Pirates take control in NPHL semifinal

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

Two games down, two to go!
The Falher Pirates have taken a two-game lead in the best-of-seven NPHL East Division Final after consecutive one-goal victories over the Manning Comets.
The Pirates won on home ice 3-2 on Feb. 23, then 5-4 at Manning Feb. 25 to grab a commanding lead in the series with Game 3 at home Feb. 28.
The trend of close games continues as the two evenly-matched clubs tied for first in the East Division this season.
The Pirates dominated the first game outshooting the Comets 64-30.
After a scoreless first period, Taylor Cote and Darren Brochu scored in a 36-second span in the first two minutes. The rest of the period was scoreless.
In the third, the Comets rallied to tie the game 2-2 on a pair of power play goals. Deklan Whillans was first to score before Isaiah Letendre’s goal with 2:04 left tied the game.
However, with the Comets having all the momentum despite being badly outplayed, Trevor Tokarz scored with 1:10 left to give the Pirates the win and send the hometown fans to their cars happy.
The Comets were 2-for-5 on the power play while the Pirates were blanked in six chances.
At Manning, it looked like a laugher as the Pirates took control early with a 4-1 first period lead. Neil Maisonneuve, Rob Lemay, Denis Rochon and Cruz Cote all scored with the Comets’ Wyatt Noskey getting a goal sandwiched between the four. The Pirates led after one period despite being outshot 19-8 as Comets’ goaltender Braden Gamble had an unusually poor period.
Noskey scored the lone goal of the second period to close the gap to 4-2.
In the third, Cote scored what proved to be the game-winner at the 1:13 mark.
The rest of the period was odd to say the least. The Comets scored twice – both shorthanded. Letendre made it 5-3 with 10:45 remaining before Brendan Baumgartner scored with 2:02 left to make it 5-4.
The Comets outshot the Pirates 47-27 – a sharp contrast from play in the first game.
Both teams were scoreless on the power play with the Pirates being blanked in four chances and the Comets in six chances.
History strongly indicates the series may be over. When the Pirates lead 2-0 in a series they are an impressive 20-4, including 3-1 against the Comets. The Pirates have also swept 15 of the 20 series and are an incredible 86-26 in 112 games played. All four times the Pirates lost when leading a series 2-0 they lost in seven games, including historic collapses when they led the series 3-0 against Grimshaw in 1980 and Lakeland in 2013.
When the Comets trail 0-2 in a series, they are a miserable 1-20 all-time including a 1-3 record versus the Pirates. However, that one series win came in the 1986 NPHL Semifinal versus Falher including a 6-3 Game 7 win at home. The Comets are a very poor 13-72 in 85 games played in series they trail 2-0.
Ironically, as the Pirates have swept 15 series when leading 2-0, the Comets have been swept 15 times. The Comets also did not win a single game in a series they trailed 2-0 from 1991 to 2003 losing 29 straight games.
An oddity occurred in the NPHL playoffs that had only occurred once in league history. When play concluded Saturday night, all four games in both semifinals were decided by one goal. In the other series, the Spirit River Rangers and Dawson Creek Canucks split the first two games with the Rangers winning 5-4 and the Canucks 4-3 in overtime. The only other time it occurred was in 2006 when Lakeland defeated the Rangers 5-4 in double overtime and 3-2 in the first two games of their series. In the other series, Peace River defeated Grande Prairie 4-3 but Grande Prairie won the second game 3-2 in overtime.

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