Do or die.
There is nothing quite like a game seven and that’s what the Antigonish Farmers’ Mutual Junior Bulldogs and Strait Pirates are gearing up for now, after the Pirates evened the hard-fought best-of-seven Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League (NSJHL) first-round series with a 4-2 victory Sunday (March 10) night at the Antigonish Arena.
The huge crowd in attendance watched the Pirates grab an early lead on a Hunter Woodland marker, assisted by Jacob Keagan.
The Bulldogs battled back on goals by captain Devin MacLaughlin and defenceman Jacob Nobbe, who also assisted on MacLaughlin’s goal, and went into the second period with a 2-1 lead.
The lead held up during a scoreless second, thanks to the goaltending of the Bulldogs’ Jared Green and the Pirates’ Cody Smith, both of whom came up with big saves during the 20 minute span.
The Pirates would break through early in the third with the tying and winning goal exactly a minute apart. Veteran forward Randon MacKinnon tied the game on a goal at the 17:02 mark, assisted by Keagan and captain Matthew Morgan, and Woodland, once again demonstrating a lethal, quick-release snap-shot, scored the winner with an assist going to Olan Spears.
Branden Dauphinee iced the contest with 57 seconds left to play, with a long-range, empty-net goal, as the Bulldogs pushed hard for the equalizer, coming close on a couple of occasions only to be stymied by Smith and the Pirates’ ‘D’.
Smith finished with 34 saves to earn the win while Green mades 25 in the Antigonish goal.
Game seven goes tomorrow (Tuesday) night at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre, with a 7:30 p.m. puck drop.
Will it be the Bulldogs pulling off one of the great NSJHL upsets of all time; a fourth-place seed knocking off a first-place team, who only lost three games during the regular season – two in regulation time and one in overtime – while amassing 59 points in 32 games?
Or will it be the Pirates surviving the series which saw them go down three games to one, as the Bulldogs executed their game plan and showed their just over .500 record (17-15) really wasn’t an indication of their true capabilities.
Game seven will provide the answers.