Don't get mad, get even was the theme of the night as the Spartans orchestrated the go-ahead winner with just over three minutes left on a piece of side-wall brilliance that sent the home-side faithful home happy with an 8 - 7 win over the Wallaceburg Red Devils.
You could feel the many momentum swings in the thick south St. Catharines air, the first when an early Wallaceburg double minor almost derailed the Spartan steam engine before it even left the station. The subsequent powerplay passing was careless and sloppy, and the visitors happily took it upon themsleves to push the ball down-floor. There they were rewarded by some lackadaisical back-checking that made the Spartans look seriously awful on a couple of shorthanded markers.
This gave Wallaceburg all the first period confidence they needed to dictate the play with their upbeat, spirited play as the visitors pushed to the attack. Fortunately for the Spartans, the Red Devils good looks at goalie Doug Buchan were not buried, but then again the methodical-looking home-side offense could do little more than fire wildly from the outskirts. But one of these long-prayers would be answered in the closing seconds a Jake Dion placed a 30-footer through traffic and into the net, and the Spartans escaped the first period trailing by just 2 to 1.
From a set-piece attack early in the second, the Spartans tied it at two as Mark Vrandenburg slipped, slid and shivered around multiple checks until only goalie Brennor Jacobs remained. For much of the next ten minutes, the Spartans stretched out the floor with their quick defence-to-offense transition that had Jacobs facing frequent two-on-ones or clear brake-aways. Wallaceburg was struggling on their line changes with the bench in the "O" end, and even though the Spartans weren't capitalizing, you could sense they were gaining confidence as they put it to the visitors. Suddenly in the closing minutes of period two, the flood gates opened and goals came in bunches. Twice Wallaceburg took the lead only to find that the Spartans had the answer. Finally, husky Jordan Durston of Wallaceburg, while running east-west, made a nice fake-pass to the right creaseman before firing a hot one from 20 feet that fooled Buchan, and the Red Devils went into the second intermission with a 5 to 4 lead.
The Spartans busted out of the gate in the third like Secretariat and within seconds were in close on a two-on-one. Foiled by Jacobs, but then in an instant, they were back at the crease and this time there was no missing to make the score 5 to 5 at 28 seconds.
Within a couple of minutes they had their first lead as Corey Antongiovanni scored a pretty, Steenhuis-type, swing wide around the defender before the cross-crease dive to reach the far goal-post. #88 played a nice game on offense as well as on the P.K. and he came up with some hard-fought looseys.
The Spartans seemed to take control after a tight angle goal by Trevor Hines at 6:23 to make it 7 to 5, and looked entirely confident and capable, and perhaps even positioned to shut down Wallaceburg. The visitors needed some kind of a spark as the period wore down, and the spark came from some in-your-face hard-nosed "D" that had Spartan bodies flying and some angry looks and strong verbage exchanged. After the dust cleared, the Spartans found themselves shorthanded for being the poor sports, and Wallaceburg saw the door crack open just a little. A good shooter like Rob Pollock doesn't need much more than a small opportunity and with seconds he had the Red Devils back within one.
Spartan fandom was getting more unsettled as they just wanted this game to be over already. But sweet-shooting Clint Lamarsh demonstrated a little glimpse of what made him a 53 goal score this year by calmly walking around a well placed screen and firing the lightning-bolt equalizer, and this game suddenly was in a place that seemed very far from being over though the clock showed 5:23.
Wallaceburg was the team walking tall, but the Spartans too looked like the rooster of the barn-yard. The winning goal came late and was a matter of turning nothing into something in the blink of an eye. Spartan Nick Baum was the ball courier on a breakout and found himself double-teamed during some rugged board action when he sensed the presense of a team-mate near mid-floor. The best he could do was to put the ball in a place where only Charlie could get it, and the one-bounce shovel was run down by Sheehan with nothing but wide-open spaces between him and an 8 to 7 Spartan lead. He made no mistake. The Spartans held on through some wild and woolly last second dramatics, and then high-fived with game one secured in this playoff series.
Game two is in Wallaceburg on Saturday night, with game three back here in Spartanland next Saturday at 4 pm.
I really miss the game reports. Wish I could see more of them. This one was especially good.
Used to be a lot of game reports posted a few years ago. It takes time to write them and too often the person writing the report was attacked by some idiot with an agenda. I hope that your game report inspires more people to share their game experience with others.
Again thank you!