Tuesday night was about desperation time for the two remaining New York Ranger prospects still playing. Both of their teams badly needed wins to keep their championship hopes alive.
Both teams got those wins in two very exciting and very entertaining games. One thing is for sure; anybody that tries to tell you that fan noise does not add to the excitement of the game is kidding themselves.
In Portland, Oregon, Michael St. Croix (2011 4th) and his Edmonton Oil Kings were looking to tie up their WHL Finals series with the Portland Winterhawks going into game four. Working against them was a very pumped up Portland team fueled in part by a sellout crowd 10,947.
It was a great game, it was an exciting end to end game that wound up going into overtime before Edmonton got the desperation win they needed 4-3. Now the series is best-of-three heading back to Edmonton.
The only disappointment is that both teams deserve to play for the Memorial Cup, but only one will. Yes, we're biased because we live out west and we will not apologize for saying the winner of this series should win the Memorial Cup.
Noise was very much a factor as the Portland fans were loud all night long but got louder when their team needed it. When you're the visiting team playing in a hostile and loud environment; the belief is that you need to weather the first 10 minutes.
Portland did a great job keeping their fans loud by scoring the game's opening goal just 1:21 into the game. Edmonton stayed with Portland and eventually drew even scoring the tying goal at 15:50.
It won't really show up on the stat sheet, but we finally saw a more active Michael St. Croix make an appearance, especially in the second period. On the score sheet St. Croix only shows only a secondary assist but that's because Portland's goalie Mac Carruth was preventing his team from being blown out.
Still St. Croix's secondary assist was part of a great play coming very late in the second when he kept the puck in the offensive zone; fired a great shot on net and eventually wound up on a teammate stick and in the net.
At the end of the second, Edmonton had a 3-1 lead and were looking really strong while Portland was playing with a little less composure than they normally do. But this is when the Portland fans became difference makers.
A very loud Portland crowd greeted their team when they came back on the ice for the third and the noise they made was rewarded by Sven Bartschi's first of two third period goals, which tied the game up.
Bartschi scored first at 3:49 to pull Portland within one and then again at 9:06, which tied the game up. That set up a frantic back-and-forth over the final 10 minutes of regulation where both teams had really good chances at winning with the edge to Portland.
The game as we said wound up in overtime where really the overtime winner could best be described as an "excuse me" type of goal. Given all of the quality scoring chances we had watched, it came down to a simple wrist shot that beat Carruth and tied the series.
Game five in Edmonton on Thursday night.
Meanwhile in Humboldt, Sask. Steven Fogarty (2011 3rd) and his Penticton Vees were facing the Woodstock Slammers badly needing a win to stay alive in the RBC Cup. The team that during the BCHL season had no problem scoring goals was having a lot of trouble scoring goals.
Here courtesy of Fraser Rodgers the Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations is the game summary;
HUMBOLDT, SK- Joey Benik’s power-play goal early in the third period vaulted the Penticton Vees to a 2-1 win over the Woodstock Slammers on Tuesday night. The win is the Vees (1-2) first of the tournament and moves them in a four-way tie for second place.
Benik redirected a Mike Reilly point-shot past the glove of Slammers goaltender Matt Murphy just before the three minute-mark in the third. The goal marked two first for the Vees: their first power-play goal and their first lead of the RBC Cup.
The Vees controlled the pace in the first period, continually pressuring the Woodstock zone and doubled the Slammers in shots. However despite the advantage in play, the Vees couldn’t open the scoring, missing on several in-close opportunities. Mario Lucia had arguably the best chance, when he stick-handled through the Slammers defense and around the goalie but couldn’t shovel the puck past the post.
In the second period the Vees continued to pour on the pressure, putting puck after puck on goal but none of the nineteen shots beat the Slammers goaltender. The Vees had two power-play chances and again couldn’t convert on several quality opportunities.
The Slammers turned the tide, all be it briefly, when they opened the scoring on a turnover behind the Vees net. The goaltender and defenseman got their signals crossed, allowing Chris Rygus to center a pass to Andrew Langan out front; the forward snapped a quick shot through the legs of Mike Garteig at 15:21.
The Vees didn’t waiver and quickly squared the game at one’s off the stick of Ryan Reilly. The future Minnesota Golden Gopher let go a wrist shot that handcuffed Murphy from just inside the blue-line at 16:41; eighty seconds after the Slammers opened the scoring.
In the third the Vees were given an early power-play when Tim Campbell was sent to the penalty-box for interference. On the man-advantage, Joey Benik broke the deadlock on a tip in front of the Slammers net; Mike Reilly took a shot from the blue-line which Benik managed to redirect past the glove of Murphy at 2:41.
The Vees ran into penalty-trouble throughout the third, handing the Slammers four power-plays in the final fourteen minutes but managed to hold the Woodstock off the scoresheet. Mike Garteig stopped all seven shots he faced in the period, including a handful of key stops in the final minutes whilst the Vees were short-handed.
The Vees can clinch a spot in the semi-finals with a win against Portage Terriers Wednesday evening.
(St. Croix - Edmonton Oil Kings)
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