The game of hockey can change in the blink of an eye.
That couldn’t be disputed Friday night at Sasktel Centre as the Saskatoon Blades skated to a 3-2 overtime win over the Spokane Chiefs.
With Spokane leading 2-1 late in the second period and a relentless attack bearing down on the Blades, a beleaguered Saskatoon defence watched goaltender Nolan Maier turn away a handful of attempts that were slated to increase the Chiefs lead.
What happened instead was Max Gerlach chase down a bouncing puck in the period’s final seconds and whip a pass across the opposing crease onto the waiting stick of Kirby Dach.
As Dach celebrated his deflection goal at point-blank range, he turned to the scoreboard at centre ice.
0.6 seconds were remaining.
“It was a huge momentum shift in the game, for sure,” Dach said. “I saw the clock and there was maybe seven seconds when the puck was coming out of the zone and I just buried my head and went hard to the net.”
That wasn’t all the Blades super-prospect had in mind on Friday. For his encore, Dach trailed behind Eric Florchuk and tucked in a rebound in overtime to end the game.
It’s not often a player scores a second period goal that might be more exciting than a game-winning shot.
“I don’t think I’ve scored too many overtime winners either,” Dach said with a chuckle. “It was pretty exhilarating to score that one.”
Blade head coach Mitch Love watched the drama unfold from the bench and thanked his team’s improvisation.
“Not exactly how we drew it up spending 35 seconds in your own end and then going down and scoring with 0.6 seconds left on the clock,” he said. “I said to the guys ‘we’ll take it.'”
Love knew Friday would be more of a heavyweight tilt as the Blades hosted the Chiefs for the first time in since 2016.
“It was a good hockey team over there,” Love said. “Little bit of a different style in the Western Conference, I think there is a bit more speed and tenacity at times, and I thought our guys did a really good job of handling their attack tonight.”
The Chiefs were led by the New Jersey Devil’s 2018 first-round draft choice Ty Smith.
Smith, selected 17th overall, flexed his muscles as one of the WHL’s best defencemen when he assisted on a Luke Toporowski goal late in the first period. Spokane’s captain magically managed to keep the puck in the Blades zone off a bouncing clearing attempt on the powerplay and then slipped a shot through traffic that Toporowski pounced on.
He then scored the Chiefs other goal on the powerplay with a perfectly placed one-timer over the glove of Blades goaltender Nolan Maier in the second period.
The thrilling victory had special meaning to Riley McKay. Traded from Spokane to Saskatoon just days before the season started, winning was the only thing on his mind.
“It was an awesome game, I’m still hyped up about it” McKay said.
“There was a lot of chirping between me and the Spokane boys before the game. We came out with the win and that’s what matters. ”
Out of six home games at Sasktel Centre so far this season, Friday was the fourth time a game went to overtime. The Blades are 3-1 in that span.
Kyle Crnkovic,16, made his WHL debut Friday. The Blades 2017 first-round bantam draft pick was out with an upper-body injury since training camp.
Next up for Saskatoon is a matchup with Mitch Love’s former team, the Everett Silvertips on Wednesday.