It took triple overtime to do it, but the Campbell River Storm are still alive against the upstart Peninsula Panthers.
At 1:16 of the third extra frame, Reid Wheeldon, set up by the Damons (Porter and Kramer), found a way to beat Panther goalie Connor McKillup for the 3-2 win on home ice Tuesday night. Pearce Messer and Tyler Chyzowski picked up the other markers for Campbell River.
That the goal came on the powerplay seemed appropriate. For much of the game, the refs let the teams play, but somehow they must have missed the memo to put away the whistle late in close playoff games, especially elimination ones, unless a player makes an obvious infraction and they have no choice but to make a call.
With the score tied 2-2 and less than a minute left in the third, the Storm’s Logan Cursley was sent off for holding for what was, at best, a questionable call. The team killed the two minutes, but started to fall back on their heels, after controlling the play for most of the game.
Partway through the second overtime, after the Storm gained back some momentum, they found themselves on the penalty kill again. On top of this, one of the penalty killers was without a stick for much of a shift, while several players were throwing themselves on the ice to block shots or try to freeze the puck in the corner, at times like they were diving on top of live hand grenades.
Still, they held Peninsula at bay. When the visitors finally drew a penalty of their own in the third overtime – their first since 14:48 of period one – Campbell River took advantage quickly, snagging the winner within 10 seconds.
The win was a well-deserved one for the Storm, as they carried much of the play, except for parts of overtime when some of the players looked like they needed oxygen. The shot count was 45-24 in Campbell River’s favour. However, while McKillup was strong in goal for the visitors, his team managed to cut off the scoring lanes for Campbell River much of the time – something Storm coach Mike Wilson noted.
“They do a really good job of taking away the middle,” he said.
In light of the challenge the team faced, being down 3-1 in the series, Wilson said he focused on mental toughness, getting the players to stay positive when facing any moments of adversity.
When asked about the old cliche of taking things one game at a time, he said, “It’s one shift at a time.”
The team now heads to North Saanich for game six on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. If there’s a seventh game, it’ll be back at the Brind’Amour Arena on Sunday night at 8:15 p.m.