VITO’S SCORE SEVEN TO CLINCH BERTH IN TELUS CUP SEMIFINALS
QUISPAMSIS, N.B. – Ben Reid and Anderson MacDonald led the charge with two goals apiece, and the Saint John Vito’s punched their ticket to the semifinals at the 2016 TELUS Cup with a wild 7-6 win over the Saskatoon Contacts on Thursday night.
It’s the first time Saint John has qualified for the semifinals in its four appearances at Canada’s National Midget Championship, and the first time an Atlantic-based host team has made the final four since the Dartmouth Kings won a bronze medal in 1992.
Liam Frigault was the high point-getter for the Vito’s with four assists, while Ian Smallwood, Matt Palmer and Cole Theriault joined Reid and MacDonald as goal scorers.
Smallwood opened the scoring for the hosts 9:43 into the first period, but Dino Antoniadis got the Contacts even just over three minutes later, taking advantage of a friendly bounce off the end boards.
The teams traded shorthanded goals in the second period; Palmer poked the puck away from a Contacts defenceman before going five-hole on the backhand at 9:48 of the middle frame, but Quinton Ong matched Palmer with a man-down effort of his own at 14:53.
Saint John came right back 10 seconds later on the same power play when Theriault beat Saskatoon goaltender Isaac LaBelle just inside the post, but Chance Adrian got the Contacts even again before the end of the period.
With both teams needing a win, the third period was as wild a stanza as there has been all week, with the capacity crowd at the qplex rising and falling with every twist and turn.
The Vito’s took their third lead just three minutes into the period after Kyle Anderson banked a shot off the end boards and onto the stick of MacDonald in front, and Reid gave Saint John the game’s first two-goal advantage just 43 seconds after that.
Ong scored his second of the game – this time on the power play – at 6:41, but was matched by Reid, who netted his second 97 ticks later to make it a 6-4 game in favour of the Vito’s.
Cue the comeback for the Contacts; Brett Hamm tapped in a rebound on another Saskatoon power play at 12:34, and Tyler Heidt beat Saint John goaltender Jake Stewart through traffic with 2:35 left to tie the game.
But the West Region champions needed the full two points, and pulled LeBelle in the dying minutes.
MacDonald took advantage, hitting the empty net from just outside the Saskatoon blue-line to provide the game-winning goal.
Saskatoon finished with a narrow advantage in shots on goal, 33-32.
The Vito’s will play for positioning in their preliminary round finale Friday against the first-place Lions du Lac St-Louis (4:30 p.m. AT), while the Contacts close out their season with a battle of winless teams, facing the Dartmouth Major Midgets (1 p.m. AT).