The fairytale return to the Tiger Hills Hockey League (THHL) is continuing for the Gladstone Lakers.
The squad has clinched a berth in the East Division's finals after defeating the Cartwright Clippers in four games, in the best-of-five series. Cartwright came into the series as the second-ranked team, while Gladstone was ranked fourth.
For a Lakers team that came into the season returning to the league with modest expectations, the key now is to keep riding that momentum.
“It's been a real good season so far,” coach Dale Evenson noted. “With all our guys we have a pretty good team, and I think our guys played really well this whole series, outside of the first game and maybe the second period there Saturday night.”
That first game was the only one lost by the Lakers, a 6-5 road defeat on Feb. 22. They responded by winning the next night in Gladstone 3-0 to even the series.
More recently, the Lakers played Game 3 this past Friday in Cartwright, winning by a convincing 9-4 score. Devon Ford earned the win in net, while Blaine Jarvis compiled a three-goal, six-point night.
Richard Henderson added two goals, Ryley Dayholos scored once, while Tanner Waldvogel totalled a goal with three assists, and Rory Gabor ended with one goal and three points.
The win meant the Lakers returned to Gladstone Saturday night with the potential to clinch the series. A mid-game rally made it interesting, but Jarvis again ensured the Lakers didn't spoil that opportunity as they battled back for a 6-5 win.
Gladstone took a commanding 4-1 lead after the first period, with Jarvis, Danny McArthur, Waldvogel and former Neepawa Native Lyndon Soper notching goals.
Cartwright responded in the second period though, putting away four unanswered goals to take a 5-4 lead into the final period.
Not so fast, said Jarvis.
The Gladstone captain scored just under six minutes into the final period, then scored the game-winner with 12 seconds remaining to clinch the 6-5 win. The game-winner capped an amazing game for Jarvis that saw him involved in every Lakers goal in the game, compiling three goals and six points for the second consecutive game.
Ford was again the winning goaltender. Waldvogel ended the night with six points off five assists, while Evyi Hanneson notched two assists.
The win sets up a finals series against the Carberry Plainsmen. The squads split their two regular season meetings, leaving the Lakers' coach to believe THHL fans are in for a good show.
“I think it's going to be a long series,” Evenson said of the best-of-five matchup. “We had good games throughout the year. It's going to be tight, but I think we can match up reasonably well with them.”
The schedule for the series was expected to be released early this week.