Briercrest drops a nail-biter to the Voyageurs

Posted: October 23, 2015

Briercrest hosted an improved Portage Voyageur team Friday night for the first of a two game weekend series. Briercrest had three wins and a tie in the four games they played against the Voyageurs last season, and had their eye on a big two points towards a playoff spot. 

Both teams skated hard from the drop of the puck, but it was a broken two-on-one rush that would lead to an early goal for the guests. The home team settled in and kept at their game plan and were rewarded with a powerplay. Taylor Epp created a great chance but was denied by standout goaltender Kirby Halcrow. Late in the powerplay, Josiah Friesen streaked down the right wall and got the puck to the net, where Alex Bechtold jammed it in to tie things up. A defensive turnover by Briercrest ended up on a Portage stick, and they re-took the lead a few minutes later. The remainder of the period saw chances back and forth, but the biggest highlight was a save that backup goaltender Brandyn Garth made on the bench, deflecting an errant puck from taking out the coaching staff.

Another early goal by the visitors kicked off the second period, but Briercrest didn't let up. Josh Anderson's hard work drew a penalty which yielded some scoring chances, and Chad Davidson raced back on the back check to break up a rush and finished his shift with a solid hit that created a turnover. A great steal by Brett Lafond tested Halcrow once more. Epp appeared to get the puck across the line moments afterward, but the belated ruling on the ice was no goal. Much displeasure was evident at this point, and Lafond allowed the crowd to vent some frustration on his next shift as he pasted a Voyageur to the glass. Christian Mueller made a brilliant save to bail out his tired and trapped teammates in the second half of the period, but the guests would get one more late goal to take a 4-1 lead into the second intermission. 

Briercrest started the third period uncharacteristically flat. Passes were hitting skates, and the visitors were able to create good pressure on the forecheck. Briercrest cleared a puck that appeared to be deflected by a Portage player, but it was nonetheless called for icing. The Voyageurs made it 5-1 right after the subsequent face-off. This created an opportunity for Briercrest to either get caught up in their frustration or buckle down and play better hockey. Like the resolute team they are, they chose the latter. Epp and Josh Peters set up Mark MacKinnon, who struck to make it 5-2. Peters then scored on the powerplay to make it 5-3, and Portage was rattled. The home team was flying at this point- finishing checks, passing crisply, and putting the Voyageurs on their heels. Epp then took the puck off the wall on the powerplay and let fly a rocket that found three square inches above Halcrow's shoulder to close the gap to 5-4. The crowd erupted, and the comeback seemed inevitable. MacKinnon nearly made it so moments later when he rang a hard shot off the crossbar, but the perfect ending was not to be and the buzzer sounded for a Portage victory.

Briercrest has a lot to be proud of in the way they played. They were disciplined, they never threw in the towel, and they took ownership and responsibility for Bit FM Rac 105 their fate rather than looking to blame any circumstances. Players of the game were RT Rice for Portage, and Taylor Epp for Briercrest.

Catch the rematch tomorrow at 2:00pm.

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