March 30, 2014
The score in headline above can refer to both the series and Game 6 itself, as Nick Ritchie and the Peterborough Petes are one win away from overcoming the deepest of deficits against the Kingston Frontenacs. Meantime, North Bay is back to level ground against Niagara, setting up a pair of Game 7 showdowns on Tuesday. One will be hosted by a team that is reeling, the other by a Battalion bunch that has come to life. On with the post-game questions:
Peterborough 5 Kingston 4 (tied 3-3, Frontenacs host Game 7 on Tuesday) — Why should the Petes be confident they can finish the job? Peterborough, for whatever reason, has had more collective stamina over the last past three games, which were jammed into the space of four days.
Sunday marked the first time it came out ahead on the shot counter (46-41, including 33-16 across the final 40 minutes). Its defence corps, led by captain Connor Boland, overages Nelson Armstrong and Clark Seymour and the first-rounder Matt Spencer, who had an assist on the goal that cut Kingston's lead to 4-3 in the second, has sealed off the slot for the past two games. It held Kingston to a singleton at 5-on-5 on Sunday and steadily chipped away at an early 3-0 deficit that it fell into after a string of early penalties.
It was the second game in a row that Kingston scored three in the opening 20 before fading.
"It's character," first star Hunter Garlent (1G-2A, +1), who scored the winning goal with 3:43 left, told TV Cogeco Peterborough. "I do think we need better starts and try to get the first one. But it shows confidence in all 20 guys on the bench, every person chipping in and doing whatever it takes to win. No one's given up.
"We're going back to their rink and we won there last game."
The Frontenacs clicked for three power-play goals in the first on man advantages that lasted a combined 61 seconds. It gave it back, though, giving a short-handed goal to Ritchie (2G-1A, +3) on its other extra-skater opportunity. Petes goalie Andrew D'Agostini also kicked out a Henri Ikonen penalty shot in the last minute of the frame to preserve a 4-2 scoreline.
Who does Todd Gill put in goal for Game 7, overage Matt Mahalak or 18-year-old Lucas Peressini? It will probably be the overage Mahalak (3.59/.890 in regular season, 3.03/.910 in the series), who was lifted after the Petes scored on two of their first five shots to cut into the early deficit. The conventional thinking is to go back to the experienced goalie.
There's plenty of anecdotal evidence to cherry-pick for either side of the argument for Peressini, who stopped 34-of-37 shots across the final 40 minutes while the Petes earned and enjoyed the run of play. Both Matt McCartney's leveler with 7:59 left and Garlent's winner were softies. McCartney pounced after Peressini lost sight of a rebound and the puck lay loose in the crease. Ont the winner, Garlent's slapshot on a rolling puck knuckled and squeaked through Peressini's five-hole to give the Petes their one and only lead.
Peressini came back from the bad break to make a breakaway save on Josh MacDonald with 90 seconds left to keep Kingston extant. Far be it to couch-coach, but Kingston needs a shakeup.
North Bay 5 Niagara 1 (tied 3-3, Battalion host Game 7 on Tuesday) — How thoroughly have the Troops controlled the past two games? Try a 75-36 edge in shots on goal and a proportionate edge in the scoring chances. The Battalion, led by sophomore Mike Amadio (2G-1A, +2), got back the one game it needed to win in the cozy confines of St. Catharines' Jack Gatecliff Arena.
The vets who should be North Bay's steadier sources of scoring, San Jose Sharks signing Barclay Goodrow and Tampa Bay Lightning second-rounder Dylan Blujus, tallied early. After that the Battalion got down to playing lockdown defence.
The IceDogs' lone goal was an off-the-faceoff floater by rookie defenceman Blake Siebenaler (who's living up to his promise in this series) that was redirected home by Matt Gillard. Its chances against North Bay goalie Jake Smith came sporadically. Smith's biggest, perhaps best, save was kicking out a close-range Hayden McCool shot. Amadio scored off a rush later in the sequence.
The big takeaway was probably how Smith was able to lean in and be sharp despite the paucity of shots. He allowed three goals on 13 shots in Game 5.
"It's hard to get into a rhythm when you get so few shots," Smith told the North Bay Nugget. "Kind of like golf. Whenever you're waiting after a shot, you can't into a rhythm, right? Got some bad bounces, too. Fortunately the boys came out and played a hell of game there, so now we're playing it one game at a time and we have one game left."
A golf analogy when you're one game from elimination? To quote Russell Brand/Aldous Snow, what an enigmatic and confident young man.
What can the 'Dogs pin their hopes to for Game 7 on the road after losing two in a row? IceDogs coach-GM Marty Williamson has pulled every card he can in the series, but still has the all-the-pressure-is-on-them card. Centre Carter Verhaeghe is gamely playing through a lower-body injury and goalie Brent Moran still has a 3.01/9.18 slash line in spite of some late tack-on goals after the issue was settled on Sunday. North Bay's a strong bet to advance, but one has to account for the randomness innate to any hockey, let alone junior.
"I think we were too ramped up and trying to make things happen and that’s not a good way to play the game," Williamson told the St. Catharines Standard.
“There might be some weight off us. Everybody has counted us out again and when we got ahead I think people thought we were going to win, and now nobody expects us to go up there and win.
A young IceDogs team winning Game 7 on the road against a team with a long-tenured coach? Never heard of that before.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.