The Niverville Nighthawks have made it a series. They defeated the Portage Terriers 5-4 in Game 3 of their first-round matchup tonight at Stride Place. Luckily for Portage, they were victorious in the first two games and still lead the best-of-seven series 2-1.
The Nighthawks got on the board early for the third straight game. Braden Panzer's shot went high and off the glass but Josh Paulhus was behind the net for the rebound. He brought the puck to the side of the net before he passed it across to Gavin Gunderson, who made no mistake about it. 1-0 Nighthawks.
The lead didn't last long, as a minute later, the Terriers were on their second power-play of the night. Austin Peters had the puck down low and found Stanick in tight on the opposite side of the net. Stanick waited a second before he fired a shot, top shelf, and tied the game.
Still in the first period, Mike Stubbs had the puck in the corner. He spotted Ryan Botterill cutting through the slot and threaded the needle through multiple defenders to feed the 45-goal scorer. Botterill did exactly that, score. The Portager went five-hole and gave the Terriers their first lead of the game.
Just past the halfway mark in the frame, Daniel Siso just came out of the penalty box and joined Stubbs and Botterill in a 3-on-2 rush. Stubbs kept the puck himself and ripped a shot over the net that went off the glass, however, Siso was able to bat the puck out of mid-air from a sharp angle. The puck went behind Nighthawks goalie Chris Fines but it slid across the crease and out. The score would remain 2-1 Portage after 20 minutes.
Five minutes into the second, Panzer had the puck on the power-play and out-skated everyone. He had space and got in tight before taking his shot but Bailey Monteith stood tall and made the shoulder save for the Dogs.
On that same power-play, Paulhus circled the zone with the puck going from the boards to the slot. Once he found his spot, he put the puck exactly where he wanted it and tied the game up once again.
Midway through the period, just as Parker Scherr's penalty expired, Portage entered the offensive zone with speed. Botterill brought the puck in along the wing, cut toward the middle and made a drop pass to Austin Peters. Botterill moved toward the net and brought a defender with him, which acted as a screen, and Peters ripped a shot glove side. 3-2 Terriers.
Late in the frame, after putting on heavy pressure in the offensive zone, Issac Rentmeester shielded off the Portage defence as he brought the puck down low along the boards. Just before going behind the net, he threw the puck out in front, and Eric Martin was there for the tap-in. This brought the score to 3-3, entering the final period.
Peters created the first major chance of the third as he went for a wrap-around and the puck was tipped by a Nighthawk's stick. The puck would've gone in but Fines stuck out his pad just in time to keep it a tie game.
Twelve seconds into their fifth power-play chance, Gunderson put home his second of the night and third of the series to give Niverville the lead back.
With under five minutes left in regulation, Peters poked the puck away from a Nighthawk along the boards to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Stubbs was there to pick it up, and this generated a short 2-on-1 opportunity for Stubbs and Botterill. He passed it over to Botterill, who was stopped but as bodies crashed toward the net, Stubbs was somehow able to locate the puck through intense traffic and jammed it into the back of the net.
The fans at Stride Place went crazy for this game-tying goal, however, Brett Tataryn didn't seem to be a fan of the energy. With just over three minutes left, Niverville's captain battled with a Portage defenceman for the puck and fired a quick shot as soon as he came away with it and he was able to tickle the twine for what would turn out to be the game-winner.
Portage had a few chances with their net pulled but, ultimately, couldn't pull off the comeback. The Nighthawks take Game 3 5-4.
Terriers forward Daniel Siso describes what they would've liked to do differently.
"Just tie them up in the zone. We lost some assignments there but we'll have a hard practice tomorrow and then get back to it on Thursday."
The Terriers have given up five power-play goals to Niverville through three games of this series. Siso outlines what they'll have to do to minimize those going forward.
"Honestly, it's just about not taking penalties," Siso explains. "We took a lot of penalties. If we can limit that, we obviously limit what's been a pretty good power-play on the other side. So, it's about not taking penalties and staying disciplined."
This series will resume on Thursday in Niverville for Game 4, with Game 5 back at Stride Place on Friday.