BROOKS, AB – A crowd of 1,708 at the Centennial Regional Arena was treated to the seventh-longest game in Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) history on Tuesday night, but was sent home heartbroken as Tanner Laderoute (Edmonton, AB) tipped a point shot at 9:23 of the third extra frame to give the Okotoks Oilers a dramatic 5-4 win over the Brooks Bandits.
The win ties the series at two wins a piece, meaning the series will stretch to at least a Game 6, which will be Sunday night in Brooks.
Okotoks opened the scoring just 45 seconds into the game when star defenceman Jacob Bernard-Docker was left alone in the slot to fire one by Mitch Benson (Windsor, ON). But on Brooks’ first power play of the game, Luke Bast (Red Deer, AB) scored from the right circle to tie it 1-1 at the 5:27 mark.
Nic Hamre (Ottawa, ON) gave the Bandits their first lead at 6:43 when he spun and fired a shot from the right half wall that unexpectedly floated over the glove of Okotoks goalie Riley Morris and into the net. But on the very next shift, Kyle Gordon scored off the rush from the slot to knot the game right back up, just 22 seconds after Brooks had taken the lead.
With less than a minute left, the Oilers scored off the faceoff when Zane Kindrachuk collected the puck off a net front scramble and fired it into the Brooks cage to make it 3-2 Oilers.
Okotoks extended its lead in a dominant second period on a Marc Pasemko goal off the rush from the left circle at the 15:17 mark, outshooting the Bandits 15-9 in the middle frame.
But Brooks was equally in control in the third, outshooting Okotoks 11-8 and storming back to force the extra frame. First, on a power play, Will Garin (Mound, MN) spun a puck from the side of the net to Hamre at the top of the crease for a one-time wrister into the back of the net to pull the Bandits within one just 6:08 into the period.
Less than three minutes later, Garin set up the tying goal, dropping a puck for Dennis Cesana (Providence, RI) to carry into the Okotoks zone down the right side; the captain’s wrister from the right circle perfectly picked the top left corner of the net to make it a 4-4 game.
The teams traded enormous chances in the extra frames. Regan Doig was found alone in the slot in the first overtime but shot a puck wide of the Brooks net. Kyle Gordon drove to the front of the Oiler net off an offensive zone draw but was denied point blank by Benson’s pad. A late scramble in front of the Oiler net led to close range chances for Hamre, Cesana, and Garin, but none could get the puck through a maze of sticks to score on a sprawling Morris, forcing the second overtime frame.
Nick Blankenburg had the best chance of the second overtime frame, charging in from the left point uncontested and ripping a wrist shot from the circle that clanged off the right post. A few shifts later, Cale List (Petawawa, ON) fed a pass diagonally from the left point to Garin at the right side of the net, but his one-time deflection was stopped by Morris who got across. Hamre later sped in on a breakaway for Brooks but missed the net high on a backhand shot. Hamre was again robbed, this time by the iron, on a shot off the rush from the right circle that caught the crossbar behind Morris.
Okotoks’ game-winner came straight off an offensive zone faceoff, as captain Carter Huber won it to Bernard-Docker at the right point. His pass across came to Ryan Roberts at the left point, and the defenceman’s wrister deflected off Laderoute and past Benson to send the Oilers streaming off the bench having tied the series.
The tension now mounts for Game 5, scheduled for Friday at 7PM at the Pason Centennial Arena.