Schmalz plays OT hero in Game 2
Game One of the Western Conference Championship Series was a rout, but Game Two was anything but.
A tightly contested game saw Owen Sound come from 3-1 down to force overtime at the Erie Insurance Arena before Matt Schmalz went upstairs just 4:22 into overtime to hand the Attack a 4-3 victory and send the series back to the Bayshore all tied up.
Goals by Nick Suzuki, Kevin Hancock, and Maksim Sushko in regulation powered the Attack’s come from behind victory while Michael McNiven was stellar in net, turning aside 33 shots to pick up the win.
Just like Game 1, the Otters found the back of the net first, but this time it wouldn’t come until 13:46 of the opening frame had been played.
That was largely due to an aggressive start by the Attack, that saw them hold the play in Erie’s zone for much of the opening five minutes.
The better start for Owen Sound met a bump in the road when the teams found themselves playing four-on-four though.
With Santino Centorame and Taylor Raddysh in the box for off-setting minors, the Otters made it 1-0 on a broken play that resulted in Alex DeBrincat capitalizing on a turnover for his 8th goal of the post season.
Owen Sound was quick to respond though, scoring less than three minutes later after Jonah Gadjovich went cross-ice to Nick Suzuki who broke in uncontested and ripped the puck past Joseph Murdaca to tie things up at one with 3:50 to be played in the opening frame.
Michael McNiven also assisted on the tying goal, and the teams appeared destined to hit the intermission deadlocked at one.
But another turnover below the Owen Sound goal line allowed the Otters to regain the one goal lead when Dylan Strome found paydirt with just 30 seconds left before the intermission buzzer.
The score would hold at 2-1 in favour of Erie until the 7:17 mark of the 2nd when the home team once again found the back of the net.
Playing four-on-four yet again, Warren Foegele picked up his own rebound in the slot and rifled it past a helpless Michael McNiven to make it a 3-1 score.
The goal gave the Attack life though, and the Bayshore Boys began to push looking to cut into Erie’s lead.
And that’s exactly what they did, thanks to a Kevin Hancock shorthanded tally with just under 5:00 left in the 2nd.
After picking up a pass from Santino Centorame in the neutral zone, Hancock went streaking into Erie territory before deking his way around the Otters’ defence and flipping the puck on goal.
Hancock’s attempt was initially blocked, but took a bounce off of Owen Headrick, up into the air, and then into the net to make it a 3-2 game.
The Attack escaped a furious push from the Otters to close out the period, and thanks to a number of highlight reel saves by Michael McNiven, the game held at that 3-2 score heading into the 3rd period.
Owen Sound quickly drew even in the 3rd as well, after Maksim Sushko was sprung on a partial break by Kevin Hancock.
Stepping out of the penalty box, Sushko grabbed the pass from Hancock and whistled a shot high and over the blocker of Murdaca to make it a three-three game just 2:03 into the final period. Jacob Friend also assisted on the play, which set up a thrilling fight to the finish at the Erie Insurance Arena.
And in that fight for the win, it was the Attack who dictated the pace as time wound down in the 3rd period.
Owen Sound outshot the Otters 11 to seven in the final 20 minutes, but despite holding most of the zone time and the momentum after Sushko’s goal, they were unable to best Murdaca again in regulation and the game was destined for overtime.
A furious pace to start the extra frame kept the fans on the edge of their seats and saw the teams trade chances at both ends of the ice before Matt Schmalz ultimately ended things.
Coming up the halfwall, Schmalz flipped the puck off of the glass before tracking it down and toe-dragging around the Otters’ defender before ripping a shot off of the cross bar and into the back of the net to end the game at 4:22 of the OT period.
The game winning goal earned the overage forward the honour of Mac Taylor Corporation 1st Star of the Game while Jacob Friend was named the game’s 3rd star. Erie’s Alex DeBrincat was named the game’s 2nd star thanks to his two point effort.
Michael McNiven earned the win in net for Owen Sound, stopping 33 of 36 shots as the Mark McDade Chestnut Park Real Estate Shots on Goal finished at 37-36 for the visitors.
The Attack and Otters will now make the trip to Owen Sound for Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Championship Series, which will resume on Monday, Apr. 24 at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre.
Tickets for Game 3, which gets underway at 7:00pm, are available for purchase at the MacVicar & McComb ReMax Attack Box Office, which will open at 9:00am on Monday morning.
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