Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart - A game saving, highlight-reel sprawling save from goaltender Tanner McGaw, followed by a highlight-reel, top-shelf goal from Seamus Maguire at 8:57 of the first overtime, gave the Saanich Braves a 3-2 win over the Westshore Wolves in Game 2 of their VIJHL playoff series Wednesday evening.
Maguire's winner came after he picked up a loose puck at mid-ice, chipped it by a couple of Wolves defenders to break in on the left of the net and then backhanded a beauty over the shoulder of Wolves goaltender Matt Chester and into the very top corner of the far side of the net.
"There was definitely a little bit of hope on that shot," said Maguire after the game, "but that's what I was aiming for and I'm happy that I hit that spot perfectly."
Maguire's goal came moments after the Westshore Wolves saw sudden victory of their own snatched away from them by Braves goaltender Tanner McGaw.
After a wild goalmouth scramble, McGaw found himself at the far left of his net, while the puck found its way on to the stick of the Wolve's Braedon Behan at the right side of the cage. With sure victory on Behan's stick, the Wolves fans began to cheer the certain goal, but a diving, fully-extended McGaw blocked the shot with his arm and then covered it up, saving the game and setting the stage for Maguire's winning goal.
"Thank God Tanner did what we have him here to do and that he is living up to his billing," said Braves Head Coach Brad Cook. "He made some phenomenal saves tonight when called upon to do so, and that was certainly his biggest of the night."
The win is a critical one for the Braves, as it gives them a 2-0 lead heading into Game 3 of the series which goes Friday night at Pearkes Arena. It was also a character building win, as it was accomplished without the services of their Captain and leading scorer Ty Jones. Jones went out with a lower-body injury early in Game 1 of the series and it does not appear that he will be back anytime soon.
"Jonesy has a lower body injury and does not appear to be anywhere close to being back," said Cook. "We are taking it day by day however and trying to get him with the right people this week to get assessed and see where he's at. We just need to move on and like happened tonight, have others step up to fill that void."
The Braves seemed to be filling that void just fine in the first period Wednesday as they dominated the period and launched 16 shots at Chester in the Wolves net, while only giving up 5, but they could not score and the game headed to the break tied 0-0.
In the second, it would be the Wolves who would score first just 10 seconds into the frame, when the Brave's Garett Kemmler made an uncharacteristic turnover right on to the stick of the Wolve's Clay Carson, who buried the shot over McGaw to put the Wolves up 1-0. The Braves would respond quickly however, as the Wolves returned the turnover favour, with Max Mois picking up a loose puck inside the Wolves blueline and then blasting a shot past Chester at the 1:10 mark to tie things up.
After some even play from both sides, the Braves would take the lead at the 11:42 mark, when Sam McMullen would take a feed from Nolan Kinney and fire a shot through Chester to make it 2-1.
With time running out in the period, the Braves McGaw made perhaps his only error of the night, giving up an ugly rebound off a Chris McDonald point shot, which ultimately led to the tying goal by Behan at the 18:18 mark.
Shortly after that, the Wolves would have a prime opportunity to take the lead, as the Braves took a pair of penalties that led to a short 5-on-3 advantage for the Wolves to begin the third period. The Braves would kill both penalties off however and the game would remain tied the rest of the way.
Both teams would have their chances in the OT, with the Wolves, prior to Maguire's goal outshooting the Braves 6-5. However the Brave's sixth shot from Maguire was the magic one, giving the Braves the 3-2 win.
"There were some negatives for sure in the game tonight," noted Cook, "But a win is a win. We'll take it, but I think Friday's game will be the most important one in the series."
That game - Game 3 - will go Friday night at Pearkes Arena in Saanich. Puck drop is 6:30 pm.
Game Notes: Saanich outshot Westshore 48-33 in total. The Braves were also missing Shawn McBride, who was also absent from Monday's game, due to illness. The Braves were 0 for 2 on the powerplay, while Westshore went 0 for 6 with the man advantage. Wolves goalie Alec Dillon has missed the first two games of the series due to suspension. Call-up Nick Dueck has been the back-up to Chester both nights.