Saints Lose Heartbreaker to Storm 3-2 in Double OT
By: Adam Kulak
The longest game of the 2020 AJHL postseason so far ends in heartbreak for the Spruce Grove Saints. The Saints had the lead twice throughout the game, put up 52 shots but ultimately let this one slip away. Nathan Morgan scored late in the second overtime period to win it for Grande Prairie on home ice, as they make this a 2-1 series.
There wasn?t a whole lot to write on the scoresheet in the first period aside from a high sticking penalty by the Saints. However, it was an evenly played opening period with both teams getting good opportunities. The shots in the period were 12-11 in favor of the Storm but the Saints had as many if not more dangerous scoring chances.
The Saints didn?t have a whole lot of sustained offensive zone pressure, but they had several one and done rushes that came so close to opening the scoring. Arguably their two best scoring chances came shorthanded on the same penalty kill. A couple misplays by the Storm and the Saints had two golden cross crease one timer chances that Kaeden Lane robbed them on both. Those types of chances are usually going in and Lane would slide across to deny both, keep this game scoreless.
Grande Prairie?s best chances came midway through the period. A storm shot would squeak through Matt Davis, but Michael Bladon cleared it just before it could cross the line. They also came close on their powerplay as Davis would flash the leather on a shot from the slot. The Saints would generate more offensive zone time late in the period but couldn?t solve Kaeden lane through 20 minutes. Both goaltenders were very good, keeping this game scoreless after the first frame.
The Saints started to put on more pressure throughout the second period. They ended up drawing two powerplays midway through the frame, the Storm killed off the first one but the Saints red hot powerplay would break through on the second chance. Graham Gamache would walk out from the left corner and put it over the glove of Kaeden Lane as the Saints draw first blood in Game 3.
That goal would come at 11:47 of the period, the Storm would get their second opportunity on the man advantage shortly after, but the Saints penalty kill would remain perfect. Special teams have continued to be a big difference in this series. Both teams have both played well at even strength throughout the first few games, but the Saints have been far more opportunistic on their chances.
The Saints transition game has been struggling so far in this game and that is part of why they didn?t have as much sustained zone time. They have had trouble making plays and getting through the neutral zone but their forecheck has been getting better and better as the game has gone on. They created more offensive pressure in the second as a result, leading to more shots, drawn penalties and the first goal of the game.
The Saints outshot the Storm 13-8 in the second and they lead the overall shots 22-18 after 40 minutes of play.
Grande Prairie was a desperate team coming out in the third period. Trailing 1-0 and on the verge of going down 0-3 in the series, the Storm came out strong and controlled the play for a lot of the period. In his first game back in the lineup, Storm captain Jackson Wozniak would knot this game up at 1. Under 5 minutes into the period, he would beat Matt Davis up high with a shot from the slot to get the Storm back in this game.
The Saints would answer back a few minutes later, the Storm would get called for high sticking and the Saints powerplay would continue to make them pay. Ryan Conroy?s wrist shot from the top of the circle would beat Kaeden Lane through a screen as the Saints grab the lead right back. That would be the 8th powerplay goal in 3 games for the Saints to give them a one goal lead Midway through the third.
With the lead twice, the Saints may have sat back a little bit too much in the third as Grande Prairie would find the equalizer again late. With 5 minutes to go in the game, Nate Bierd would find Nathan Morgan backdoor for a wide-open goal. Matt Davis had pretty much no chance on that one as the Storm battle back again to get this game squared at 2. With the shots being 28-24 for the Saints, this series will head to sudden death for the 2nd time in 3 games.
The Saints took complete control and dominated the overtime period. They were all over the offensive zone, in and around the net looking for the winning goal but Kaeden Lane did everything he could to keep the puck out. Jordan Biro would have a glorious chance just 2 minutes in, as he cut to the net, but Lane would deny him on the backhand with his pad.
The Saints had a powerplay late in the period to try and finish this game off. They had several close calls and pucks just going wide, but the Storm?s penalty killers would come up massive in order to save the game. They would then get a golden opportunity of their own, with less than a minute to play in the first overtime, the Saints would get called with goaltender interference.
The Saints would kill off the first minute and the Storm would start the second overtime with a minute left. Shots in the period were 14-7 for the Saints but neither team could find the winning goal.
The Saints started getting into a little penalty trouble and gave Grande Prairie two powerplay opportunities. Matt Davis and the Saints penalty killers were tremendous once again killing off both and things were starting to look positive. The Saints would head to the powerplay with 6 minutes left in the period looking to finally put this one away.
Unfortunately, things would go sideways, with seconds left to go in the Saints powerplay the puck would bounce to Nathan Morgan on a 1 on 1 and he would roof a backhand shot over the shoulder of Matt Davis. That would be Morgan?s 2nd goal of the game as the Saints let a heartbreaker slip away in double overtime. Massive win for Grande Prairie on home ice as they cut the series lead in half and force a Game 5.
The Saints did everything possible in this game except win, as Kaeden Lane was absolutely sensational. He turned aside 50 of the Saints 52 shots, including several 10 bell saves throughout the game. The Saints powerplay continued to be good with two goals on the man advantage, but they just couldn?t take advantage in overtime.
The Saints will look to bounce back tomorrow night back at the Revolution Place. They will try and put this game behind them as they take on the Grande Prairie Storm in Game 4, looking for a 3-1 series lead.