Yorkton Terrier Greg Mulhall has been handed a 25 game suspension for a collision that occured in Melville, at Saturday night’s game against the Millionaires.
The Terriers took a solid 5-4 lead in game one Friday night, while Melville switched the script Saturday night, pulling forward for a 7-2 win.
Then, what was almost a perfect day for Melville came to a sudden halt.
With just over five minutes left to play, a race for the puck between Mulhall and Millionaires’ goaltender Berk Berkeliev ended in a brutal collision.
After what many first responders would agree were perhaps a few too many attempts at encouraging the goaltender to get upright, Berkeliev was taken to the hospital for a head injury, an incident that made an already tense and subdued Melville crowd even more inaudible.
Berkeliev was released from the hospital on Sunday morning.
When asked by Yorkton This Week about the suspension Monday morning, SJHL commissioner Bill Chow allowed that this was a particularly long suspension.
“I’ve been president for nine years, and this is certainly the longest suspension I’ve seen in the duration of my tenure. I can’t say offhand that this is categorically the longest suspension ever per se, but I wouldn’t be surprised [if it were].”
Yorkton put a second goal into the net close to the end of the Saturday game, but it was too little too late for Ryan Granville, making it two for the Terriers and Nic Porterfield soon recovered that Millionaires six point lead with a couple of minutes left in play. Final score: 7-2 Melville.
The Terriers emerged victorious in the first game of the season, putting Melville in its place 5-4.
What started as a shutout at Melville’s expense became a deadlock. While Yorkton held a solid lead in the majority of the first period, with 59 seconds left on the clock moving into second, the game very quickly turned into one of inches.
The first period was marked by a strong offense, with the Terriers, interestingly, seemingly drawing strength from their penalties to advantage. Yorkton’s penalty kill resembled a power play, only adding fuel to the fire.
Just as strong one man down as they were on the powerplay, a few solid shots on goal closed out the first 20 minutes. By the last minute of the period, though, the free ride was over. Melville finally broke through to the Terrier’s zone, netting their second goal of the night for a 2-2 tie, tempers flaring as the referees broke up a few punchouts. There were plenty of penalties to be had for the Terriers in the next period, but it didn’t seem to matter.
Yorkton dominated their own penalty kill once again in the second period, controlling the puck well enough to have the crowd looking at the scoreboard to double check the power play. Red Bull may give you wings, but the Terriers clearly didn’t need them -- all they needed was that powerplay.
If Bono was still cold in the Yorkton net after the first period, he warmed up halfway through the second. A two man advantage was almost enough for Melville to take the lead, but a disallowed goal saved the tie a little while longer, thanks to stellar defense by the Terriers.
The screaming and yelling of the crowd did little to improve the attentiveness of the referees, who let play go on nearly a full minute into a fight shortly after the Mils’ power play. Again, the refs appeared to have blinders on after an injury with two minutes left in the period.
For reasons unknown, the referees seemed to lose sight of the game in the last quarter of the second period, failing to blow the whistle almost a full minute into a fight, and then once more after a Terrier was injured, forcing the team to assist him off of the ice while play continued.
Asked later about the refs, Coach Mat Hehr was succinct.
“Definitely some interesting calls, that’s for sure.”
Melville dominated the beginning of the third period, keeping the puck firmly in the Terriers’ zone almost the entire first half. Uncharacteristically clean hockey appeared on both sides, giving the refs a break from the whistle until late in the third, shortly after Melville had taken a two goal lead. After Melville’s fourth goal, jeers from certain younger members of the crowd were heard as they stormed out of the arena, but loyal fans who stuck around for the last six minutes were rewarded by an impressive comeback. With a 5-4 win, the two jeering fairweather fans may have some explaining to do in the schoolyard Monday morning.
“We got into some penalty trouble, especially in the second period, but I thought our penalty kill was great. It really gave us a chance to win. Without them, it could have been a very ugly game,” said Hehr.
Yorkton and Melville faced off once again, this time in enemy territory. The rivalry continued Saturday night in Melville at 7:30 pm, where the tone was much darker.
Terriers were heavy on the penalty minutes in the first but still solid on the kill, impressive goaltending surviving a Millionaires two man advantage early on in the period.
Stellar goaltending on both sides kept the first period scoreless for the first fifteen minutes before Yorkton’s Ethan Robson broke the ice with their first goal with just over five minutes left on the clock.
Two minutes later Melville Millionaires forward, Luke Nkwama, scores on the power play with two and a half minutes on the board, tying it up 1-1 at the end of the first.
The second started out evenly matched on the ice as well as in the penalty box with very little center ice play as the teams sized each other up.
Just as it was starting to look like a deadlock, Nkwama sinks another and the Mils take the lead with just over five minutes left in the second and widened the gap further with a third goal on the power play at 17:23 by Aidan Steinke.
Third period action consisted of penalties, penalties and more penalties. This could have been a case study for the official rule book. The crowd sat stunned at the Horizon Credit Union Center as call after call was made; those penalty minutes including the first five minute major to the Terriers were the only numbers showing up on the scoreboard, until 11:52 left in the period when Brandon Larochelle scored on the power play for Melville, making it a three point lead for the Millionaires.
Still on the power play from that Terriers five minute major, Luke Nkwama scores again for the hat trick.
Two minutes later, it’s Deja vu all over again, Nkwama with a fourth goal bringing it to 6-1 for Melville.
With the referees getting the most action, there was no repreive from the penalty calls as tempers started to flare.
Yorkton faces off against Estevan Tuesday night at 7:00.