It’s one of the oldest scenarios in hockey.
One team fails to take advantage of a golden opportunity at one end of the ice, only to have the opposition gain possession of the puck and capitalize on a chance at the other end moments later.
Leading 1-0 in the third period of Sunday afternoon’s final of the Fort Frances Bantam ‘A’ tournament, the hometown Wal-Mart Thrashers were given a golden opportunity to pad their lead.
Already a man short, Kenora Houseboat Adventures’ forward Mark Kakeway was sent off for interference—giving the Thrashers a two-man advantage for just over a minute.
But despite generating several quality scoring chances, the Thrashers could not find a way to beat Kenora goalie Braden Seniw.
And it would prove to be a costly failure as Kenora scored twice right after those penalties expired to steal a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over the Thrashers and the tournament title.
After the game, all the talk in both locker-rooms centered around that fateful three-minute stretch of the third period.
“We got some momentum from that,” Kenora coach Doug Heino said of his team’s penalty kill. “Any time you can kill a penalty off, it’s good, but it was a five-on-three in the last period.”
“Our best players were our best players today.”
“That was pivotal,” lamented Thrashers’ coach Cam Keast. “If we could have scored to make it 2-0, we might have broken their spirits.
“We came up one goal short, but that’s just how the breaks go sometimes.”
Brandon Marr had given the Thrashers a 1-0 lead with less than 30 seconds to go in the first period.
Marr collected the puck at his own blueline and then skated through three Kenora defenders before avoiding Seniw’s poke check attempt and firing a wrist shot top corner.
After a scoreless second period, the Thrashers came out flying to start the third, with their aggressive play resulting in a rash of Kenora penalties, including the crucial five-on-three advantage midway through the frame.
In a cruel twist of fate, it was Kakeway—fresh out of the box after serving his penalty—who collected a loose puck in the neutral zone, sped into the Thrashers’ zone, and beat Devon Stromness to tie the game at 1-1.
The deadlock did not last long, though, as Kenora’s Geoff Boatman beat Stromness with a great individual effort just 17 seconds later to put Kenora out in front.
Facing a deficit for the first time all game, the Thrashers stepped up the pressure but ultimately were unable to beat Seniw.
The Thrashers had advanced to the ‘A’ final after posting a 2-1 record during round-robin play.
They opened the tournament with a pair of shutout wins—4-0 over the Emo Predators and 3-0 over the Dryden Hawks—before losing 2-1 to the same Kenora Houseboat Adventures squad in their round-robin finale.
Despite finishing with an identical round-robin record as several other teams, the Thrashers advanced to the ‘A’ semi-finals based on their better goal differential.
The Thrashers then defeated Nor-West (Thunder Bay) 3-1 to earn their berth in the championship game.
Kenora, meanwhile, finished the round-robin portion with a 2-0-1 record.
They blanked the Holmlund Leafs (Fort Frances) 2-0 in their opening game before tying the South End Stars (Thunder Bay) 1-1.
As mentioned, Kenora nipped the Thrashers 2-1 to close out the round-robin, then blanked Purple Esso (also of Kenora) 2-0 to earn a berth in the final.
In other tournament action, the Holmlund Leafs doubled the Canadian Tire Sabres (also of Fort Frances) 4-2 to win the ‘B’ crown while the South End Stars (Thunder Bay) downed the Dryden Blues 4-3 to earn the ‘C’ title.