GRANDE PRAIRIE, AB -- The return of Charles Radke to the Canucks' line up helped the visitors force a fifth and deciding game in the NWJHL quarter final series.
It didn't take long for Radke to make an impact. Reunited with Colter MacLean and Reid Smith, Radke (Tyson Keen, Reid Smith) got the Canucks on the board just :45 seconds into the hockey game when he deflected a Tyson Keen shot past Wheeler goaltender Ryan Brausen.
The lead lasted less than 7 minutes. With the Wheelers on their first power play of the game Cody Atkinson put the home side on the board to even the score at one.
That lead lasted even shorter. Just 5 seconds off the face-off at centre ice Evan Weaver picked up a puck in behind the defence and put a shot past Brausen for the game's Safeway turning point. Before the period was out Radke had scored his second of the game (MacLean, Carl Dahlen) and Colter MacLean (Reid Smith) had scored his first of the playoffs to give the Canucks a 4-1 lead after 20 minutes.
The Canucks extended the lead at the 5:39 mark of the third when Reid Smith scored his second of the playoffs on the power play from Carl Dahlen and Nathan Bomben. That prompted a goaltending switch for the Wheelers as Kris Dika came into the game and it appeared to spark the home team.
At the 11:14 mark Jake Goldsmith potted his 4th of the series on the power play to make the score 5-2. Charels Radke answered at the 15:59 mark with his third of the night from MacLean and Smith and then things got interesting.
At the 17:35 mark a potential icing call was rolling wide of the Canuck goal before it changed direction and somehow beat Cody Garnett to make the score 6-3. Then with just 6.4 seconds left Nathan Johnson put a shot past Garnett with Grande Prairie up a man to make the score 6-4 after 2.
"I seen the puck coming down the ice and I knew it was curving towards the net so I thought I should get back to my post to make sure (it was) going to miss the net," Garnett explained. "As I was backing up I thought I was going towards the post but I was going towards the middle of the net and by the time I realized I was too far off my post it was too late. It was a really bad goal. I just said to myself after that goal I didn't want to let anymore in after that."
In the third the Canucks' defence tightened up and kept the Wheelers off the board. Jordy Weatherill scored his first of the season as he batted the puck out of the air through the legs of Dika for his first of the season. Final score 7-4.
"I didn't know what to expect," commented Canucks head coach Duncan Redfearn. We lost the last game 3-0 and Charles has been in school for four weeks and I really didn't know what to expect. Overall the team had an excellent game tonight."
One of the big questions posed in the broadcast was how would the Canucks respond in the third after giving up two late goals?
"It's always discouraging to let late goals in but overall we settled the guys down and said look, we have enough goals right now to win this hockey game. We don't need to score anymore goals we just have to focus on our defence and stop these guys from getting pucks on us and that's what we did. We had a solid 20 and got one goal and none against. You can't ask for more in the third period."
The Wheelers went 3 for 7 on the power play while the Canucks were 1 for 5 on the night.
Cardinal Telecom three stars: 1) Radke 2) MacLean 3) Smith. Jock's hardest working Canuck: MacLean.
The win forces game 5 in the series which will be on Saturday night in Dawson Creek. Game time from the memorial will be 8:00pm MST.