The Red Deer AAA Optimist Chiefs were up against the wall, down 2-0 in their five-game series against the Calgary Royals.
Adding insult to injury, Red Deer was running four defencemen, with two of their top guys being out — meaning they would have to be extra sharp if they wanted to extend their series.
The Royals in the first period of Game 3 maintained their momentum, after Ethan Jamernik capitalized on a Red Deer turnover to put Calgary up one nothing.
The first frame would finish 1-0, with Red Deer unable to build any momentum.
“It looked like we lacking a lot of energy and we looked really tired,” Chiefs Coach Doug Quinn said. “I thought we came out and looked a lot better in the second.”
The second would see more chances for the Chiefs, but it appeared they were snake-bit, with Daylan Kuefler notably ringing one off the post early.
It would take until the final minute before a huge faceoff win by Keaton Sawicki would look to a goal by Rylan Burns, which tied the game at one a piece heading into the third period.
“That line gave us a lot of energy, which we needed,” Quinn said. “We needed that goal and once we got it, we got a lot of energy off it.”
Burn’s goal gave the Chiefs new life in the series and they would go on to have more opportunities in the third than the first two periods combined.
Finally, with 5:42 remaining, Hunter Leslie scored a beauty unassisted goal off the cross-bar to put Red Deer up 2-0.
“In the first period, we didn’t always play our best but we gutted it out and got the goal we needed. That is playoff hockey,” Quinn said.
They would maintain the lead for the final minutes, extending the series another game with Game 4 coming up on Wednesday in Calgary.
“They are a tough team and this is the first time we beat them all year,” Quinn said. “We are going to have to work hard and continue to be physical.
“It would be nice if we could score the first goal and get ahead because we have been chasing this whole series.”
If the Chiefs can win on the road, the fifth and final game will come on Friday at the Servus Credit Union Arena.
“If we win the next game and get to Game 5, you never know what will happen,” Quinn said.