This wasn’t your textbook victory, and it wasn’t the way they had planned on winning. But, thanks to a lucky goal late in the game, Westside beat Trail 5-4 on Saturday night.
Short-benched on the night (15 skaters), but hosting a Smoke Eaters squad even shorter (13 skaters), the Warriors had a decent first period. The home side also struck the first goal of the game when Devon Hascarl beat a couple of Smokies to the outside and then shovelled a centring pass to Brennan Clark who made no mistake.
Leading 1-0 after 20 minutes of play, Westside pulled away early in the second. And I mean early. 7 second into the period (we’re pretty sure it’s a franchise record for quickest in a period, and maybe only ahead of McKinnon’s tally at 0:11 on Friday) Shawn Hochhausen put Westside up 2-0. The thing is, the Warriors didn’t pull away. Trail got on the board soon after when James Leonard couldn’t control a simple-looking dump-in before Erik Cooper found it and roofed it.
The Warriors pulled away again. 1:15 after Cooper’s cheapie, Brett McKinnon stole the puck from Tim Coish and started a McKinnon/Brennan Clark/Max French play that ended behind Lyndon Stanwood. But again, the Smokies responded. First, Shane Poulson (who had an awesome game) fired a point-shot with eyes through traffic and in. Then he fired another one that Adam Wheeldon tipped it, and we were tied 3-3. The Warriors jumped in front again when Travis Blanleil spinned a nice set-up to Connor Dempsey, who’s move just tricked through Stanwood and over the goal-line for a 4-3 WW lead after 40 minutes.
Again, Trail fought back. Early in the third, Erik Cooper got his second of the game when he curled out of the corner and beat Leonard high, short-side. Cooper had an unreal game, and he ate more ice-time that you’re likely to see out of a BCHL forward this year. He also earned the first star honours, and that’s not an easy thing to do when your team loses, especially on the road.
But sadly for Cooper and the plucky Smoke Eaters, their courageous effort was cut-short when the most unlikely of heroes put Westside in front to stay. At the 13:40 mark of the third period, Dustin Cave fired a dump-in that took a gross bounce in front of Stanwood and fooled the Trail netminder, putting Westside up 5-4 and in front to stay. Tough result for Stanwood (who had another awesome night in net). And a tough bounce for the Smokies (who battled a tired legs, a short-bench, and a more skilled Warriors team valiantly all night). Conversely, it was a great finish for Cave and the Warriors. Dustin Cave actually played one of his best games of the season all night, and he made a few bone-crunching hits that were beautifully executed even before his late heroics. Cave couldn’t be a more deserving hero for this team, and it couldn’t have been a better moment for the hard-luck Warriors late in a hard-luck season.
Not that this was a perfect game. James Leonard fought the puck a little tonight. He took a penalty and caused another one (when he couldn’t squeeze a simply shot just before French’s 3rd period hooking call), and gave Erik Cooper a softy early in the second. Westside should have put this game away a few times, but also deserves credit for finding a way to win. It wasn’t pretty, but there have been many times this year they probably should have won and lost (even when it wasn’t pretty). This time, they at least found a way, and for that, they deserve some much-needed acclaim.
Westside outshot (48-36) and outchanced Trail on Saturday, and a loss in this game would have been almost too much to take. But the Warriors overcame some adversity, got a lucky bounce, and won a big game in front of another solid crowd.
It’s a full week off for this team now, followed by the final two home games of the season next Friday and Saturday nights. It’s not even close to a Stanley Cup winning night, but it merits a modest celebration…