The Midget AA Wildcats put up quite the fight in Game 1 of the Centre Four Hockey League Final, but dropped a 3-2 decision to North East in double overtime on March 18, at the Legends Centre.
By the second overtime period, Wildcats Coach Terence Presniak noticed that his team was slowing down, but overall he thought the Wildcats competed hard.
“I’m proud of the boys, it was a gritty effort. In the end, we were running on fumes,” he said.
North East scored the game winner on a power-play. The visitors had three man-advantages to Warman’s zero in the two overtime periods, which Presniak thought gave North East the edge.
“I would’ve liked our odds if we would’ve had three power-plays in overtime too. But that’s hockey, and those are the breaks,” he said.
Both teams didn’t find the back of the net in the opening period.
The second period was a whole different story. The Wildcats started fast and furious, generating pressure right away, which led to Warman’s first foal of the game. Mark Walchuk was the goal scorer
North East answered back with two goals of its own, to take a 2-1 lead. Presniak saw some defensive lapses that lead to those goals.
“It was about playing tight defence and we did that most of the game. And those two goals, it was two missed assignments and really that’s what it came down to letting them score,” Presniak said.
Late in the period, the Wildcats tied the game on the man-advantage as Walchuk netted his second goal of the game.
North East really turned up the heat in the final 48 seconds of the period, spending all of that time in Warman’s zone while on a 5-on-3 power-play. Warman goaltender Corbin Christianson came up big, making some desperation saves.
“Our goaltender, Corbin came back and had a strong game, so that was nice to see,” Presniak said. “He made some very timely saves when we had to kill a 5-on-3.”
In the third period, with around thirteen minutes still left to play, Warman had a 5-on-3 for a full two minutes, but the Wildcats couldn’t capitalize.
“I found that we were just taking our time and we weren’t gaining zone entry, everyone was thinking too much, rather than just skating it in,” Presniak said.
During that power-play, Wildcats captain Matthew Conlon got drilled into the boards and had to leave the game. His injury was definitely on the players’ mind, according to Presniak. He said Conlon will probably be out of the lineup for the rest of the playoffs.
After regulation ended in a 2-2 tie a 10-minute overtime period was played and a second 20-minute period was required to finish the game.
Going into Game 2 of the best-of-five series, Presniak said it was important for the Wildcats to respond.
“Do we pack our bags because our captain’s gone? Or do we bare down and play tougher and smarter and see what happens,” Presniak said.
Game 2 was in Nipawin on Wednesday, March 22. Results were not available at press time. Game 3 is back at the Legends Centre on Saturday, March 24. Puck drops at 7:30 p.m.
The Wildcats advanced to the CFHL final after defeating the Unity Lazers in Game 5 of a gruelling series that could’ve went either way.