And, when 60 minutes of regulation time was still not sufficient to decide a winner, Wetaskiwin and Beaumont went to overtime.
When the Icemen and Chiefs took to the ice Sunday evening in Beaumont for the fifth and deciding game in their Capital Junior Hockey League East Division semifinal series, their entire season was on the line.
In the simplest of terms, the winner would move into the leagues final four showdown, and lay claim to being an upper echelon team in the Junior B circuit, while the loser would see its season come to a dramatic conclusion.
The Icemen and Chiefs battled through 60 minutes even at one goal each, setting the stage for a thrilling overtime.
Three minutes into sudden death, Wetaskiwins Jordan Howe was awarded a penalty shot after he was hauled down on a breakaway.
Howe, with the series on the line, attempted to deke Beaumont netminder Chris Roy, who had the best goals against average in the league during the regular season, but was stopped.
And the game played on.
Then, with just over six minutes gone in overtime, Aaron Linaker, who totalled eight goals and 13 points in the five game series, centered the puck for Karrick Martin, who beat Wetaskiwin netminder Marcus Johnson on the short side to send the Beaumont Chiefs into the CJHL semifinals with a 2 1 victory.
I thought we carried the play in the second half of the game. We out, shot them and out, chanced them. They got one that went in and we didnt, lamented Icemen head coach Rick Gregory. There is not much you can say to the guys to make them feel a whole lot better. We pushed that team to the brink and never backed down. That is something our guys can be real proud of.
The series made it to the final game after Wetaskiwin took the first two games by 3 - 2 scores, with Dylan McKay and Michael Chorneyko scoring overtime winners, while Beaumont battled back to tie the series with a 9 - 3 victory at home Feb. 22 and a 3 - 2 win in front in front of more than 1,000 fans Friday at the Wetaskiwin Civic Centre.
After a scoreless opening period Sunday, Wetaskiwin gained some momentum early in the second period. With Beaumont enjoying a power play, Dylan McKay, with two overtime winners to his credit so far in these playoffs, gained control of the puck at his blueline, sped down the left side, and beat Roy with a high wrist shot for a 1 0 Wetaskiwin lead.
Beaumont tied the game at the 10:14 mark of the second period. With Cameron Dyck sitting off four minutes for high sticking, the Icemen had a golden opportunity when Ryley Bennefield was sent in on a breakaway. He tried deking the Chiefs netminder, but Roy swallowed the puck up in his pads, although it popped loose and he was forced to reach behind to save a shorthanded goal.
Unfortunately for the Icemen, Beaumont gained possession, came back down the ice, and Justin Woods wrist shot from the slot beat Icemen goaltender Johnson high to tie the game.
It was Beaumonts first shot on goal of the period, and a timely one that turned into a goal.
The teams battled back and forth in the third. Rit Spezzano had a glorious opportunity with a couple of minutes remaining when he was left alone at the side of the net, but Roy made a great glove save to keep the game tied.
At the other end, Beaumont enjoyed a two, on, one in the dying seconds, but Johnson got his arm on the shot, and the score held to force overtime, setting the stage for Martins winner.
For the Icemen, who had missed the playoffs four, straight years and totalled just 17 wins in the process, it was a difficult end to what turned into a successful season. Wetaskiwin made it into the post season, recorded a first, round upset of Sherwood Park, and had three home playoff dates which saw crowds in excess of 800 for both of the Beaumont games.
Three Icemen, goaltender Marcus Johnson, defencemen and captain Cameron Dyck, and forward KC Lorentz, all graduate from the team.
Those three were a big part of turning around this franchise. We won back the city, and we won back the respect of the league, added Gregory. Now we know what it is going to take to come through these playoffs. You have to sacrifice and be disciplined. I think we learned a lot of those lessons this year that will pay dividends in years to come.
Gregory, who has 19 possible returning players next season, confirmed after the game his intentions to be back behind the bench, along with assistant coach Grant MacDonald.
Giving the success the duo had in turning the Icemen franchise around in 2010, 2011, the board of directors are sure to bring both back with the goal of taking the team to the next level in the CJHL.
On another note, Bennefield has been called up to play with Portland of the Western Hockey League.