Matthew MacPherson (11) of the South East Athletic Club Tigers skates away as Red Deer players celebrate their go-ahead goal late in the Tuesday, March 5, 2019 playoff game at the Hockey Hounds Recreation Centre.
Story/photo courtesy of Sean Rooney/Medicine Hat News. For more local sports content, please visit www.medicinehatnews.com.
Up against a juggernaut, the South East Athletic Club Tigers knew if they blinked, they were done for.
One tiny mishap was all the Red Deer Rebels needed to move on in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League playoffs.
With fans lined up all around the boards and filling the stands Tuesday at Hockey Hounds Recreation Centre, the host team led twice but lost 4-3, swept in their best-of-three division final.
“It’s hard to see them in there, they’re obviously upset but they have nothing to be upset about, I’m very proud of them,” said Tigers coach Jason Bartram, whose club did all it could to slow the top-seeded Rebels. “We knew we were capable of it and we’ve beat some good teams this year. We figured going in to the series if we worked hard and competed well we’d give ourselves a chance. That’s exactly what they did.”
With the score tied 3-3, an innocent-looking wrist shot from Chase Walker with 2:16 to go somehow got past Tigers goalie Kaiden Morin, who stopped 25 shots on the night.
Red Deer also got second-period goals from Nate Danielson, Ty Daneault and Nash Bamford and 25 saves from Kaden Toussaint, following up a 3-1 home win Sunday. They haven’t lost a league game since Nov. 2.
“I just shot the puck, was really excited when it went in,” said Walker. “They played physical, they’re a good team so it was hard to get pucks by them. We had to change our game a bit but we played well.”
SEAC started well, capitalizing on a double minor for a high hit when Josh Van Mulligen’s shot found its way through a sea of bodies and into the net with 6:20 to go in the first period.
Red Deer coach Justin Jarmolicz was more concerned when, after his team went up 2-1 early in the second, the home side rebounded with goals from Dayden Collier and Tyler Broesky.
“The only time I got nervous was when it was 3-2 for them,” said Jarmolicz. “We started clenching a little tight but we found a way to get a late one in the second.”
Bamford’s goal off a set faceoff play with five seconds left in the frame tied the score and set up the tense third period.
While the Tigers lamented their chance at forcing Game 3, they could hardly hang their heads. After all, the last time a Medicine Hat-based bantam AAA team went this far in playoffs was 2012, when Bartram was also at the helm of the then-Medicine Hat Hounds.
“We thought we could beat these guys, we’ve beat them before in the regular season, so we still had to keep playing our game,” said captain Vann Yuhas. “We played our systems really well but they just got some lucky bounces.
“We gave it all we could, we just have to stay happy and positive because we gave it a good run.”