Tony D’Amato has nothing on Sandy Henry.
The Calgary Flames outscored the Foothills CFR Chemicals Bisons 9-2 in the first periods through Game 4 of the Alberta Midget Hockey League Chrysler division semifinals.
Bisons’ head coach Henry had enough.
After his team hit the first intermission trailing 3-0 for the second straight series-clinching game, Henry’s message found that magical balance of stripping the paint off the walls, while still encouraging his troops to find their game again.
“I really called out their character between the first and second. How can you dare bring that game, to your fans and to the people that care about you?” said Henry. “But there is character in there. Playoff hockey is less about X and O’s, and more about heart and passion. We didn’t have it at the start, but, somehow, this team can find a way to get it when they need to.”
The message was received. He turned the fortunes of his club around, completing the comeback; in a thrilling 5-4 overtime win Monday night at Father David Bauer Arena.
Kaden Hanas has been a spark plug for this team this season. He was at it once again in the second, when he dashed down the right wing, sniping an opening over the left shoulder, short side on Ben Howard.
Customary after any Hanas goal, he is typically spotted throwing himself into the boards or the nearest teammate’s arms in celebration.
This time, he just put his helmet down, joined in on the circle hug after the goal and skated back to his bench.
“(Sandy) let us know that we were a lot better than what we were showing. He didn’t want us to go out like this and it set a fire under our butts again,” said Hanas, who lead the Bisons with four goals this series. “Sandy gets his message through, whether it’s quiet or loud, he got to us in the right way and it showed.”
Once again, Hanas found the back of the net minutes later, sending a shot a few steps from inside the blue line past a screened Howard, followed by a more Hanas-esque reaction.
Just as the Bisons appeared to be making a push, Blake Wells drove defenseman Ian Dubourdieu into the boards behind the Flames net. Whether Dubourdieu lost an edge with Wells was hot on his trail was uncertain. Either way, Wells was handed a five-minute major and a game misconduct.
He is potentially looking at a one-game suspension.
The Flames capitalized once on the five-minute major, nullifying the Bison momentum.
Insert Zach Huber.
Huber normally bangs in the majority of his goals via a one-timing clap-bomb.
Not wanting to take this game back to Strathmore for a winner-take-all Game 5, Huber put his nose down and drove to the dirty, Ryan-Smyth goal-scoring area.
He scored two goals 2:31 seconds apart, stuffing in pucks around the mouth of the goal, tying the game at four with half a period left to play.
“We weren’t thinking about the next game or the next series, we just played with desperation and we know if we play that way, it usually leads to success,” said Huber.
Goaltending was one of the many strong points for the Bisons this season. Both Ben Laidlaw and Hunter Young were among tops in the AMHL in nearly every goaltending category. For whatever reason, they weren’t as bulletproof this series as they were throughout the regular season.
Already yielding nine goals in the first two games, and three more in the opening frame Monday night, Laidlaw threw everything he knew out the window and focused on stopping the puck.
“Numbers don’t mean anything in the playoffs; it’s all about getting wins and keep carrying that forward,” said Laidlaw. “I love the big games and the big moments. It was fun being out there tonight.”
After the Bisons knotted things at four, the Flames made their push. Controlling the puck in the Herd’s zone, Laidlaw lost his stick making one save and ended up flat on his butt with the puck on Ben Sanderson’s stick, 10 feet out. Laidlaw went old-school, throwing any body part he could in the way of the initial and rebound shot attempt, preserving the tie.
“I usually play a technical game, but in the third period and overtime I flopped around a little bit and it worked — whatever you have to do to make the save,” said Laidlaw.
The rest of the third period was insane. The teams finished regulation tied 4-4, with the Bisons carrying a slight edge in shots, 38-36.
Brandon Machado was the hero in Game 2 in overtime, and his line was back on the ice for the series-clincher.
A mess developed in front of the Flames net. Machado took a whack at the puck, Joel Krahenbil took a baseball hack at a dangling puck, as the ref furiously waved the no-goal sign.
“It popped out to me and I had a good shot at it. I happened to be at the right spot at the right time,” said Bisons captain Brett Trentham.
The goal came at the 3:32 mark of overtime, as the remaining Bisons flew over the boards, swarming Trentham, celebrating the biggest goal of the season.
“That was a lot of fun and I’m happy to be a part of it. Hopefully we carry the momentum over to the next series,” said Trentham.
The Bisons got to enjoy Trentham’s series-saving goal on the bus ride home, but not for too long, as a massive series against the Calgary Buffaloes looms on deck in the division finals.
The Buffs took both regular season meetings from the Bisons and were the only team to shut the Herd out this season.
The schedule for the next round is still being finalized, along with the two participants from the Dodge division.
For a series recap and a preview of the Buffs-Bisons series, be sure to check out this week’s edition of The Strathmore Times.