By TED STEPHENS
Special to Sylvan Lake News
Sylvan Lake Admirals entered last weekend with one thought in mind, win back-to-back games and solidify a third place position in provincial AAA playoffs.
Last Friday night was at home to the Innisfail Eagles and Saturday night was on the road at the Stony Plain Eagles.
In three previous meetings, the Innisfail crew had beat the Admirals and in two previous outings, the Admirals had defeated the Stony Plain gang. The Stony Plain Eagles are the team that the Admirals are battling for position with so these two games could create a substantial Admirals advantage, should both games be a win.
Against Innisfail the battle began from the drop of the puck. Neither team backed down and a solid, hard hitting period of hockey was under way.
Although the edge was slightly in favour of the Admirals, it was Innisfail drawing first blood at 11:17.
Seconds later Innisfail took a penalty and the Admirals had their chance to tie it but couldn’t convert.
Keeping up the pressure Brandon Knelsen scored the tying marker with four minutes to go in the first, with assists going to Brendan Baumgartner and Justin Daigle. The tempo remained high but no further scoring occurred in the first.
Innisfail came out hard and strong in the second, and scored the go ahead goal at 14:08.
It was Paul Mailey for the Admirals who answered at 8:47 on a power play marker with helpers to Luke Boyer and Brendan Baumgartner.
All tied up, the Innisfail Eagles had owned the first half of the period but Andy Williams was equal to the task between the pipes, giving the hometown boys a chance to win.
Hard forechecking by the Admirals created the next scoring opportunity with Aaron Boyer scoring at 5:20 with Branden Gay and Justin Daigle getting assists.
The period ended with the Admirals leading 3-2 but Innisfail outshot them 15-5.
The third period saw more hard hitting end-to-end action with Innisfail getting the majority of shots.
Twice Admirals tender Andy Williams stole a sure goal with acrobatic moves that had opposition shooters shaking their heads.
The Admirals opened the gap at 5:22 when Cody Esposito slammed home a feed from Brenden Baumgartner.
Innisfail answered at 3:48 with a goal of thei r own and the score was 4-3 heading into the final minutes, with the Admirals short handed for the next minute and 55 seconds.
It was a wild scramble and Innisfail pulled their tender to create extra pressure but the Admirals were able to prevail and a hard fought win went into the Admirals books.
Goaltender Andy Williams was given the home team star of the game, having turned away 33 of 36 shots with several spectacular saves.
Saturday the Admirals headed for an evening game with the Stony Plain Eagles.
It was obvious from the start that the Eagles were a determined team looking to get out of their slump. Play was fast and furious with the Admirals drawing first blood when Ernie Stewart scored at 8:38 with assists to Luke Boyer and Kurtis Ross.
The Eagles answered on the PP at 3:46 and the period ended with Stony Plain outshooting the Admirals 16-9.
The Admirals seemed back on their heels and nothing changed for the second period. Poor passes, missed opportunities and relentless pressure by Stony Plain kept the Admirals off balance.
The Eagles scored twice to pull into a two goal lead. The boys from the lake kept battling and Cody Esposito answered on the power play at 5:07, assist to Aaron Boyer and Justin Daigle.
Shortly into the third period, Ernie Stewart took advantage of his speed and beat the Stony Plain defensemen to an errant pass, then beat them to the net as the Admirals tied the game.
The entire third period was a battle and the Admirals were equal to the task until two phantom calls by the referee took the decision out of the players hands. The first call came with 2:21 left gave Stony Plain the power play and caused Luke Boyer to be ejected for having three stick infractions.
The Eagles scored with 1:16 to go, taking a 4-3 lead. The Admirals swarmed back and had the Eagles at their mercy.
All five Stony Plain players were in their net trying to stop the puck and the Eagles goaltender, Wade Waters was under the pile. An Admiral player had been knocked into the net but had gotten up and was standing by the side of the net on the opposite side to the Eagles tender.
The Admirals were in control of the puck for eight to ten seconds with an easy shot to tie the game when the Eagle’s goaltender brushed his helmet and mask off. The referee raised his arm and called the second phantom penalty for goaltender interference.
After the faceoff the Admirals again had pressure and pulled their goaltender but a wayward pass gave the Eagles a shot at the empty net and the final score was 5-3 Eagles over the Admirals.
Andy Williams was given the game star award for the second time in a row having stopped 51 shots in a losing cause.
“We played well this weekend,” said Coach Jason Stephens.
“It was important we get two wins but sometimes it’s taken out of your hands and you need to shake it off and move on. I thought we gave Innisfail our best game of the year and we were in it in Stony Plain right up ‘til the end.
“Andy (goaltender Andy Williams) gave us a chance in both games and that’s all you can ask from the tender. The rest is up to the front end and we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be or are capable of.
“There are two games left and one of those is against Stony Plain so redemption for this loss is in our hands and could likely be a deciding factor for provincial standings.”
The Admirals wrap up the final two games of the season at home in the multiplex.
Tomorrow (Friday) they play against the Bentley Generals and Friday January 25th against Stony Plain Eagles. Both game times start at 8:30