June 16 – The chase for the final playoff spot in the East made a stop in West Durham on Friday night. The Saints and Ironheads have gotten very familiar with each other, playing three times in the last three weeks. The two sides came in tied in the standings, although the Saints did own the tiebreaker having won their previous two meetings.
Starting goaltenders were Cory Campbell for the Saints and Tyler Newman for the Ironheads.
When play began, both teams opened a little tentative, seemingly feeling the pressure of what was at stake. The Ironheads struck first, about six minutes in, only to have Angus Rawding answer three minutes later. The game stayed tied until just under three minutes left when the Ironheads scored twice in eleven seconds. Brandon Tanacs would get one back for the Saints with a missle from 20 feet out to make it 3-2. Then, with time winding down, a fracas broke out in the Ironheads zone. Two fights resulted in four players being ejected, including two of the Saints’ top scorers.
Newmarket regrouped in the intermission, but an early power play goal by West Durham put them up 4-2. The fights and the score seemed to only embolden the Saints who slowly began to take over the game and, in a three minute span, they also took their first lead. Riley Woodcox got it started, quickly followed by Connors’ second to tie it. Then Woodcox buried again and it was 5-4 Saints. With two minutes left, the Saints blew it open as Brodie Willard, Dante Romano and Woodcox, his third of the game, pushed the score to 8-4 at intermission.
The third period was a tight defensive battle, punctuated by some great stops by Campbell and Newman. The Ironheads cut it to 8-5 with 14 minutes to go. Tanacs replied on the power play to restore the Saints’ four-goal lead. The Ironheads snuck two more by Campbell, but that was it. With the win, Newmarket eliminated West Durham from playoff contention.
“Extremely proud of our group. That was a hot barn, the stakes were high and we delivered,” said Saints Head Coach, Dan Ransom Sr. “The young guys are excited, but it's the vets who've been through some lean years that really deserved this (a shot at the post-season). Tonight, we put ourselves one step closer to our goal.”
Final score: Saints 9 - Ironheads 7.
Up next – the Saints can clinch a playoff spot in their final game of the regular season, Saturday night in Orillia. Game starts at 8PM at Rotary Place.