The Prince Albert Mintos had to wait until the game’s dying seconds – 5.1 seconds left in overtime, to be exact.
But they emerged victorious over the Beardy’s Blackhawks Tuesday night in Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League action from the Art Hauser Centre, beating their highway 11 rivals 4-3 on Josh Pillar’s shot.
The Blackhawks were on the penalty kill after a Tristan Weigel cross checking penalty at 4:00 of the extra frame.
As the puck made its way into Beardy’s corner and the clock’s seconds ticked down, fellow forward Kishaun Gervais grabbed the loose puck, turned around and fired it over to Pillar, who was waiting in the high slot area.
It bounced off Pillar’s skates; he knew he had to get it off quickly and eek out one final chance at scoring.
He did and it worked.
Resembling the trajectory of a knuckle ball pitch in baseball, Pillar’s quick swipe at the puck caused it to float up and arch back down into the Blackhawk’s net, fooling goalie Shaemus McLeod as the netting behind him ricocheted from the black rubber’s bounce.
4-3 Prince Albert, 5.1 seconds before the looming shootout.
Though he’s had overtime goals in the past, none of them have come so late in the extra period, Pillar said after the win.
“We were just working around the outside, and then I guess there was kind of a lane through middle.
“And Kishaun passed it to me, and it was just kind of really fast and just in my feet. So I swung at it, and it popped up it; the goalie didn’t see it.”
His assistant coach, Bryan Swystun, spoke highly of him.
“He’s a type of kid that keeps working hard, and you know what? It’s nice to see him get rewarded tonight.”
Swystun underscored how the 15-year-old’s calm, mature demeanor helps his team stabilize itself through tricky game situations like those in Tuesday’s game.
“We seem to get frustrated at times, Josh as well, when we play teams like this. You know, how many posts did we hit tonight; how many open nets did we miss?
“We are just working on keeping that even-keel. And Josh is one of those players that we look for when times are like that, when we get frustrated because pucks are not going in.”
Swystun concluded, “he lets his paly do the talking. He’s not a voice-type leader. He leads by example.”
Austin Lamotte also assisted on Pillar’s game-winning goal.
Despite the late overtime penalty to Weigel, both teams played disciplined hockey, tallying only four total penalties.
The scoring was tight throughout the game, too.
The Mintos and the Blackhawks traded blows twice through the first period, heading into the second frame tied 2-2.
After Mintos forward Parker Fofonoff scored at 4:32 in the second period, his team held the one-goal lead until the last three minutes of regulation play: Blackhawks left winger Talon Thomas tapped in the equalizing goal at 17:12 of the third period.
Thomas’ teammates found some success in the final regulation period by pressing the Mintos defencemen – both on the forecheck and the backcheck.
“They’re always a hard-working team,” Prince Albert defenceman Kade McMillen said. “They get the pucks deep and force the defencemen pretty hard. They ended up scoring a goal kind of off a rush.”
Prince Albert had some penalty trouble of its own.
The team was assessed a bench minor at 18:54 of the third period, guaranteeing the Mintos a penalty kill scenario in overtime.
It appeared that head coach Ken Morrison had some disagreements with one of the referees. But Swystun said he didn’t know what the specific matter was regarding.
“I’m not sure. I think they were just exchanging recipes, and I don’t think he liked the recipe that Kenny gave him.”
Going into the extra frame down one skater forced his team to focus on proper penalty kill set-up in their zone and to prepare for lots of passing and puck movement, the coach said. “We told them to pick up their feet and getting ready to skate.”
“It doesn’t happen that often, but yeah it’s a confidence booster to know we can kill that off with a minute left in the game and then a minute into overtime,” McMillen said.
Beardy’s head coach Dale Grayston gave his team a five out of ten rating for the game.
“I think our third period was our best period … but everything is tied to passing and cycling, and P.A. really distanced themselves from us, especially with the cycle game, and controlling the puck.
“Their defence made good, cross-ice seam passes to get them out of their zone fast. We adjusted to that, but truthfully, up to the third period, they were the better team.”
Tanner Robin and Kevin Ledoux also scored for the Mintos, both in the first period; Fofonoff, Gervais, Luke Nkwama and Dylan Scriven assisted on those goals; Gervais and Turner Rea assisted on Fofonoff’s second period goal.
The Mintos now sit in third place in the 12-team league; they have 14 wins, three losses, two shootout losses and no overtime losses (14-3-2-0).
They next play at home on Saturday, Dec. 2 against the first-place Regina Pat Canadians. Game time is 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.
The team will then host the fifth-place Swift Current Legionnaires on Sunday afternoon at 1:45.