The 2019 Sask West Hockey League Playoffs got underway this past weekend with the visiting teams taking the early advantage in their respective matchups.
Unity and Macklin have jumped to 1-0 series leads after the Miners handed the Wilkie Outlaws a 7-5 loss on Friday night, while the Mohawks ended a double overtime thriller 3-2 over the Klippers on Saturday.
After Game 1 between the Miners and Outlaws started with a few minutes of back and forth, the scoring picked up just before the halfway point of the 1st period. A powerplay goal from Reed Delainey gave the Miners the opening tally of their semifinal matchup. Then on another Unity man advantage, the Outlaws would find their first from a shorthanded goal through captain Mike Sittler to tie the game.
The Miners and Outlaws exchanged a couple more goals over the next minute, first a powerplay goal by Jake McMillan before Brett Harrison tied it back up 2-2 16 seconds later. Sittler ended the period with his second of the night with just over three minutes left in the period to have Wilkie up 3-2 into the 1st intermission.
A few minutes into the 2nd, Taylor Bucsis scored his third point of the evening, placing the puck past Outlaws netminder Jared Herle to knot the game up at 3-3. The Outlaws would respond with goals three minutes apart from each other, Mitch Suchan netting a powerplay marker followed by Rory Gregoire's first of the playoffs. After two, the score was 5-3 Wilkie going into the final frame.
But in the 3rd interval, the Miners rallied the troops for a comeback attempt. Before the midway point of the period, Jake McMillan fired in his second of the evening to cut the Wilkie lead by 1 goal, making it 5-4 with plenty of hockey to go. Moments later, a Reece Fenrich slash put the Miners back on the powerplay for a shot to equalize.
Braden Lacoursiere and Jake McMillan located Reed Delainey for his second marker, this time on their powerplay chance to bring the game to a 5-5 tie with over 8 minutes to go.
In the dying minutes of regulation, Wilkie's Andrew Herle was given a double minor high sticking call at 3:19, bringing the already-successful Miners powerplay units back onto the ice for the remainder of the period. Under a minute left on the clock, Kristian St. Onge potted his first of the playoffs to deliver Unity's first lead since their opening goal of the game.
With the score now 6-5 and Wilkie's net empty, McMillan slotted his hat trick goal with Herle on the bench, putting the icing on the cake to a 7-5 victory in Game 1. Special teams won the game for the Miners, turning in 57% powerplay percentage (4 for 7) while only allowing 1 Outlaws man advantage goal on 3 tries.
Dax Desmarais collected the 34-save win to put the Miners up 1-0 in their best-of-five semifinal series. Game 2 is set for Friday in Unity at 8:30 p.m. from the UCC.
Meanwhile in the other matchup, the Macklin Mohawks head into Game 2 with a series lead on the Kindersley Klippers after nearly a period and a half was needed to find a winner.
Although it was the Klippers who began the game on the right foot. 7 minutes into the game, Kyle Donaldson opened his first SWHL playoffs with a snipe past Macklin's Nathan Hargrave, sliding the home side into a 1-0 lead. It ended up being the only strike from the 1st period after a solid period from Klippers goaltender Luke Sproule.
Hardly any goals were scored in the 2nd as well. The only score was from the stick of Donaldson, putting away his second to make it 2-0 Klippers with under 30 seconds left before 2nd intermission. Brandon Cummings and Troy Boisjoli each picked up their second assists after helping on Donaldson's first.
The 3rd period is when the Klippers found themselves in penalty trouble and the Mohawks finally solved Luke Sproule. On Macklin's sixth man advantage of the night, Spencer Bast and Cody McKinnon bounced the puck to Wyatt Watson who chose to wrist the biscuit past Sproule to give life to the Mohawks.
Now 2-1 and on another 5-on-4 with a couple minutes left, Brad Buckingham scored Macklin's second goal of the contest to make it 2-2 with under two minutes left in regulation. All tied up, Game 1 moved to an immediate overtime period of 10 minutes which no one was able to find the back of the net, giving way to the zamboni and a third intermission ahead of the second overtime.
In that period, it wasn't until 2:11 left on the clock when Spencer Bast launched a shot through Sproule to become the double overtime hero and win Game 1 for the Mohawks 3-2. Hargrave has yet to lose a game this postseason for his team, making 26 saves in the victory on Saturday night. When combining the regular season and playoffs, Macklin has won 11 straight.
While Kindersley had an abysmal man advantage (0 for 7) on the night, the Mohawks were able to climb back into the game with two markers of their own (2 for 8). Macklin also managed to create the most offence overall, concluding the elongated game with 49 shots to Kindersley's 28.
For Game 2, the Klippers will travel to the Macklin and District Communiplex on Saturday for an 8:00 p.m. puck drop. Sunday will have the teams back in Kindersley for Game 3 at 6:00 p.m.