Hammond lifts Cariboo Cats to OT victory

There will be a Game 3.

Curtis Hammond made sure of that for the Cariboo Cougars when his fired the winner 1:45 into the second overtime period to give the Cougars a 3-2 win over the Vancouver North East Chiefs.

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Hammond took a pass from teammate Brett Fudger and carried the puck in the right side then cut into the slot and while spinning the Cougar right winger let go a high backhander that sailed in over the shoulder of goalie Logan Terness.

“I just got around that guy and thought about throwing it on net and seeing what happens and it hit one of their d-men and went in,” said Hammond, who led the Cougars in scoring with 43 point in 40 regular-season games.

That tied the best-of-three B.C. Hockey Major Midget League series 1-1.

The teams will meet again Sunday at 10 a.m. in the third and deciding game at Kin 1. The winner will advance to the league championship against the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds, which starts Friday in Abbotsford.

Brennan Bott and Lane Goodwin scored for Cariboo in regulation time. Ryan Tattle and Dante Ballarin were the other Chiefs goalscorers.

“Going into overtime we wanted to push for tomorrow, we wanted to take the series  to three and that’s what we did,” said Hammond. “I don’t think they’re going to have a chance of recovering from this overtime loss.”

The shots ended up 39-35 in favour of Cariboo.

The Cougars fell behind early, just as they did Friday in their 4-2 loss to the Chiefs.  Jack Steffans shot wide and the puck was left in the corner for Tattle and the Chiefs winger spun into the slot and let go a high wrister that fooled goalie Devin Chapman midway through the opening period.

Bott put the Cougars back on even terms a few minutes later after a face-off win in the Chiefs’ end. Centre Grady Thomas pushed the puck ahead for Bott and his original shot was stopped but he gathered his own rebound and went wide around Terness with a backhand move.

The Cougars took control of the puck the rest of the period and Terness was the reason they didn’t have a lead heading into the break. He had to bail his team out with three quality saves as the Cats built a 13-4 shot advantage through 20 minutes.

That sense of urgency was apparent again in the Cougars to start the second period. Bott and Booker Daniel each tested Terness with point-blank shots in the opening minute of the period and the Prince George Cougars’ draft pick stood his ground.

The Cougars took their first lead of the series 2:19 into the second. Goodwin stole the puck and skated deep into the Chiefs’ zone on the left wing and picked the far-side corner low with a shot from a sharp angle.

The Chiefs answered with a strong push the rest of the period and Chapman had a lot more work trying to keep his team in the lead. The Chiefs had the Cougars pinned in their own zone for an extended period around the 10-minute mark. Dylan Wilson’s redirect in front of the net was the Chiefs’ best chance for the equalizer but Chapman shot across the crease to kick the puck away.

The Chiefs’ power play struck on its second attempt, early in the third period to tie the game 2-2. Ballarin gained the puck on the right side and launched a high shot that deflected in off Chapman’s trapper, 4:49 into the period.

Hammond had a chance to regain the lead on  penalty shot 7:55 into the third period but was stuffed by Terness after losing his balance on his deke attempt.

The Chiefs’ power play got another chance when Matthew Marotta was sent off for hooking with 1:57 left in regulation time. Cougar defenceman Max Arnold blocked three shots on the penalty kill and Bott killed the rest of the clock with an aggressive forecheck that kept the Chiefs from mounting an attack.

Fraser Valley, the defending BCHMML champions, swept the other semifinal Saturday afternoon in Abbotsford, where they beat the Okanagan Rockets 5-1 to win the best-of-three series 2-0. The T-birds won 3-2 Friday in quadruple overtime.


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