WINDSOR, N.S. — With their backs against the wall, the Valley Maple Leafs pulled out a convincing 5-1 win over the East Hants Penguins to force a Game 5 in the Best of 7 playoff series.
“The guys dug deep tonight and literally worked together as a team — every single one of them. They got the win and allowed us to remain in the playoffs,” said head coach Brett Fletcher following the Feb. 23 must-win game.
“They weren't done playing hockey this year and they proved it.”
Isaac Bridge, who took the opening face off, scored within the first minute of play. Jesse Hamer, who wound up being East Hants' lone scorer, tied the contest with 6:19 remaining in the first. About two minutes later, Cody Burghardt put the Leafs ahead 2-1 as they headed into the second.
Manuel Manero scored mid-way through the second to put the Valley squad up 3-1.
The Leafs salted the game away in the third when, within a 20-second time frame, Luke Russell and Ben Dixon scored.
Assists on the evening bout went to Wesley Demone, with two, and Burghardt, Russell, Graeme MacKinley, Taylor Brown, Sean Anderson, and Nathan Clarke.
Christopher Clokie was sharp in nets, stopping 42 of 43 shots. The Penguins' Ryan Huestis and Brent Walters shared goaltending duties, with Huestis stopping 31 of 36 shots on goal and Walters stopping all 10 he faced in the 14 minutes he played.
The game was a hard-hitting affair, with several penalties doled out. The Leafs' Jordan Matthews took a particularly nasty smash near centre ice and left the game in the first period.
“We only had four defencemen, and one was actually a forward playing D. It just showed some character and the boys wanted it,” said Fletcher of the game.
With the win, the Leafs will travel to East Hants for Game 5 of the series on Feb. 27. Fletcher said he hopes fans will come along for the trip as it's sure to be a good game.
“Ultimately, it's going to be exciting because nothing changes — our backs are still against the wall,” said Fletcher, adding that the guys will have to win if they hope to bring Game 6 back to Windsor on Feb. 28.
The Leafs suffered an 8-0 blow out in Game 1 and then saw two overtime losses, which set up the Feb. 23 Game 4 match.