November 25, 2012
The hockey industry needs the NHL lockout to end, of course. It gets easier and easier to wait for the big league to end its labour standoff when junior hockey offers up moments such as the outstanding comeback Ryan Strome, Dougie Hamilton and the Niagara IceDogs had on Saturday night.
The two top-10 NHL picks were on Team Canada when it came within inches of coming back from five goals down to tie Russia in world junior semifinal in Calgary nearly 11 months ago. A Sudbury Wolves-IceDogs game in St. Catharines, Ont., involves smaller stakes and a smaller stages, but what happened is worth being called the Garden City miracle. The IceDogs earned a 6-5 shootout win after being down 5-1 to Sudbury with fewer than six minutes to play.
Where else but junior does a team overcome a four-goal deficit in the final 5½ minutes of regulation time, while killing off a penalty during that stretch? It's madness, I tells ya. It all starts 1:53 into TV Cogeco Ontario's recap.
Hamilton, who would have made his NHL debut with the Boston Bruins in October under normal circumstances (even though lockouts seem to be the NHL's new normal), was the game's first star with three points and the shootout clincher.
Strome, who assisted on all four goals during the improbable rally, was third star, but he seemed to be the catalyst. The 5-3 goal with 4:44 left by fellow Islanders pick Mitchell Theoret came about after Strome read the ice and found Hamilton for a shot from the faceoff circle. Then he he avoided a stick check by Sudbury's Justin Sefton to circle out from behind the goal to tee up Hamilton for the 5-4 goal with 27.3 seconds to play. Strome also threaded the needle for Dallas Stars prospect Brett Ritchie's tying goal with seven seconds left.
Strome was on the ice for three consecutive Wolves goals in the second period. That might have been a motivator for him to keep pushing his team to fight on even when the odds seemed remote. The beauty of the junior game is one or two exceptional talents can have that effect on a game when their team desperately needs it, unlike the obviously more balanced NHL.
Strome showed why there's reason to be excited about him when he turns pro, for sure. Hockey coaches will say a team cannot win a game in one period, but he, Hamilton and the IceDogs did it less than a third of one.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.