Championship teams need different players step up at different times.
In Game 1, Zach Huber scored the game-winning goal and picked up two assists.
In Game 2, Brandon Machado and Tyson Scott scored the biggest goals of their lives, capping off a 6-5 come from behind, overtime victory.
Things weren’t looking good for the Foothills CFR Chemicals Bisons midway through the second Thursday night during the Alberta Midget Hockey League Chrysler division semifinals at Father David Bauer Arena.
The Bisons were hemorrhaging power play goals and trailed 4-1 to a surging Calgary Flames squad that seemed hell bent on evening the series up at one game a piece.
“It was pretty frustrating at times, but we just made sure we kept a positive attitude because we have proven many times this season that we have the skill to score five goals in a period if we have to,” said Machado.
Ben Laidlaw had a couple bad bounces go against him and a few broken offensive plays ended up in the back of the net. His most important play was hustling to the bench with time winding down in regulation.
“Well, were hoping for a whistle in the last two minutes so we could set something up, but we didn’t get it. So we threw everything but the kitchen sink on net and scratched it out,” said Bisons assistant coach Mike Langen.
“I don’t even think I was supposed to be out there,” joked a raspy-sounding Scott, who lost his voice in the third period.
Scott, who was playing in his first ever period of overtime, came up with the biggest goal of his life.
With 17 seconds remaining and Laidlaw sitting on the bench, the puck bounced to Scott. Already with one goal on the night, he started whacking away, somehow finding an angle between Howard and the right post, jamming in the tying goal with 15.6 seconds remaining.
A 10-minute, five-on-five overtime period followed with the Bisons carrying all the momentum.
Just over three minutes into the extra frame, Brett Trentham worked the puck near the top of the Flames zone by the right faceoff circle. Machado joined the play late and was able to sneak into the zone undetected.
“I knew I was by myself back door so I started screaming for the puck. Brett made a great pass and I was able to bury it,” said the Saskatoon Blades prospect Machado.
The Bisons bench spilled onto the ice celebrating the dramatic come from behind victory, as all the Flames could do was dig the puck out of their net and fire it against the glass in frustration.
The comeback began eight minutes into the second period. Machado took a pass from Joel Krahenbil in the corner and piped one from the slot. Flames netminder Ben Howard stopped most of it, but not all of it, as the puck crawled across the goal line, cutting the Flames lead to 4-2.
“We had a tough time getting going in the second period. We faced some adversity with all the penalties, but we stuck with it,” said Scott.
With Tyler Petrie and Tarun Fizer scratched from the lineup with a pair of lower-body injuries, the Bisons called up affiliated players Tucker Zdunich from the Foothills Bisons and Ryan Ries of the Airdrie Lightning.
Zdunich, playing in his sixth game this season, registered his first goal off a faceoff win in the Flames zone, cutting the deficit to 5-3.
After a tightly called middle frame and a bit of a tongue lashing from some of the fans, the refs swallowed their whistles in the third.
The Bisons entered desperation mode in the final stanza. The creativity of Jackson Salt and Peyton Krebs was on full display once again. The Okotoks natives cycled the puck back and forth down low, peering for any chance at an opening. After nearly a minute of zone time, they spotted Landon Melzer at the point, and the clubhouse leader for playoff beards bombed one off the crossbar.
Kaden Hanas picked up a goal in the series opener and always plays with a sense of controlled recklessness, trying to spark the team. He was all over the ice once again in Game 2.
Melzer took the puck from a Blake Wells faceoff win and casually dumped the puck towards the net. Crashing hard, Hanas lunged at the puck and got a friendly bounce, chipping the puck off a defenseman, through Howard from behind the net, bringing the Bisons within one.
“You can tell that (Scott and Hanas) handle the pressure of the big minutes better than they did last year,” said Langen. “That’s something we look for out of all our vets.”
Grabbing a 2-0 firm grasp on the series, the Bisons have a few days off before looking to close it out at home. Game 3 is set for Sunday (2 p.m.) at the Strathmore Family Centre.
As for a sense of urgency up 2-0, Langen put it best: “We just don’t want to play again on Monday.”
The Calgary Buffaloes have a chance to finish off their series in the other Chrysler semifinal, when they look for the sweep Saturday against the Calgary Northstars.