The Yorkton Terriers were facing elimination from Wednesday on, but a win in semi-final action Saturday has the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League champs in the Royal Bank Cup final.
The Terriers faced the host Vernon Vipers in the semi-final, where Tanner Lischynsky put the Terriers on the board with a power play marker 9:05 into the first period.
Forty-six-seconds later Daylan Gatzke gave Yorkton a two-goal edge.
Brett Mulcahy drew the host Vipers within one with a power play goal at 15:47.
The Vipers used the man advantage 1:36 into the second period to knot the score 2-2.
But the Terriers again took control as Dylan Johnson scored at 8:57, and Chase Norrish added one at 11:39.
That was enough for the Vipers who pulled starting netminder Austin Smith after he had given up four-goals on eight shots, putting Danny Todosychuk between the pipes.
The score would stay 4-3 through two periods.
“We were fortunate to be up after two,” said Terrier coach Trent Cassan.
The Norrish goal would prove the game winner. It game on a knuckleball sort of shot which found its way over the goaltender’s shoulder.
“You’ve got to put the puck on net,” said Cassan, adding in the case of Chase Norrish, “He’s come up with a lot of big goals for us.”
The one-goal Terrier lead would hold until the Vipers were in the process of pulling Todosychuk when Gatzke found the open net as the netminder was caught half way to the bench. The goal came at 18:17.
Tayler Thompson would salt the game away with a second empty netter 25-seconds later to wrap up the 6-3 win.
The Terrier goals were spread around in the game, and Cassan said that was big for the team.
“We need that. You know your top guys are going to be checked pretty close,” he said.
The Terriers did have two regulars back in uniform, Jordan Ross who had missed a couple of games after a check earlier in the RBC, and Dylan Baer out since the Western Canada Cup in Dauphin.
Cassan said the pair added some size on the fourth line, and that was a plus in the game, adding “Ross has played really well in the playoffs,” and Baer as a natural defenceman thinks about that side of the puck first.
Baer said he is surprised and happy to be back in the lineup, expecting his year was over after the WCC injury, but an MRI cleared him to play.
“It was the best moment of my life,” he said. “Getting to play in a tournament like this is the best.”
And in the third Baer came up with a defensive gem to help the cause.
“I saw him get the puck,” he said of a Viper in the slot in front of the Terrier net. “I just wanted to get to him and lift his stick and put the puck to the wall.”
Baer said defence is his strong suit.
“I think about the defensive zone first and then get in on the forecheck,” he said.
Kale Thomson had the win in the Terrier net facing 37-shots.
Thomson said getting the first couple of goals was big to “get the momentum going our way.”
In his own case, Thomson said he is feeling back in the groove.
“I felt pretty good out there tonight,” he said, adding the guys in front of him did a good job of helping him out in terms of seeing shots and clearing rebounds.
Thomson said a big moment in the game was when the Terriers killed off an extended five-on-three in the third.
“The guys did a great job,” he said, again sharing the moment.
Cassan said the game was one where the Terriers did a good job of holding the lead and added the Terriers “got a few bounces” in the win.
In terms of holding the lead Cassan said his guys “have a lot of desire,” and it showed in the semi-final win. He said the veteran leadership showed. “We want to keep going as far as we can.”
The Terriers will meet Carleton Place in Sunday’s RBC final. The Canadians earned their berth in the final defeating Dauphin 5-3.
Carleton Place scored 2:35 into the game, but trailed 2-1 after 20-minutes.
The Canadians tied the game 2:10 into the second frame.
The teams would trade goals through the remainder of the second, leaving the game tied 3-3 headed to the final frame.
Carleton Place would score twice in the third period for the win and a date with the Terriers.
Asked if he had a preference in who the Terriers played, Cassan said at this point every team is good.
“No matter who we play they’ve pushed through a lot of things just getting here,” he said.
The Terriers did defeat Carleton Place 3-1 in round robin action earlier this week.