In the blink of an eye, the Ben Sivertz Arena went from a raucous building to a silent one.
The Yellowknife First Air Flyers stunned a packed barn on Saturday when they scored two-and-a-half minutes into overtime of Game 5 and, just like that, the playoff series was over.
As the Flyers mobbed their goalie Ivan Gloeden in celebration, Hay Riverites left wondering how their team could have suffered such a cruel fate.
The Western Arctic division of the Northern Hockey Challenge playoffs went the distance April 6 & 7, as the Flyers barely outlasted a resilient Huskies team.
Hay River fans, who had packed the arena the night before as well, gave their team a final cheer as the Huskies raised their sticks at centre ice to show their appreciation.
The Flyers beat the Huskies by a score of 2-1 on April 7, following a 4-3 overtime loss on April 6 that had evened up the series at two games apiece.
The Hay River side held a large shot advantage throughout both games. They outshot the Flyers 35-20 in the first game and 40-20 in the second, with countless other shots missing the target.
The weekend saw a number of highlights on both ends of the ice, but it’s a strange incident before Game 4 that had the most people talking.
The Zamboni had almost finished cleaning the ice surface when it accidentally bumped the corner boards, which caused them to break.
The game was delayed for over 30 minutes as a repair crew worked furiously to replace the board and the window above it.
During the delay, the players came back out for another quick warm-up, requiring the Zamboni to clear the ice once more. When it approached the ill-fated board, young fans amusingly warned the driver to be careful not to hit it.
Game 4 saw a typical Huskies comeback in the third period. Facing a 3-0 deficit, the Hay River team clawed its way back into the game with goals by Daniel Basque, Jay Planidon and Adam Chapman, who blew the roof off the building by scoring with just six seconds left in regulation time to send the game into overtime.
The extra period was barely 40 seconds old when Sean Poitras wristed a shot into the top corner of the Flyers net, raising the decibel level in the arena to a new high.
Game 5 featured the same high tempo, but also saw tensions rise more often. Penalties for roughing were given out left and right, while both goalies kept their teams in the game.
Gloeden was the obvious hero in Game 5, standing on his head to make remarkable saves as the relentless Huskies attacked again and again.
Huskies forward Steven Rosendahl missed a short-handed breakaway at the end of the third period that may have given his team the victory. He was sent clear courtesy of a fantastic pass by defenseman and team captain Christian Brideau, whose composure throughout the weekend created some excellent scoring chances.
“It was a very intense and emotional series,” the captain said following the game. “The crowd’s support helped us out a lot. They were really dedicated and we could feel their presence.”
Brideau, who played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League from 2001-2004, said the series could have gone either way. He added that it served as a great example of good hockey for local youth, who were able to witness the game without any body checking or dirty plays.
Adam Chapman,one of the Game 4 heroes, said the league was fantastic for all three NWT communities involved and he praised the volunteers who helped make it happen.
“I don’t know if people realize how much work the volunteers put into organizing this,” he said. “This wouldn’t happen without them. Being from out of town and having lived here less than two years, I can see the passion this town has for the game.”
Chapman said he truly enjoyed the experience and would love to see the league return for a second season next year.
— Myles Dolphin