AJHL Division Finals (March 20th)

By pbadmin

Lloydminster 4 at St. Albert 3 (2OT)
The one that got away. That’s how the St. Albert Saints will view this game when they look back. Now, instead of being in a comfortable position before Game Two the Saints are down a game and in a must-win situation.
The game was a tough battle all night – on the ice and in the stands. A loud Lloydminster contingent cheered wildly for their club and often drowned out “Go Saints Go” chants with “Go Blazers Go.” They also sarcastically chanted Saints forward Jeebo Manah’s name all night and whenever their team scored they erupted into Garry Glitter’s “Rock ‘n Roll Part II”

The game was fairly even early on before St. Albert’s leading scorer in the regular season, Ron Grimard netted his second of the playoffs. It was a hard shot from the left faceoff circle that barely trickled through goaltender Ray Fraser’s pads and past the goal line. A couple of minutes later, Pavel Beranek scored a powerplay marker but it was decided a player was in the crease and the goal did not stand. Lloydminster then began to take over the game this period as first Paul Esdale scored a powerplay goal from the point as it deflected off of several bodies before finding the mesh behind Scott Kabotoff. Several minutes later Kyle Werner scored as he put home a rebound on a two-on-one.

In the second period, Joey Bastien tied the game up for the Saints as he put in a rebound after a rush by Grimard. Then, on the powerplay, Saints captain Mike Buchan took his own rebound and moved in to score, giving the club their second lead of the night. With a little bit over a minute remaining in the period, the Saints stockpiled a lot of penalties. First, Chris Lane went off for slashing. On the same play, defenceman Andrew Gibson of the Saints got two minutes for checking from behind and a game misconduct. To make matters worse, two of the Saints best players and their leading point-getters in the playoffs so far – Ron Grimard and Pavel Beranek – both got ten minute misconducts. The Saints would now have to endure a two minute, two-man advantage. Thankfully, players like defenceman Paul Jowett and Mark Jackson and forwards Mike Klassen and Kris Liber among others did an outstanding job in killing the penalty and the Saints got through it still up by a goal.

The third period was largely dominated by the Saints, as they outshot the Blazers 11 to six. However, the Blazers did have several good opportunities in the early going. Travis Barnes was robbed by Kabotoff on the breakaway about five minutes into the period. With about five minutes remaining in the period, the Saints were given a powerplay opportunity that they could have used to put away the game. However, credit must be given to the Lloyd penalty killers and Ray Fraser as they held the fort. Then, with just over two minutes to Chris Lane received a roughing penalty. It did not take the Blazers long to convert on their chance as Paul Esdale takes a shot that is deflected by a Saint. The game is tied at 3 and going to overtime.

In the AJHL in the playoffs, the teams play ten minutes in the first overtime before resurfacing the ice for a second overtime should it be necessary. In the first overtime, the Blazers had almost all the chances, outshooting the Saints 11 to four. The best opportunity for the Blazers involved a chase for the puck with Scott Kabotoff. He went out of his net to play the puck and the Blazers just about turned that into a goal.

In the second overtime, it only took Paul Esdale about five minutes to complete his hat-trick. His shot was screened from the blueline and somehow found its way into the back of the net. The Blazers won Game One 4-3.

Olds 1 at Calgary Canucks 6
The Canucks set the tone for this series early – and often – Saturday night. It only took the Canucks’ Moe Halat 1:05 to make the score 1-0 as he put the puck behind surprise starter Chris Schwindt, who was playing in his first game of the playoffs. It was Halat’s first of the playoffs, oddly enough. The Grizzlys tied the game at one temporarily. Dana Lattery scored his sixth of the post-season with about eleven minutes remaining in the first. The Canucks would take the lead for good as Ryan Manitowich made it 2-1 with a powerplay marker – his second of the playoffs.

In the second period, the Grizzlys held their own very well and even came close to tying the game, but the Canucks struck late in the period as only the Canucks can. It began with Ryan Manitowich netting his second of the game with 1:21 remaining. It was a powerplay goal assisted by Moe Halat and 1999 eligible draftee Dany Heatley. Then, Bryan O’Connor made it 4-1 about 50 seconds later with 33 seconds left in the period, but the Canucks were not done there. Ian Constable then made it 5-1 as he scored his first of the playoffs with one second to go in the period.

Leonid Hryshukevitch replaced a shell-shocked Chris Schwindt in the third period. He allowed one goal – Ryan Manitowich’s third of the game – 1:18 in but held the fort from then on out. The 6-1 deficit would prove to be too much to overcome for the Grizzlys, however. Olds must play better tonight if they hope to lengthen the series beyond four games.

Three Stars
(1) Paul Esdale – Hat-trick, including the game-winner in overtime.
(2) Ryan Manitowich – Played an all-around great game, with three goals and one assist.
(3) Moe Halat – Two goals and one assist. Finally getting his game together in the post-season.
On Tap
March 21st – Lloydminster Blazers at St. Albert Saints, 6:00pm MT
Lloydminster leads best-of-seven series 1-0
March 21st – Calgary Canucks at Olds Grizzlys, 7:00pm MT
Calgary leads best-of-seven series 1-0

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