By John Langdon
The Sudbury Wolves are on the brink of upsetting the second seeded Ottawa 67’s after Mike Lomas scored the game-winning goal 33 seconds into overtime of Game #3 to give the seventh seeded Wolves a commanding 3-0 series lead in the OHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.
Lomas buried a shot from within the left circle past 67’s goaltender Petr Mrazek to give Sudbury a 5-4 overtime win while sending 4, 427 fans into eruption at Sudbury Community Arena.
“That was my biggest goal of my OHL career for sure,” Lomas said.
Immediately after the puck found the back of the net, Lomas dropped to his knees while looking skyward and yelling out of excitement as his teammates mobbed the overtime hero.
“I honestly can’t even tell you what happened, it happened so quickly,” he said. “I know we had a good forecheck there and I got a good pass and just shot it and it went in. Before I knew it, everyone was piled up on top of me.”
It seemed as though the 67’s were just seconds away from pulling themselves back into the series, until Josh McFadden scored with just 16.6 seconds remaining in the third period to force overtime and the hometown faithful into a frenzy.
The Wolves defenceman stepped up his game by registering a hat-trick in the win, including two power play goals in the third period.
“The first two games of the series weren’t really my best games so I knew I had to step up tonight,” McFadden said. “It felt really good to get three goals. We have the best fans in the OHL. So, to score three goals at home, especially that last one, it was great.”
After blowing a 2-1 lead and trailing 4-2 in the third, the Wolves gave a big assist to their fans in the dramatic win.
“The fans here are unbelievable,” Lomas added. “When we were waiting to go out for the overtime, they were cheering. We heard them in the hallway. We looked at each other and we just knew that we had to do it for them, for us, and they were behind us.”
The loss was a tough pill to swallow for the 67’s. Ottawa Head coach Chris Byrne was left shaking his head after the game.
“It was a tough loss,” Byrne said. “I thought our guys played very hard and competed hard all night and did what we asked of them. But it’s tough to win a game taking five minors in the third period. That was our undoing. A couple of tough ones there where we put ourselves down and their power play got rolling.”
After Wolves forward Eric O’Dell opened the scoring at 11:35 of the first period from a beautiful play by Frank Schumacher, Ottawa’s Steven Janes evened the score just over two minutes later.
Sudbury regained the lead at 17:19 when Michael MacDonald placed a perfect pass in the slot for McFadden who hammered a one-timer past Mrazek, giving the Czech netminder little chance of stopping.
Trailing 2-1 after the first, the 67’s offence found its form by scoring three goals in the second period. First, Sean Monahan jumped on a loose rebound after Wolves goaltender Alain Valiquette failed to control a shot from Ottawa captain Thomas Nesbitt. Five minutes later, Janes recorded his second point of the game by setting up Ben Dubois in close. The visitors extended their lead with a power play marker from Marc Zanetti, after Wolves captain Marcus Foligno was sent off for tripping.
Looking to reply, the Wolves fired 14 shots on Mrazek throughout the second period, but the Detroit Red Wings prospect had an answer for each one, as the Ottawa netminder bailed his team out on a number of occasions.
Sitting just 20 minutes away from making it a 2-1 series, Ottawa hurt their chances by taking five minor penalties in the final frame which allowed Sudbury to climb back into the game with two power play markers from McFadden.
After a delay of game call was handed to Dubois for firing the puck over the glass in his own zone, Dalton Smith put the 67’s in a deeper hole by taking a double-minor for high sticking. It didn’t take long for the Wolves power play unit to capitalize when McFadden demonstrated his cannon of a shot for the second time by blasting home a shot from the point to bring the Wolves within one.
The Wolves found themselves on the power play for the fifth time in the final frame when Adam Sedlak was sent off for interference at 17:52. Wolves Head coach Trent Cull elected to pull Valiquette with 30 seconds remaining giving his team a 6-on-4 man advantage. It seemed as though Ottawa was seconds away from earning a hard fought road win until McFadden fired a laser wrist shot from inside the blue-line with just 16.6 seconds remaining.
Lomas wasted no time putting the game to an end, as the Wolves forward scored on the first shift of overtime.
Sitting with a 3-0 stranglehold on the series, the Wolves aren’t celebrating just yet.
“You never know what can happen in the playoffs,” Lomas said. “They’re a great team. We just can’t get ahead of ourselves. We’re going to have to go back to their barn which is a hard place to play and we know they’re not going to give up. So, we just have to come out that much harder.”
The Wolves will look to complete a first round upset when they travel to the nation’s capital on Thursday for Game #4. Game time is scheduled for 7pm at Ottawa Civic Centre.