The Owen Sound Attack defeated the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in a nailbiter on Easter Sunday, winning the Western Conference Semifinal four games to two and advancing to the Western Conference Championship Series in the process.
A goal by Nick Suzuki in the 2nd period was the only scoring on the evening and when combined with a 23 save shutout by Michael McNiven, it was enough for the Attack to finish off the Western Conference’s 2nd seed in front of a raucous Bayshore.
The teams spent the first period feeling each other out with lots of rushes from one end to the next.
However, neither team was able to find the back of the net thanks to a number of big time saves by both Michael McNiven and Joseph Raaymakers.
The Hounds’ netminder was tested more in the game’s opening 20 minutes, having to make nine saves to McNiven’s six. Most of those nine saves came in the latter half of the frame, as the Attack seemed to get better as time wound down.
The momentum shift that favoured Owen Sound wouldn’t make a difference on the score clock though, and the teams were forced to search for the game’s opening goal in the 2nd period.
And it still wouldn’t come until most of the stanza was played.
After failing to capitalize on a too many men call, the Attack found themselves with all the momentum and a commanding 23-11 lead on the shot clock.
Owen Sound’s constant stream of rubber towards the net eventually paid off too, thanks to a seeing eye shot by Nick Suzuki at the 13:09 mark of the frame.
A solid forecheck that held Sault Ste. Marie in their zone for what seemed like five minutes saw Jacob Friend hold the puck in at the blueline before forcing it down to Suzuki at the hashmarks.
Suzuki then took the puck behind the net before flipping a backhander off of Joseph Raaymakers and across the goal line for his 7th of the playoffs and a 1-0 Attack lead.
Owen Sound continued to push, looking to double their lead before the end of the period, but they were unsuccessful in finding the back of the net and the teams were off to the intermission with just one goal between them.
The period didn’t end without some drama, though.
Just as the horn was going to signal the end of the frame, the referees were whistling Sean Durzi for a delay of game penalty that carried over into the 3rd period, putting the Attack on the penalty kill for the first 1:59 of the 3rd.
The Hounds came up short on the man advantage, though, largely due to an interference call on Barrett Hayton just 27 seconds into the period that put the teams at four on four.
That stretch of four on four turned quickly into a five-on-three powerplay for Owen Sound after Sean Durzi was rocked from behind by Zach Senyshyn after the Attack defender stepped out of the box.
The Bayshore Boys were unable to capitalize on the two man advantage though, and after trading powerplay chances, the teams would find themselves still in a 1-0 game.
And as time continued to wind down, the nailbiting began to get more and more furious for fans of each team.
The nervous energy that permeated the Bayshore would hold until the buzzer, as would the score.
Despite a relentless push by the Greyhounds, they were unable to find the back of the net and Owen Sound was able to hang on for the 1-0 win and punch their ticket to the Western Conference Final.
Michael McNiven was named the game’s 1st star, turning aside all 23 shots he faced on the evening as the Mark McDade Chestnut Park Real Estate Shots on Goal finished at 42-23 in favour of Owen Sound.
His counterpart, Joseph Raaymakers, was named the game’s 2nd star thanks to a 41 save performance. The game’s 3rd star was Jonah Gadjovich, while Attack import Maksim Sushko was named the Hatten Home Building Centre Hardest Working Player of the Game.
The Attack will now take on the winner of the Erie Otters vs. London Knights series in the Western Conference Final.
Tickets for Home Games 1 and 2 of that series will go on sale Tuesday, Apr. 18 at 9:00am at the MacVicar & McComb ReMax Attack Box Office, online at www.attackhockey.com, or by calling 519-371-7452.