Briercrest silences Thunder in overtime thriller

Posted: November 6, 2015

In Rio Bravo, John Wayne gets asked to compare two of his deputies- which one is better? He replies, "I'd hate to have to live on the difference." That's really the way it seems with the Briercrest Clippers and any opponent in the ACAC. Watching these guys skate, pass, and shoot with the speed and skill that they have makes it hard to imagine there's actually another group out there capable of beating them. This weekend's test was the Condordia Thunder, a team that Briercrest split the season series with last year.

First period action was fast and tight checking. An early penalty to Concordia gave Briercrest a chance to draw first blood, and they executed well. Jacob Baribeau made a deft play at the blue line to keep the puck in and feed it to Joachim Hanberg, who beautifully set up Taylor Epp for a 1-0 lead. Later in the first, Epp drew a penalty in the offensive zone. On the ensuing man-advantage, Micah Abbott danced around a defender and served up a perfect pass to Brett Lafond, who ripped a sharp angle blast that beat Thunder goaltender Rhys Hadfield. The visitors replied a few minutes later, and Briercrest took a 2-1 lead into the first break.

The pace picked up in the second period, and Concordia managed to tie the game at the 4:46 mark. It was the heroics of Briercrest goaltender Christian Mueller that kept things even during a subsequent penalty kill- diving across the crease to deny a Thunder wraparound chance. Brennan Gasmo was also stellar while shorthanded- throwing a good hit and clearing the puck out of the zone. Ricky Seidel then helped Briercrest grab the game by the throat as he scored after some good cycling by Epp and Baribeau, and added a shorthanded goal just over a minute later. After forty minutes Briercrest had outshot the guests 30-26 and led 4-2.

The ice was still wet seconds into the third when the Thunder struck to close the gap to 4-3. A high-sticking double minor assessed to Briercrest moments later had the visitors pressing for the equalizer, but once again the home team's penalty kill was up to the challenge. Briercrest created some good chances to try to close things out, but couldn't find an insurance goal. With just under four minutes remaining, the Thunder lit the lamp on a screened shot and the teams headed into overtime.

The tight checking that dominated regulation play was now thrown out the window, and fans were treated to wide open, sudden death hockey. Mueller made a good save early on, and Epp had the crowd on their feet as he rang a hard shot off the crossbar. Hanberg made that irrelevant, however, taking advantage of some time and space to deke in and roof a gorgeous goal past Hadfield for the win. He commented on his game winner: "I was thinking of dumping it in but no one was really going on me, so I took one more step, and the defenseman didn't go at me either, so I just went in, deked the goalie, and put the backhand in top shelf." A big crowd was on hand at the Barkman arena to celebrate as the rest of the team poured onto the ice to mob Hanberg. 

The difference between teams in this league is never very much, but it sure is a good feeling for everyone at Briercrest when the team comes out on top. Players of the game were Joachim Hanberg for Briercrest and Brandon Halls for Concordia. Catch tomorrow's rematch at 2:00pm.

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