KAMLOOPS, BC — Rob Wilson’s message to his Peterborough Petes squad in the second period was clear.
“When it became 4-1, I said, ‘If you don’t concede another goal, we can win this. If we give up another goal, we’re in big trouble,’ said the head coach.
What happened next stunned the 5,084 fans in attendance at Sandman Center.
JR Avon scored the game-winning goal in 10:54 of extra time to top Peterborough’s 5-4 comeback win over the Kamloops Blazers on Thursday to earn a place in the semi-finals at the Memorial Cup. The Petes scored four unanswered goals to win the tiebreaker game.
“That’s our game,” Wilson said. “The muddy the water, the better it is for us.
“It works to our advantage if the games are like this most of the time.”
The turning point came from Pete’s right winger Chase Stillman.
Just 1:45 into the second period, Stillman put a hard hit on Matthew Seminoff, who drove into the lock and stillman didn’t seem to see him coming from his left side.
Caedan Bankier approached Stillman and the two dropped the gloves and the fight finally broke up after Bankier hit the ice. Stillman got five minutes major for fighting, while Bankier got two minutes for incitement, five minutes for fighting, and 10 minutes for misconduct.
“It all started with Stiller,” said Petes forward Brennan Othmann. “His hit and his fight, I know some people want to fight out of the game and things like that, but it can be a game changer.
“He flipped that game.”
Connor Lockhart, Othmann, Samuel Mayer and Brian Zanetti scored the others for Ontario Hockey League champion Peterborough. Michael Simpson made 43 saves for the win.
The Petes next play the Seattle Thunderbirds in Friday’s semifinals for a chance to play Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Quebec Remparts in Sunday’s final.
The Remparts earned a last-place finish after opening the tournament with victories over Kamloops and Seattle. Quebec later fell to Peterborough – who averted elimination and forced Thursday’s tiebreaker with that win – 4-2 on Tuesday in both teams’ final round-robin game.
“I think if we could play like we did against Quebec and even tonight with the setback, if we can beat them. They’re a good team… it’s going to be a good game,” Othmann said of Friday’s game.
Logan Stankoven, Olen Zellweger, Harrison Brunicke and Logan Bairos answered for host Kamloops. Dylan Ernst stopped 25 shots.
Stankoven – the Blazers captain and a native of Kamloops, BC – lapped the ice and received a standing ovation in what was likely his last game for the team.
“It just feels weird because I spent the last five years here in my hometown,” the Dallas Stars prospect said with tears in his eyes while his gear was still on. “I don’t think it has dawned on me that, yes, this is probably my last game here.”
Head coach and general manager Shaun Clouston called the loss a “heartbreaker”.
“There are players like Logan besides me who have put their heart and soul into it for four years,” said Clouston. “We’ve got a ton, four division championships.
“Had a good run last year, couldn’t quite get there. Good run this year, couldn’t quite get there, it’s similar and the guys fought hard today, really fought hard.”
Lockhart opened the scoring with 7:52 in the first period when Jax Dubois found him in the lock and beat Ernst by five holes.
Stankoven tied it at 11:20 in the frame on a rebound from a Connor Levis punt shot.
Zellweger put Kamloops ahead 12:45 into the frame on the power play. The defender made sure the puck didn’t come out of the Pietengebied, moved in and scored.
With 2:27 left in the first, Brunicke picked up the puck on point, bypassed a defender and hit Simpson over his right shoulder.
Bairos gave Kamloops a 4-1 edge 4:23 into the middle frame. He fired a point shot that ricocheted off Simpson’s blocker, then over him and into it.
Just over three minutes later, the Pieten started their comeback.
Othmann stripped Bairos of the puck, turned and scored while falling to one knee.
Mayer made it a one-goal game on the power play with 2:23 left in the second. He took a pass from Lockhart and fired in a one-timer from the point.
Zanetti tied the game a little over a minute later by tapping in a pass from Tucker Robertson as he shot toward the net.
After a staggering but missed scoring opportunity from Zellweger in overtime, Owen Beck picked up the puck on the ice and dropped it off for Avon, who put it past Ernst to seal the win.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 1, 2023.
Abdulhamid Ibrahim, Canadian Press