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Saints Take 1-0 Series Lead in OT Thriller

Saints Take 1-0 Series Lead in OT Thriller

By: Adam Kulak

Playoff hockey is made for creating memorable games and moments that will last a lifetime.  And in Game 1 of the AJHL Playoffs, the Saints would create one of the most memorable games in recent memory.  After a miraculous tying goal late in the period, the Saints would comeback to win this game in Overtime, taking a 1-0 series lead over the Grande Prairie Storm. 

It was a back and forth game with both teams carrying the play for certain stretches, but great teams find ways to win games and that?s exactly what the Saints did.  Jordan Biro would get the Saints on the board first, Nick Leyer would tie it late and Sam Popowich would end it in sudden death to complete the late comeback.  Now let?s get to the action and talk about this game?

 

First Period

The Saints wouldn?t find the back of the net quite yet but there wasn?t much to complain about the Saints performance through 20 minutes.  They came out strong and established their forecheck right away.  They weren?t giving the Storm any time and space and they made it tough on them to get the puck back and exit their zone cleanly.

The only real negative was their powerplay was shaky to start the game.  They couldn?t really get anything going on their first attempt as there were a lot of mishandles and turnovers that led to the Storm clearing it.  Their second chance on the powerplay was a lot better, they were getting Lars Kaliel moving lots and were able to generate several very good chances.

They will look to continue to build on that in the second and third to break the goose egg in this game.  The Saints penalty killers went 2/2 in the period to keep this game scoreless, shots in the period were 10-3 for the Saints heading into the middle frame.

Second Period

The Saints came out with a strong first period but in the middle frame, Grande Prairie came out with a big response.  They started to outplay the Saints and take control of the game for most of the second.  The Saints were getting chances, but they were more on and done chances that led to Grande Prairie coming back the other way.  The Saints weren?t possessing the puck as well as they did in the first and the Storm created many opportunities of their own.

Shortly after a Saints powerplay opportunity, a misplay behind their net would end up biting them.  Brett Meerman would jump on the loose puck and put it in the open cage as Grande Prairie would be the first to strike in Game 1.  It was an unfortunate way for the Saints to give up the first goal and they responded with a ton of pressure.

They threw a lot of shots to the net but couldn?t quite create dangerous enough shots to find the back of the net.  Grande Prairie was getting in shooting lanes and the ones that did go through were fought off by Lars Kaliel.  The Saints will have one more period to try and take a hold of this game, shots are 19-16 for the Saints after 40 minutes.

Third Period

8 minutes into the period, the Saints powerplay would finally break through.  On the 6th man advantage, the Saints would tie this game at 1 off a sweet individual effort from Jordan Biro.  He would show all the patience in the world, walking in from the left corner, out waiting Lars Kaliel and finishing it off.

That was a big goal but 2 minutes later, they would be dealt an unfortunate break. Austin Schellenberg walked into the middle of the ice and would release an absolute perfect shot post and in to give the Storm the lead right back.  The Saints would now need to find another goal in the last half of the period.

The Storm would take a penalty with 2 minutes left in the game and with Matt Davis pulled, the Saints would have a golden opportunity to tie this game late.  They threw everything they had at Lars Kaliel and they put on a huge final push to find the equalizer.  After a couple turnovers and clear outs, things looked very bleak.  With one final whistle with 4 seconds left, most people thought the Saints would be down 1-0 in the series?

That?s when out of nowhere, Nick Leyer blasts an absolute rocket from the top of the circle, beating Lars Kaliel and tying this game with 2.1 seconds left to play in regulation.  You couldn?t have scripted that better if you tried, as the Saints were just a hair away from dropping Game 1, but instead live to fight another period.  Shots were 35-22 for the Saints after 60 minutes as Game 1 will be decided in extra innings.

Overtime

There were definitely some nerves out there for both teams as the Overtime period got underway.  Both teams battled incredibly hard right to then end but the finishing blow would come just under 5 minutes into the Extra frame.  Brayden Nicholetts would circle the zone, waiting for an opportunity to create a scoring chance. 

He would then turn, fire a shot from the right boards and Sam Popowich would perfectly redirect it through the wickets of Lars Kaliel as the Saints take Game 1 in the most dramatic fashion possible.  Lots of great performances in this game tonight, Matt Davis was solid in net with 22 saves on 24 shots.  Nick Leyer was obviously one of the heroes and Jordan Biro was terrific all night.  The Saints would put up 40 shots on Lars Kaliel their pressure and chances would pay off right at the right time in the game.

The Saints will try and continue their winning ways tomorrow night as they look to take the first two games before heading up to Grande Prairie.  Puck drop is 7:00 PM tomorrow night here at the Grant Fuhr Arena.