Game 7! The best 2 words in sports!

Spirit River Ranger Justin Todd, middle, is surrounded by Falher Pirates Carter Wolski, left, and Denis Rochon during Game 6 action in Spirit River March 23. Photo courtesy of MT Actions Photography (Maurice Trudeau) of Grande Prairie.

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

All season long Falher Pirates’ coach Dan Aubin has preached the importance of having home ice advantage in the playoffs.

Tuesday night (March 26), the Pirates host the Spirit River Rangers in the seventh and deciding game of the NPHL Final to decide the winner of the 2023-24 NPHL season.

The seventh game was forced when the Rangers blanked the visiting Pirates 3-0 in Game 6 March 23. It was the first time in 71 NPHL Finals games the Pirates were shutout, and only the sixth time in 326 playoff games the Pirates failed to score.

This will mark the 39th time in NPHL history a series has gone to Game 7. In the 38 previous series, the home team is a sparking 26-12, but only 13-11 since 1984.

It is also the 14th time in history that a final series has gone the limit. History is on the Pirates’ side as the home team is 11-2. Pirates’ fans will remember one of the visiting teams to win was when the Pirates defeated the Grande Prairie Athletics to win the 2012 title in overtime. The only other team to lose a Game 7 home game in the final was the Lakeland Eagles 7-2 to the Grimshaw Huskies in 1996.

The only other time the Pirates played a Game 7 finals game was – of course – last season when they lost 4-3 in overtime to the Dawson Creek Canucks.

In all playoff series going seven games, the Pirates are 3-7 and will hope to reverse the trend.

The Rangers will be playing their eighth Game 7 in franchise history. They are 3-4 in their previous six series.

The Rangers have also played only two Game 7s in finals history and lost both, in 1999 to the Grimshaw Huskies and in 2002 to the Horse Lake Thunder. Both losses were on the road. Pirates’ fans hope history repeats itself.

Kenton White stopped 30 shots as the Rangers won Game 6 to thwart the Pirates’ chances of returning home with the Campbell Cup and their fourth title in league history. Mike Lefley’s first period goal was all the Rangers needed. Dustin Sather also scored in the first period.

After a scoreless second period, Bowden Sawers scored in the third to end the scoring.

The Pirates scored only one goal in the last two games of the series in Spirit River.

In Game 5, the Rangers scored first on Sather’s power playeffort and the Rangers had the momentum. Shots on goal did not truly indicate play. The Rangers had the better scoring chances but many quality shots could not find the net. Pirates’ goaltender Ryan Noble kept the team in the game until the second period when momentum changed drastically.

Eric Sorenson finally beat goaltender White just before the midway point and the Pirates caught fire. Wyatt Noskey put the Pirates ahead for good on a power play goal late in the period.

The Pirates continued to push in the third. Kris Dejarlais scored on the power play and Walker Cote into an empty net to seal the win.

In Game 4, the Rangers evened the series with a 3-1 win. The Rangers’ Clint Lefley and Pirates’ Dallas Brochu traded first period goals despite the Pirates being outshot 16-8.

In the second period, Ty Mappin scored to make it 2-1 at the 2:03 mark.

Lefley’s power play goal in the third ended the scoring.

The Pirates were badly hotshot 44-23 in the game but still had a chance to win in the third period down only one goal.

The Pirates will be pleased to play Game 7 in front of their rabid fans. The Pirates have played much better in their three home games, outscoring the Rangers 13-6 and outshooting them 137-90.

Game time is 8:30 p.m. in Falher

Falher Pirates’ defenceman Cale Fox, right, makes sure Marco St.-Pierre of the Spirit River Rangers poses no scoring threat with tight checking in Game 6 in Spirit River March 23. Photo courtesy of MT Actions Photography (Maurice Trudeau) of Grande Prairie.

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