Pirates lead 2-1!

Falher Pirates’ defenceman Kevin Monfette protects the front of the net against Spirit River Rangers’ forward Colin Lefley in Game 2 of the NPHL Final at Spirit River March 14. Behind is goaltender Ran Noble. Photo courtesy of MT Actions Photography (Maurice Trudeau) of Grande Prairie.

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

It was a chance they may regret but for now, the Falher Pirates are still in control of winning their fourth NPHL title in franchise history.

The Pirates lost the third game of the best-of-seven final March 16 by a score of 5-2 on home ice to the visiting Spirit River Rangers in front of a raucous crowd. They still lead the series 2-1, however, after a 7-0 obliteration in the first game March 12 on home ice and a thrilling 4-3 double overtime win in the second game March 14 in Spirit River.

Pirates’ coach Dan Aubin is pleased with the series lead but believes the Pirates can play better.

“We’ve played well so far, but I don’t think we’ve hit our full potential yet,” he says.

Perhaps so in the second and third game, but in the first game the Pirates recorded only their second shutout in NPHL finals history as goaltender Ryan Noble stopped all 20 shots fired his way. The first came April 1, 1976 when the Pirates skunked the visiting High Prairie Regals 6-0.

Fans attending the games or watching the live-streaming cannot help but notice the games are physical and – at times – downright nasty.

“It’s been a physical series for sure which is what we’ve expected and our team has responded well,” says Aubin.

“I believe we have the faster team and can expose their aggressive style.”

But it’s playoff time so strategies are best left in the dressing room out of the public eye as teams prepare.

“Both teams have and will continue to make adjustments as the series progresses,” says Aubin.

Both teams also know the series is far from over, given the road team has won two of three contests.

“The lead in the series is nice but it doesn’t mean anything if we can’t extend it,” says Aubin.

“It’s a tight series, the teams are well-matched and it will be the details of the game that will make a difference. Take care of those small details and we will be fine, ignore them and the series will be hard to win,” Aubin concludes.

In the first game, the Pirates broke open a 1-0 lead in the second period with six goals in what proved to be laugher. Noble stopped 20 shots for the shutout.

Isaish Letendre scored what proved to be the game-winner with 2:17 left in the first period. In the second, Dallas Brochu scored the first of two on the night only 50 seconds into the frame. Trevor Tokarz made it 3-0 at the 3:17 mark and the floodgates were open and the dam bursting. Cruz Cote, Brochu, Kris Desjarlais and Darren Kramer all scored before the end of the period. Desjarlais and Kramer scored on the power play as the Pirates clicked on two of six chances.

The Pirates outshot the Rangers 51-20 and were dominant. Shots were 17-4 after one period and the Rangers lucky to be close but it all fell apart for them in the second period. Cote’s goal at the 6:15 mark made it 4-0 and chased starting goaltender Josh Round.

In the second game, the Pirates rallied from a 3-1 second period deficit to win on Desjarlais’ double overtime goal at the 12:02 mark of the second overtime. It was the Pirates’ second win in Spirit River this season, also having won 6-1 in the regular season.

Mike Lefley gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead only 26 seconds into the contest but Brochu tied it at the 8:18 mark. Jace Weegar’s goal before the end of the period gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead, and they extended it in the second period on Colin Lefley’s goal just past the midway point.

But the Pirates did not die. Denis Rochon scored with 6:42 left in the second period and Walker Cote tied it near the midway of the third to send the game to overtime.

As expected in a double overtime game, shots were high. The Pirates outshot the Rangers 59-54. Together, the goaltenders stopped 106 of 113 shots.

In the third game, the Rangers again took a 3-1 lead, this time in the first period. Maddison Smiley scored twice and Riley Boomgaarden scored the other. Kramer’s goal after Smiley’s opener briefly tied the game.

In the second period, Eric Dentinger pulled the Pirates to within one goal at 3-2.

But in the third period, D’Lane Sather made it 4-2 on the power play at the 7:42 mark before Weegar’s empty-net goal sealed the win in the final minute.

The Pirates outshot the Rangers 41-35 and have done so in all three games in the series.

Falher Pirates team-mates mob double overtime goal scorer Kris Desjarlais (not seen in photo) after his winner March 14 in Spirit River to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead in the NPHL Final. Photo courtesy of MT Actions Photography (Maurice Trudeau) of Grande Prairie.

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