The Halifax McDonald's only needed a period to resurrect their hopes and throw the Telus Cup standings into chaos.
© Times-Herald photo by Matthew Gourlie
Ethan Marsh from the Halifax McDonald's is stopped by Okanagan Rockets goalie Reid Kilburn, but Marsh was able to beat Kilburn with the rebound to score the game-winning goal in Halifax's 5-4 win Thursday at the Telus Cup in Moose Jaw.
The Macs scored four unanswered goals to stun the Okanagan Rockets 5-4 Thursday at the Telus Cup. The win leaves both teams tied with three points.
"That was amazing. That was probably one of the best games I've been a part of," said Ethan Marsh who scored the game-winning goal for Halifax with 3:23 left in the third period. It was Halifax' first win of the tournament.
"We have tried to not give up all week, but today it paid off. It was pretty special," added Marsh. "There was a little bit of doubt, but after the second goal we knew we had a shot. We could tell we were gaining momentum."
Halifax stayed disciplined and didn't get frustrated even as they fell behind.
"We haven't trailed in a lot of games this year. That was one of the biggest comebacks I've been a part of in my 16 years as a coach," said Halifax head coach Tim Boyce. "Kudos to our kids, they could have very easily mailed it in with the way their week is going so far."
Even trailing 7-1 to Châteauguay Wednesday, the Macs didn't quit and scored a couple of consolation goals before losing 7-3.
"There's no quit in these guys. In the Atlantic final we were down 4-2 midway through that game…and the guys stuck with it. They're a resilient bunch," added Boyce who took a puck in the face during the second period, but said he was fine.
It was a crushing loss for the Rockets who had tied their first three games and were a period away from being all but assured of a spot in Saturday's semifinals.
The Rockets came from behind in all three of their ties, but haven't been able to find a clutch goal to get them a win so far.
"To say some guys are snakebit would be an understatement," said Rockets head coach Mack O'Rourke. "I don't find we're playing the same hockey we played to get here. In order to beat a five-time provincial champion and a two-time national champion you have to play a big game and we did. We just haven't decided to play here.
"I don't know what the mental block is or what they think they've accomplished. When the goal is to win a national championship and you mail it in after a regional championship it's disappointing."
The game changed with a pair of goaltending changes. After falling behind 4-1, the Macs replaced Reilly Pickard with Justin Ritcey. At the start of the third period, the Rockets gave Reid Kilburn his first action of the tournament in place of starter Brendan Barry.
"Unfortunately Brendan had a bad neck and he's played 11 periods of hockey and it was starting to stiffen up, so we went with Reid," said O'Rourke. "I thought Reid did a phenomenal job in net. It's just unfortunate that the group of 20 guys can quit for 20 minutes at an event like this."
O'Rourke said Barry would get physiotherapy before their game Friday morning before determining if he will be able to start.
The Macs had no way to know that Barry was injured and what they perceived as a slight motivated them.
"I'm not going to lie, we used it as motivation on the bench," said Boyce. "The kids got fired up and the message was simple: cold goalie, he hasn't seen any action in the tournament, let's get a lot of pucks to the net."
Patrick Stewart got the comeback started with a power play goal six minutes into the third period for Halifax. Jordan Yochoff scored to get the Macs to within a goal and fill them with self-belief. Dillon Boucher tied the game and 51 seconds later Marsh buried the game-winner. Killburn went post to post to stop Marsh's backhand attempt, but Marsh roofed the rebound.
Killburn also made a great save to stop a Boucher deflection and finished with 12 saves.
"(Kilburn) made some big saves. If you break every play down it's soft plays by our guys," said O'Rourke. "We played hard for 30 or 40 minutes and decided to mail it in in the third period."
The Rockets got off to a good start as Kobe Oishi and Liam Finlay gave them a 2-0 lead after a period. Shawn Hubley got the Macs on the board, but Finlay scored his second of the game and Linden Hora scored to put the Rockets ahead 4-1.
Tanner Wishnowski and Mitchell Oliver each had three assists for the Rockets.
Even up 4-1, there were some cracks showing the Okanagan defence.
Barry made some huge saves to keep the lead comfortable for the Rockets. He stopped Barrett Dachyshyn short-handed and turned away Jacob Hickey on a partial breakaway. He also robbed Yochoff on a breakaway late in the middle frame.
The Macs win was another turn in a competitive tournament that has been full of ties and close games.
"All of the ties are kind of ridiculous," said Marsh. "All of the teams are so good here and all of the games are so close. It shows how much depth everyone has."