NEW GLASGOW – With 2:32 left in overtime everything stopped.
Truro Bearcat Daniel Poliziani had beat Weeks Crushers goalie Brandon Thibeau to help the Bearcats advance to the MHL final with a 4-3 victory in Game 4 of the Eastlink Division final on Sunday night.
Thibeau didn't move, he simply laid face first on the ice with his pads in the air.
Defenceman Daniel MacLeod was in a similar position to the right of the Crushers net. Their season was over.
MacLeod, a native of Scotsburn, is one of 10 players that graduate from the Crushers program as a 20-year-old. Teammate Garrett Holmes of New Glasgow is also amongst the group of graduating players. Both scored on Sunday in the losing cause.
“Playing three years of junior, I think this was the team that changed the most throughout the year,” said MacLeod. “We had the same core group of guys for almost the whole year, so you really bond with them and a lot of the guys have been there for three years. It sucks saying goodbye to everyone, but that’s just how it goes sometimes.”
The Bearcats opened the series with a 6-2 victory in New Glasgow, before 7-2 and 4-3 wins in Truro.
On Sunday it was MacLeod that opened the scoring 10:03 into the first period for Pictou County with a slap shot from high in the slot that beat Bearcats goalie Chris Festarini.
They had an opportunity to increase the lead to two late in the first period when Denver Lynds took a charging penalty, but the Bearcats squashed the Crushers power play before going to their third man advantage of the period with just 29 seconds remaining in the first.
Although they didn’t capitalize on David Stephens hooking minor, they did on Tanner McCabe’s roughing penalty 7:16 into the second. Daniel Perigo scored 50 seconds into the power play to tie the game.
Just 1:15 later Jeff Hanes gave Truro their first lead of the game.
It was the third Bearcats goal, or as it was proven after the game, non-goal that changed the momentum. Streaking towards Thibeau, Tyler Morrison shot glove-side and hit the crossbar, but the official thought it went in and instantly back out, calling it a goal.
Fans were screaming and the Crushers bench was in disbelief as the goal stood even after a lengthy discussion.
Pictou County did bounce back, although obviously frustrated, as Evan Carmody cut the lead to one with a power play marker from the right faceoff circle 14:06 into the second frame.
Holmes was the lone scorer in the third, snapping the puck through Festarini’s five-hole from between the faceoff dots on the Crushers third man advantage of the game with 9:17 left in the period. Both Thibeau and Festarini were tested, especially in the final ten minutes of regulation as both teams went to the power play again, but kept the game tied.
In overtime Truro held most of the possession and with just five minutes remaining in the extra period had the Crushers exhausted in their own zone. After icing the puck defencmen McCabe and MacLeod were both exhausted, but unable to change, so Pictou County called a timeout.
Although that got them out of trouble the Bearcats kept the pressure up and eventually Poliziani broke through with his marker late in the 10-minute overtime.
“The first two games were obviously not our best hockey, but having said that we battled back and I really feel like the bounces didn’t go our way,” he said. “At the end of the day Truro is a really good hockey club and there’s no shame in losing to them. It hurts though.”
With a short bench for Games 3 and 4 because of an injury to defencemen Evan MacEachern and three-game suspension to Mitchell Shewfelt, MacLeod said their blue-liners were running on adrenaline. He said all were exhausted, especially late in Sunday’s game.
“Obviously (Mitchell) Shewfelt being out and Evan MacEachern we were a little short-staffed on the back end, so everyone stepped their game up and had a lot of ice,” he said.
“It was definitely (exhausting playing back-to-back games twice) and there’s a lot of guys on the team that were banged up, so you don’t really have any time to recuperate because you’re right back at it. You’re just in adrenaline mode.
“This whole series you don’t really have a day off, so we put everything out there.”
Looking back at this season and his career with the Crushers is something MacLeod didn’t expect to be doing so soon this year. He said he made multiple friendships that he expects to last a lifetime.
“There were ups and downs to the year and we started out in a little slump, but we turned it around,” he said. “Just like any other season there’s going to be ups and downs. It’s just how you respond to them. Even though we lost the last two games of this series I felt we put it all on the line and looking back there’s no regrets.”
Becoming a name that kids idolize in the community, similar to Holmes, MacLeod said it’s that hometown support he wouldn't trade for anything.
“It’s always good when you see people you know up in the stands and they’re always cheering you on and texting you to wish you good luck in the game and that they’ll be there,” he said. “It was a pleasure playing here for the last three years.
“I’d just like to thank the fans for supporting us over the last three years that I played and best of luck to the Crusher teams in the future. I’m sure we’ll bring a championship to New Glasgow pretty soon.”
On Twitter: @NGNewsChris