A near-capacity crowd at the Kinsmen Arena was gearing up for overtime on Tuesday night.
However, Saskatoon Royals forward Nolan Haugen had other plans.
The 19-year-old forward fired a long-range shot that fooled Prince Albert Titans netminder Carson Schewaga and found the back of the net with 0.7 seconds left on the clock to give the Royals a dramatic 4-3 win and evened up the best-of-three Prairie Junior Hockey League opening round series at a game apiece.
“I got the puck along the wall there with a few seconds left and I saw the boys driving the net,” Haugen said. “It was pretty much all instincts from that point and I just shot the puck on net.
“It magically went in and it was a great feeling to help the boys get the win.”
Although the finish was a punch in the gut for the sixth-ranked Titans, they still have one more shot to pull off the upset over the third-seeded Royals on Thursday in a 7:45 p.m. matchup at the Rod Hamm Arena.
“We got another crack at it,” Titans head coach Kim Dryka said. “After we stole that first game from them on Sunday in Saskatoon, we had two opportunities to get it done.
“I want to see the guys give it all they got and put it all on the line on Thursday.”
After making 58 saves in a 3-1 win over the Royals in the series opener, Schewaga was stellar yet again on Tuesday as he turned aside 41 shots.
“He’s given us an opportunity to win these two games and hopefully he’s up for another one on Thursday,” Dryka said.
“It was a see-saw battle out there. They scored on us early and then it was back and forth for the rest of the first period. There wasn’t much scoring in the second and then we tied it up at three in the third, but we just had a miscue on one play and that cost us the game.”
Kevin Ledoux led the way for the Titans with a goal and an assist each, while Braeden Mishak and Jakob Tournier also found the back of the net.
The Royals had a balanced offensive attack on Tuesday as Damon Vanderlinde, Dylan Francis and Nicholas Erickson joined Haugen on the scoresheet.
“It was playoff hockey tonight and I think that’s what everyone here wants to see,” Royals head coach Kevin Clark said.
“This was very similar to the game in Saskatoon on Sunday, but we were able to find the back of the net a little more often this time around.”
Dawson Cochrane turned aside 26 shots to earn the win for the visitors.
If the Titans were to complete the upset on Thursday, they would advance to the Bob Dybvig Division semifinal round to face the top-ranked Saskatoon Quakers.
Meanwhile, the Royals are slated to go up against the second seeded Delisle Chiefs if they were to win on home ice.
The other opening round series will be decided on Wednesday night in Saskatoon as the Wesleys will host the Carrot River Outback Thunder in a third and deciding contest.