One of the Norberry’s defensemen Phil Regent skated over to Miles to have a brief chat,
“Look Myers. This is how it’s going to go. Me and the rest of the team are going to supply you with all of the protection you are going to need. We are going to keep the puck in Maplewood’s end for as much of the game as we can. When Maplewood does get possession we are going to really lay on the body and check them hard. We’ll ride them hard right along the boards. When your team does get a chance for a shot on goal, we’ll do our best to block it. Any shots that do get through us, I expect you to stop them. Any questions?”
“No, I want to win this game for you guys. I’ve got a lot on the line. I need to prove to myself, my coach and the rest of the Cougars that I’m a better goalie than Rick Miller is. The emotion of fear transformed into rage within Miles Myers. He was sick and tired of standing in the shadow of Rick Miller.
“That’s exactly what I want to hear!” Phil Regent said as he slapped Miles Myers on the pads and skated up the ice to await the upcoming face off.
The fourth line grinders had done their job, just not in the way coach Brad Keenan had expected. They changed the tempo of the game, not by roughing up the Norberry Knights, but by taking out their starting goaltender. Brad could now go back to his original game plan, to out skate and out score the Norberry Knights. If the fans and the Norberry Knights were surprised that Brad Keenan would agree to allowing his opposition to use his backup goalie, Brad thought it was a flash of brilliance. He was confident that Miles would not be able to handle the offensive onslaught of the Maplewood Cougars. After all, Miles’ own team knew Miles’ weaknesses better than the Norberry Knights. They could utilize the weaknesses in Miles’s playing style that they had observed during their countless practise sessions.
Norberrry’s coach, Jeff Hadley, likewise, had little confidence in Miles Myers’ goaltending skills and felt that his decision had been a good one even if the original idea came from his assistant coach, Bill White. He felt that borrowing a second string backup goalie was a much better situation, than being forced to make one of his players who had no experience playing goal, put on the pads. Jeff knew his players well.
They would step up their game to meet the new challenge in front of them. The Knights would love to show their fans that they could beat the Maplewood Cougars, even without their starting goalie.
Both teams put their scoring lines out after the brief intermission had ended. Brad Keenan strategy was to score three or four quick goals that would put the game away for them. The score clock now indicated there was thirteen minutes minutes and forty-five seconds left to go in the third period.
Both teams played to a level that they had not demonstrated so far this season. Once the game resumed, the Norberry Knights first line put great offensive pressure on Maplewood. The Knights passed the puck around with amazing accuracy and were able to get an array of dangerous shots at the Cougar’s net. Rick stopped every shot during a three -minute flurry of enemy attack. He made some stops that caused the crowd to gasp with amazement.
The rest of the Cougar players knew that Rick was the one player who was keeping them in the game. After the three- minute rally was over, Coach Keenan decided to send out his fourth line. Brad knew that he needed to give his two scoring lines a rest and after all, it was the fourth line that had scored the Cougars’ only goal. Norberry’s coach was hesitant to take his top scoring line off, but he knew that they needed a rest.
Just before the next face off, Brad Keenan called for a time out. He quickly signalled for his third line to get off the ice, while sending out his best scoring line. Maplewood’s coach took the gamble as his team just needed one goal to get the lead. By the time Jeff Hadley saw what Brad had done, it was too late for him to change his lines again.
Energized by Rick’s great goaltending, Maplewood won the face off and their center, Bill Woodward made a very accurate pass to left winger Joe Palec. Joe fired a hard snapshot that hit the crossbar of Norberry’s net. Miles Myers was shaken up by the shot but was just happy it wasn’t a goal. At that point Miles tapped into all his anger and frustration. He made some dazzling saves. No one had ever seen him play this well. One player suggested that he was playing way over his head. Cougar defenseman, Eric Coswell told a teammate sitting next to him on the players’ bench that if Miles could play for them like he was playing for the Knights they could have two strong goalies going into the play offs.
Jeff Hadley’s strategy was to keep his third line on the ice for about a minute and then returned to his scoring line.
The two respective grinder lines went at each other with a fury. Each team’s lines did not want to be responsible for costing their team the game. Both teams didn’t hesitate to lay on the body and it was very obvious they were both playing a defensive game. Just as the two teams were about to make a line change, Garry Means, Maplewood’s third line center, took a high slap shot that hit the screen behind Norberry’s net. The puck bounced right off the fencing and hit Miles Meyers in the back of his right shoulder. A startled Miles Myers quickly turned around to see the puck just behind his goal. While just trying to clear the puck for a line change, Garry Means had managed to score his second goal in the hockey game. The score was now tied at two goals apiece with just two minutes to go on the score clock.
The Maplewood Cougars just needed one more goal to win the game. Coach Keenan decided to leave his fourth line out on the ice for the last two minutes to try to hold on to the tie and force the game into overtime.
Once regulation time had ended, he would draw up a plan for his team to score the winning goal during the sudden-death overtime.
Coach Jeff Hadley saw what was happening and decided to send out his best scoring line.
He figured that his team could score a quick goal to end the game during regulation time.
The Cougars fourth line did their coach proud. During an offensive onslaught by the Norberry Knights, the Cougars grinder line kept the Knights forwards closely in check, shooting the puck over center ice to kill off some time. The Cougars defensemen also dropped to the ice the to block shots from the point on three occasions.
With thirty seconds left to go in the game the Cougars had a defensive breakdown, and Norberry center Brian Williams had a clear breakaway in front of him.
Rick Miller slowly moved out of his crease times until he was within a few feet of Brian Williams. Rick quickly dropped to the ice in an attempt to stop Brian’s wrist shot. Williams managed to shoot the puck through a small opening between Rick’s pads. Rick Miller turned his head in time to see the pick slowly dribble over the goal line. This turned out to be the game winning goal.