St. Stephen – 18.9 seconds.
That was all the time the St. Stephen Spartans varsity boys’ hockey team had left in regulation play Monday night at the Garcelon Civic Center for a chance to advance over the Hampton Huskies in the final game of the best of three playoff series. The series was tied 1-1.
But 18.9 seconds was enough.
The home team opened the scoring in the first period with a goal from Deegan Farrell, assisted by Tristan England. Down 2-1 in the third frame, England tied the score 2-2 with assists from Shawn McGaw and Hutson Brisley. A late goal in third put the Huskies up 3-2.
The Spartans’ hopes of a series win ticking away by the second, senior Lucas Hanson tied the Huskies 3-3 to send the game into overtime and kicking Spartans fans into a deafening celebration.
Before the goal, fans on both sides of the rink clung to the hard plastic of their seats. Some holding their breath, but mostly, the rink echoed with hollers of desperation. Blood pressure was definitely through the roof.
The Spartans were in possession in the offensive zone with less than a minute remaining. They moved the puck, but opportunities were slipping away with each second.
With less than 24 seconds, senior Jackson Furlotte had possession near the right hand faceoff circle, and fired a pass across the ice to alternate captain Hutson Brisley.
Brisley sent the puck to Hanson, standing just outside of Huskies netminder Jarrett Gendron’s crease.
“I was just trying to throw it on net, and create something hoping we could get a rebound,” Brisley said of the pass.
“I thought he was going to miss it, to tell you the truth,” Brisley said, flashing a smile. “I thought it was going over the net, but he figured out how to get it in.”
With a soft chuckle, Hanson said he wasn’t sure what to think when he saw his goal hit the back of the twine.
“Everything was just a blur, it all just happened at once. It was like, alright,” Hanson said with a laugh and a shrug of his shoulders.
A following ten minute overtime period resolved nothing.
The Spartans and Huskies headed to their respective dressing rooms for a flood. Coaches Don McCallum, Andrew Reid, Jeff Dempsey and Tom Hart took the opportunity to stress the importance of the upcoming sudden death 20 minute overtime.
“15, 20 YEARS, SOMEONE’S GOING TO TALK ABOUT THIS.” – ANDREW REID, SPARTANS COACH
“It’s a bit of a legacy game, really,” McCallum recalled of the intermission. “What we are leaving behind, what comes next, for basically that overtime period. Trying to be patient, finish them off, kind of outlast them.”
Reid added to his sentiment.
“Memories. It’s all about memories,” Reid added. “15, 20 years, someone’s going to talk about this.”
Despite facing Gendron, a high caliber goalie, the Spartans didn’t disappoint.
Nearly five minutes into double overtime, with the assist from senior Joel Peters and Brisley, Hanson buried a shot on the steadfast Gendron.
“IT’S THE BEST FEELING OF HIGH SCHOOL I THINK.” – LUCAS HANSON, SPARTANS SENIOR
A goal that will likely stand as the most memorable of his high school hockey career.
“It feels great,” Hanson recalled of the series winning goal. “It’s the best feeling of high school I think,” he added with an infectious smile.
As the nearly impenetrable Gendron, a senior, laid on his stomach in a sting of disbelief, the Spartans gathered in a mound of excitement in the corner, in front of where injured players, captain Alex Hart (concussion) and alternate captain Tanner Morrow (collarbone) were forced to celebrate on the opposite side of the glass. But their celebrations weren’t any less boisterous than the one in front of them.
On the Spartans bench, the coaches engaged in a celebration of their own.
“I jumped…off the bench and slapped the glass,” McCallum said, slapping the adjacent wall re-enacting his celebration.
“Then I tackled (Dempsey); I think he threw a couple players onto the ice,” he added laughing. “It was pretty awesome. It’s that feeling for them, I think.”
“It’s hard to describe really. The kids put a lot of effort in, obviously as coaches, you work pretty hard too, right?
“To see them in the corner all gathered up…they were a team tonight. They were doing better and better and coming together more and more all year and I think they got confidence in themselves as well.
“When all was said and done, some players got less ice time than others and in the end, it didn’t matter because it was the outcome.”
The Spartans finished with a whopping 67 shots on net, to the Huskies 37.
Prior to the teams making their way to their dressing rooms, both came together at centre ice.
The two teams have had a bitter rivalry for years; the Spartans and Huskies have met in the first round of playoffs in the previous two seasons, with the Huskies sweeping the Spartans both times. Yet, what came next was an incredible show of sportsmanship.
Instead of the mandatory shaking of hands, as players made their way through the lineup, the teams put their differences aside, and hugged, congratulating each other on a well fought game.
Outside the Spartans dressing room, loud bass thumps from music inside escaped as the Spartans coaches gave praise to Gendron for his strength between the pipes.
“Two years ago we lost 1-0, outshooting them 51-17,” Dempsey explained.
“He’s outstanding. Outstanding.”
After two years of trying to formulate a series takeover, Brisley explains the incredible feeling of skating away with the win.
“It’s a lot off the chest to finally battle,” Brisley pauses momentarily before he resumes his thought. “Battle to beat them ‘cause they swept us the past two years.
“We just needed to make sure that we beat them down … we wanted to make sure everyone worked their hardest and tire them out early.
“Once (Gendron) lets one in, he kinda gets a little shaky, but tonight he didn’t seem to. We were just trying to throw it at the net because the goals we score on him aren’t going to be nice; they’re going to be rebounds.”
The Spartans are now slated to compete in Regionals as the second seed from the south, which will take place March 17 and 18 in Tantramar.