No glass-kicking... Briercrest skates to a tie
It could have been so much more... The Briercrest Clippers faced off against the Portage Voyageurs Friday night with two huge points on the line for the late-season playoff push. Portage occupies the basement of the ACAC, and, with Briercrest's strong play of late, the plan was to show up and get a result against a team they've already beaten twice this season.
Briercrest started the first period with uncharacteristically sloppy play, putting passes into skates and showing none of the crisp, energetic form that served them so well last weekend as they knocked off the top-tier MacEwan Griffins. Give credit to Portage, they came to play and shrugged off their last-place status in taking an early lead on their second shot of the game. Josh Dufresne would quickly tie it up, assisted by Aaron Armstrong and Brett Lafond.
Matt Melo's hard work drew a penalty shortly thereafter, but Briercrest would generate no shots on the power play and Portage retook the lead after the penalty expired. Dufresne then teamed up with Taylor Epp to get the puck to BJ Pirus, who sent a prayer from the point past the Portage goaltender to knot the score at 2's. It was at that point that some over-exhuberant celebrants knocked two panes of glass onto the ice, causing a lengthy delay. When play resumed, Portage took advantage of a defensive-zone breakdown to retake the lead.
The second period saw Briercrest pick up their tempo a little, and checking was tighter on both sides. Connor Dobberthien made an amazing save from a shot in close to keep things within one. Briercrest would get two glorious opportunities to put the puck in the net, but the second period came to a close with no further scoring and the home side trailing Portage 3-2 going into the second intermission.
Things got wilder in the third. Jordaan Braun rang a hard shot off the post early to ratchet up the tension, and both teams seemed more interested in tilting the result their way. A bad line change led to a break for Portage, and they capitalized to extend the lead to 4-2. Stephen Langford electrified the crowd with an incredible individual effort, scoring five-hole while falling down to bring Briercrest back within one. Portage would again answer, going back up 5-3 with less than nine minutes remaining. It was then Aaron Armstrong's turn to dazzle, taking the puck coast to coast and scoring left when the goalie was moving right. The lamp lit and Portage's lead was 5-4 with the clock winding down. There was palpable tension from there on out as Briercrest threw everything at Portage to equalize. Dirk de Waal provided the heroics with just over three minutes left, tipping home a hard Pirus shot to tie the game 5-5 and bring on overtime.
The sudden-death period had some good chances both ways, and a clutch penalty kill by the home team, but the night ended in a tie.
Briercrest will take some small solace in fighting back to win a point on this night, but to a man they know that this was a winnable game. BJ Pirus was Player of the Game for Briercrest, while Jesse Hall won the honours for the guests. The weekend double-header concludes tomorrow at 2:00pm.
If you can’t make it to the Barkman Arena watch online at ACAC.tv.
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