It wasn’t pretty, but sometimes winning ugly is the only way to win.
With the Rossland-Trail Bantam Smoke Eaters leading 3-2 midway through the third period, Chris Colquhoun seized control of the puck in the Mission end, walked out of the corner and fed Spencer McLean who chipped it over the Mission goalie for a 4-2 lead and the eventual game winner.
Backstopped by the stellar goaltending of Jason Mailhiot Sunday night, the Rossland-Trail Tier-2 Bantams skated to a hard-fought 4-3 victory over Mission Tier-2 Bantams.
It was the second game of the day for both squads, but the teams played an aggressive and exciting game that kept fans on the edge of their seats throughout. R-T had beaten Williams Lake earlier by a 3-0 score while Mission tied Cranbrook 3-3.
“I think there is always a bit of nerves, but I think (playing) this morning it was good to get that out of the way and get everyone’s legs going,” said assistant coach Albert Benson. “I think they were a bit better after that.”
The R-T Bantams opened the scoring when Ross Armour converted a setup from Ryan Neil and Evan Gorman at 7:17 of the first period. Mission’s Bryce Sharp tied it with three minutes to go but the R-T Bantams would take the lead after Mitch Titus was hauled down on a break away and awarded a penalty shot.
The skilled forward made a dazzling move, undressing the Mission goalie with a deke, and sliding the puck into the open net for the go-ahead marker.
“I thought of that move last year at the beginning of the season, that I worked on in practice and I’ve been flawless since then, so I thought, ‘I might as well just do it,’” said Titus following the game. “It’s worked every time so far.”
The goal put the Bantam Smokies up 2-1 but the Mission side would come out flying in the second. For a 10-minute span Mission’s green machine threw everything they had at the R-T net. Scramble after scramble highlighted by a jaw dropping save, where Mailhiot, lying on his back, stretched his arm across the goal line and took away a sure tally from the Mission forward.
“It’s a bit of reaction and a lot of luck,” said Mailhiot. “I had lots of that today for sure.”
The Trail native was able to withstand the barrage, which set the stage for team captain Sam Swanson to break away, firing a low shot that beat goalie Jeffrey Veitch and put the Bantam Smokies up 3-1 at 8:31of the second.
Mission would reply early in the third when Alexandra Sawyer rifled a shot from the point that eluded a screened Mailhiot.
McLean would net the winner at 9:49 to make it 4-2. A late goal by Jakob Kranabetter, with 91 seconds remaining, narrowed the margin to one, but the team held on for the win.
“The goalies really have to be your best player, and I don’t know how many times this year they bailed us out. Both of them played awesome today,” said Benson.
The Rossland-Trail Bantams play Cranbrook today at 8 a.m. and depending on the outcome will play in a playoff match at 5 p.m. or 8 p.m. tonight.
In Tuesday’s matches, Burnaby outlasted Campbell River 3-2, Cranbrook Bantams beat Williams Lake 5-1, and Westside got past Fort St. John 5-1. The other game results were unavailable at press time.