The Richardson Pioneer Weyburn Red Wings found themselves down by four goals heading into the third period of Tuesday's game against the Humboldt Broncos. When the final buzzer sounded, the Red Wings had pulled close, but an empty net goal with 53 seconds left to play sealed the win for Humboldt, who left Crescent Point Place with an 8-6 win.
"I believe that we have good character in our room, and when things get hard, you need your leaders to have high character, and I think tonight we had a few guys that were really, really going and kind of drove the bus on that change in the third," said Red Wings head coach Cody Mapes after the game.
The first period saw the two teams combine for five goals, with the Broncos finishing up the opening frame with a 3-2 lead.
Spencer Bell got the scoring started for Humboldt at 7:13 of the first, with Travis Bryson then scoring just over 80 seconds later, at the 8:37 mark, to make it 2-0.
The Red Wings would respond with 8:43 left on the clock when Jacob Visentini scored his sixth of the season, assisted by Jerome Maharaj. Then, Drew Molde tallied with exactly three minutes to play in the period. His second goal of the campaign was assisted by Dallen Oxelgren and Lucas Schmid.
The Broncos, though, regained the momentum heading into the second when Matthew Van Blaricom scored with 1:48 to play in the period.
In the middle frame, Maddox Amaral got the Broncos ahead by two goals when he scored 3:17 into the period. The Red Wings would respond four minutes later, as Jerome Maharaj scored his 11th of the season, unassisted, to make it 4-3.
Humboldt then took control of the game, at least for the rest of the period. It started when Bell scored his second of the game on the power play at the 9:17 mark. Then Cage Newans added a goal just 34 seconds later, also on the power play. That goal would end the night of starting netminder Berney Weston, as he would be called to the bench with Dazza Mitchell coming on to take his place.
"Out of the six goals, you know, maybe one he wants back," Mapes said of the performance by the 16-year-old, playing in just his second-ever Junior A game. "There was some backdoor tap-ins, there's some tough bounces, there's the one that squeaks through his legs, but that's a tough one and I'm not sure you can really fault him all that much on any of them."
The scoring in the period was wrapped up as Bryson scored his second of the night with 6:27 to play in the second.
When the third period started, the Red Wings had a jump in their step and took to the ice like a team possessed.
Just 1:10 into the period, Cade Meiklejohn scored his third goal of the season, assisted by Jaxson Ruthven. Then, Meiklejohn scored an unassisted goal at the 7:56 mark to make it 7-5.
"After the first period, he was the guy driving the bus tonight," Mapes said to describe the performance from the first-year Red Wing. "He was the guy that was changing momentum when we needed it, and we believe that we have lots of guys that can do that, and tonight it was his turn."
Less than a minute after Meiklejohn's goal, Ruthven would tally to make it 7-6. The goal that gave all the momentum to the Red Wings, and brought the crowd at Crescent Point Place back to life, was assisted by Lucas Jeffreys.
Then, with around five minutes to play, things started to get rough.
It started with an incident behind the play that escaped the attention of nearly everyone, as Van Blaricom was left hurt on the ice. He would skate to the bench under his own power, but no penalty was called. Then, moments later, another incident took place down in the Humboldt zone that had Jaxson Ruthven prone on the ice for around a minute. No penalty was called on that, but the resulting scrum as the Red Wings took offence with what had happened would see two players from each team given minors for roughing.
Weyburn would call Mitchell to the bench in favour of the extra attacker, and they kept much of the pressure on the Broncos, but with 53 seconds left Bell scored his third of the night in the empty net to seal the win.
The Red Wings didn't go down without a fight, literally. With 16.8 seconds left, Liam Fitzgerald reluctantly dropped the gloves with Tristan Serrao. Both players were assessed five-minute majors for fighting and a game misconduct.
The Red Wings remain tied with the Melville Millionaires for first place in the Viterra Division and will be looking to take sole possession of the top spot in the coming days.
Weyburn will now prepare for a long stretch away from the friendly confines of Crescent Point Place. It starts with a road game in Radville on Friday against Notre Dame, and by the time they return home to face the Yorkton Terriers, it will be December 16th.