalty kill and they seemed to kick in against the Express, but he added "part of it too was only taking three penalties."
Teams don't win league championships and make it to the WCC "without having a good powerplay," offered the Terrier coach, adding when you are giving up six, or seven powerplays in a game, it will likely cost you goals.
With the win the Terriers advance to the WCC playoffs, but who they play, and what time the game will be Saturday will depend on action wrapping up round robin play among the other four teams being played Thursday.