Another very entertaining game at the Castle, but this time, the home team couldn't come away with the “W”. Game 3 in the best of 7 with Merritt was what a lot of us expected, a close, gritty contest that would take until the final shot or two to decide. Ultimately, that is what we got, as Merritt took another win, but this time needing an extra frame. The Spruce Kings certainly aren't eliminated yet, but they have a big hole to climb out of, and they don't have a lot of time to figure out how to do it. If they plan on picking up their first win of the series tomorrow, they will need a much better start than they did tonight.
We talked about it during the pre game, how the Spruce Kings needed to establish their game earlier. It seemed though that the playoff jitters had hit them as the Centennials came out flying, out chancing the home team early. They eventually got the games first goal, as Reece Willcox put home a feed from Jakob Reichert. The tally silenced the crowd, and got things off to a sour start. Luckily for the Spruce Kings, they were blessed with a power play opportunity, and Gerry Fitzgerald had no intention of letting the game stay the way it was. He put home a nice passing play that started with Chase Golightly and his brother Myles. The goal was the teams first power play marker of the series, although it wouldn't hold them in a tie for long. Sean Maktaak just 3:30 later to give his team the eventual lead they would take into the intermission.
Things then took a turn for the worst, as the Centennials scored just over 1 minute into the period to take their first 2 goal lead of the game. Dylan Chanter got the goal on a weird play that saw Thompson end up on his stomach, with a bunch of players just standing around, wondering where the puck even was. As it turned out, it bounced back to Chanter, who easily slapped one into a yawning cage. The goal sucked the wind out of the Coliseum, and left many wondering if we were witnessing a blue print of the first two games. But, just as we mentioned in the broadcast that we'd like to see more out of the top line, they responded with an energy shift that eventually saw Paul De Jersey put home a Michael Colanotne rebound. It was the only one of the period for the Spruce Kings, but put them down only by one heading into the final frame.
The third period ended up being owned by the Spruce Kings, but unfortunately for them, they could only score once. Myles Fitzgerald tied the game up half way through, and the building regained it's electricity. The Spruce Kings used that momentum to fire shot after shot at Lino Chimienti, but alas, could not beat him. Their best chance came in the final minute, as Jujhar Khaira had a decent look at an open net, but couldn't capitalize. When the horn sounded, the scored was still identical, so it was off to overtime we went.
The start of the extra period started as the third period looked, all Prince George. They attacked, and pounded away, but couldn't beat the Centennials net minder. Paul De Jersey even had a breakaway attempt just 30 seconds in, but he made one to many moves, lost control of the puck and allowed a stream of players to crash into the net stopping play. The crowd tried to argue that the puck had crossed the line, but Chimienti fought off the surge. After some more Spruce Kings pressure, the Cents worked up ice, applied a few chances before taking advantage of a fortunate bounce. A Prince George defender attempted to clear the puck, but it took an unlucky bounce off of a stanchion, bounced right in front of Evan Stack who than stepped into the gift, sending it top corner. Players and fans looked on in disbelief as Stack was mobbed by his teammates in Kirk Thompsons crease. It was a sour end, to a great push by the Spruce Kings.
In the end, a slow start, bad bounces and sloppy play in the first two periods helped cost Prince George their first playoff win since March 2nd, 2009. They had chances at the end of the 3rd, and even quality chances in overtime, but couldn't bury them. When that happens, you usually lose off of a unlucky, or in Merritt's case, lucky bounce. They'll need to play a full 60 minutes, and leave everything out on the ice if they hope to start the comeback tomorrow. They fought extremely hard at times tonight, and really poured it on the ice in the final two frames, but the disappointment of being swept now looms. They'll have to dig deep, find every ounce of strength and get ready for what they can only hope, is the ride of their lives.
To read the full box score recap, click here
The Three Stars:
Plain and simple, win and live to see another day. Game 4 will play out at the Coliseum tomorrow night, with the puck dropping at 7pm. After what has been a magical season for the Spruce Kings, being swept in your first playoff appearance in a few years would certainly leave a disappointing taste. Battle hard, don't panic and earn another trip into Merritt. Don't forget, the game will be broadcast on CFIS, so bring your hand held radio's with you and get the full play by play as you watch. We hope to see a packed rink supporting the boys!! Let's get that playoff win!