O’LEARY – A Jacob Squires’s power-play goal through traffic 1:24 into overtime allowed the Central Attack to even the best-of-five P.E.I. Major Bantam AAA Hockey League championship series with the Prince County Warriors at a game apiece Sunday night.
Squires’s game-winner, which was set up by John MacKinnon, found its way through a maze of legs to beat Warriors netminder Aiden Williams, who had stood tall throughout regulation time, but couldn’t get a look at the puck in the extra period.
“We got a shot from the point that had eyes,” said Attack head coach Jeff MacDonald in describing the game-winner.
MacDonald felt the Attack controlled the first two periods, but suffered a letdown in the third. Despite that, he said he was proud of the way his team battled through, and admitted he feels better heading back home with the series tied 1-1 and, essentially, a best-of-three affair from here on in.
“I’m expecting pretty much the same,” he said in looking ahead to Game 3. “I think these two teams are very well matched up. They’re both playing hard, and I think the people who come to the rink are going to see a pretty great game.”
Warriors head coach Cleve McNeil had a similar assessment.
“We’re not a skilled hockey team; we rely on hard work, and we just didn’t work hard enough for the first two periods to get rewarded,” said McNeill.
Noting the Warriors won Game 1 on the road, McNeill’s hoping to get the team back on track during a Monday practice. Game 3 in the series is set for Simmons Sport Centre in Charlottetown on Tuesday at 6 p.m., with Game 4 back in O’Leary on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
In Sunday’s game, played before over 400 fans at the O’Leary Community Sports Centre, goals a minute and one second apart midway through the second staked the Attack to a 3-1 lead after two periods. The game was tied 1-1 after one period.
The Warriors scored 4:26 into the third, and on the power play with 6:24 remaining to tie the game.
The Warriors went on the power play with 59 seconds remaining in the third, but that was nullified 31 seconds later when a Central Attack player broke free and was hauled down in the Prince County crease.
The teams started the extra session playing four aside, and Squires found the opening once the Attack got the advantage.
Squires also had an assist in the game for a two-point night. Also scoring were Colby Huggan, Niklas Reeves and Tanner MacLean. Joining MacKinnon with assists were Landon MacDonald, Ben Worth, Lukas Skinner, Tyler Worth and Kal White.
Freddy Morency, on the power play, and Donovan Arsenault and Ethan Reilly scored for the Warriors. Mike McRae and Will Smith assisted on the Morency goal.
Jack Howatt picked up the goaltending win.