Two overtime losses have the St. Albert Nektar Raiders teetering on the brink of elimination in the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League playoffs.
The Fort Saskatchewan Rangers lead the best-of-five north division final after victories of 4-3 in Friday’s series opener at Akinsdale Arena and 3-2 Sunday at JRC Arena.
The game winners were scored on the power play.
The Raiders host game three tonight at 7:45 p.m.
If needed, game four is 7:45 p.m. Friday at JRC and game five is 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Akinsdale.
The winner plays the Calgary Buffaloes or Calgary Royals in the best-of-five AMHL final and the provincial champion hosts the best-of-three Pacific Region national qualifier for the Telus Cup, April 22 to 28 at Thunder Bay, Ont.
Game one was decided on the Rangers’ second power-play marker of the night as Colby Bechthold capitalized at 2:55 of sudden death and Tyson Greenway in the penalty box for a check to the head.
Third-period goals by Jaxon Dube and Brady Nicholas (power play) forced OT.
It was 3-0 Rangers before Eric Perneel put the Mac’s Cup champions on the board with 1:09 left in the middle frame.
Shots were 12 apiece in the third, 5-3 Rangers in OT and 39-34 overall for the visitors.
The netminders were Evan Fradette for the Raiders and Sebastian Cossa of the Rangers.
In game two, the second penalty to the Raiders in OT proved costly as Bryce Bader lit the lamp 3:44 into the third extra frame and Noah Kramps serving a boarding infraction.
Both teams killed off penalties in the second OT period.
Taige Harding tied it at one on the power play in the first and the Rangers made it 2-1 with the man advantage with 39 seconds left in the second.
Dube notched the equalizer with 5:50 to go in regulation time.
The shot count was 23-14 for the Rangers during 33:44 minutes of OT and 51-46 overall for the Raiders with Fradette (3-2, 1.96 GAA) and Cossa (5-0, 1.59 GAA) between the pipes.
In the north standings, the Raiders (19-11-4, 116 GF/92 GA) finished first and Rangers (19-13-2, 106 GF/94 GA) placed second for first-round byes and in the best-of-five division semifinals the teams swept their respective series.
In league play, the Rangers won 3-0 Nov. 11 in St. Albert and the Raiders posted a 5-1 decision Jan. 6 in Fort Saskatchewan.
The St. Albert Flyers are going to the Alberta Minor Midget AAA Hockey League provincials after finishing second in the north division qualifying tournament last weekend in Lloydminster.
The midget 15 Flyers join the Leduc Oil Kings and the host SSAC Bulldogs at the March 20 to 24 provincials at Meadows Recreation Centre in Edmonton.
The Lethbridge Hurricanes, winners of the last two provincials, Red Deer Chiefs and NWCAA Bruins are the south division reps.
The Flyers and Leduc finished league play tied for third at 21-10-3 in the north standings and in Sunday’s final the Oil Kings prevailed 5-3.
Goal scorers were Ethan Sundar on the penalty kill in the first period and Payton McDonald-Corea on the power play and Aidyn Hutchinson at even strength in the third as the Flyers registered 36 shots.
Carson Ironside (2-1-1, 2.25 GAA) faced 36 shots as Leduc tied it at one on the power play late in the first period and closed out the win with an empty-netter.
In pool A, the Flyers posted victories of 5-1 against the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers (14-14-6) and 6-3 against the Grande Peace Storm (9-18-7) before battling the first-place PAC Saints (27-4-3) to a 2-2 draw for a berth in the crossover semifinals against the pool B Sherwood Park Squires (20-8-6).
Dylan Leslie, Isaac Kinsella, David Saunders, Chase Visser, McDonald-Corea and Sundar threaded the needle and Palmer Strang added two assists against the Squires, ranked second in the north.
Shots were 38-30 for the Flyers with Ironside tending the twine.
Sundar, Saunders and Hutchinson tied for the team lead in points at the tournament with six apiece.
Midget AA playoffs
Tuesday’s playoff result for the St. Albert Source for Sports Crusaders determined if the defending champions qualified for the next round in the Northern Alberta Midget AA Hockey league playoffs.
The score against the Sturgeon Sting at JRC Arena was unavailable press time.
The winner of the Besa division tournament will play the Anderson division rep in the best-of-three metro conference final.
The Crusaders were 4-0-1 in the tournament after winning Monday’s semifinal 4-2 against the PAC Saints at JRC.
The first of two goals by Ronin Pusch during a three-point night broke a 2-2 tie at 6:08 of the third period.
Hayden Carlson and Maddux Nollski also scored and Evan Hergott faced 25 shots.
The Crusaders also beat the Saints 5-3 Saturday in Sherwood Park.
Another victory for the Crusaders was 6-3 against the St. Albert Blues on Friday at Go Auto Arena.
Pusch’s hat trick included a shorthanded effort to cut the deficit to 3-2 with 7:50 left in the second, the game winner with 9:13 to play and the team’s sixth goal with 4:52 remaining.
Pusch also assisted on the 5-3 goal by Tanvir Grewal on the power play with 6:55 to go.
Matthew Reidy also potted a pair and Adam Ray drew two assists.
After five games, Pusch was the NAMHL’s top playoff scorer with eight goals and 15 points.
The Blues were led by Brady Harroun’s two goals, Cameron McConnell’s power-play strike and two assists by Kyle Lawrence.
Shots were 49-27 for the Crusaders and the netminders were Tanner Schnirer of the Blues and Hergott.
The Blues finished 0-1-3 in the tournament as Harroun produced five goals and six points and Jayden Antunes totalled five points.
In league play, the Crusaders (26-4-2) were first in the Besa standings as the No. 1 team in the NAMHL and the Blues (14-14-4) placed fifth in the division.