Stringfellow sends Yorkton to SJHL final
The Kindersley Klippers had just killed a penalty and seemed to have the wind at their backs in their bid to reach the Credit Union Cup final.
Moments later, the puck was in their net and the ride was over, snuffed out by the finality of a rare Game 7 overtime.
Kevin Stringfellow stripped Steven Turner of the puck and snapped it between the pads of a surprised Josh Thorimbert at 6:39 of overtime to give the Yorkton Terriers a 4-3 game and series victory Tuesday in Eston, launching the Terriers into the SJHL final and sending the Klippers packing.
In what would prove to be the final moment of his junior career, Turner, who is from Eston, was skating the puck toward the Klipper blueline on the left side when Stringfellow swooped in as the bearer of disaster.
"I think he wanted to corral the puck and it didn’t happen," said head coach Larry Wintoneak. "Sometimes in that situation, if you don’t have (a play), you just gotta get it quickly up the wall, off the glass, so it doesn’t matter if anybody’s there (for support) or not. You’re the last man back.
"I feel bad for him because it was in Eston and it’s his hometown. But it happens," the coach added.
"You don’t lose the game because of one person. It was a very emotional game. It’s a tough pill to swallow because the players know how close we were to making it to the final."
Only 45 seconds earlier, the Klippers had killed off a hooking penalty to Turner and actually came close to ending the series while shorthanded. The best chance came when Taylor Duzan knocked the puck away from Terriers goalie Devin Peters behind the net, setting up a point-blank shot for Jordon Hoffman that the Major native couldn't pull the trigger on quickly enough.
Yorkton head coach Trent Cassan was all too happy that Game 7 wasn't decided on a power play. His team has lost two overtime games in these playoffs and both came when the opponent scored shorthanded.
"I was almost ready to decline the penalty," he chuckled.
Cassan called a time-out after the Klipper kill and reassured his troops that "we didn't want that anyway." Stringfellow scored the winner on the next shift.
"In the back of my mind, I didn’t even have the next line out of my mouth before the puck went in the net," Wintoneak recalled. "Then you look around and depression sets in, disappointment. It hurts.
"I woke up the next morning and I had no energy. I felt like a weak man. It bothers me. People think it should go away right away; you can get it out of your mind, but it’s not that easy to do, especially when you know how committed the guys are and all the work that goes into it."
Klippers captain Jordan Braid also saw his junior career come to an abrupt end on the Stringfellow goal. He summed up his reaction, one that was likely shared by most of the fans in a stunned Eston Complex.
"It didn’t really kick in. I knew my junior career would have been done, but it happened so quick that it didn’t really hit me till I got back in the room," said the Saskatoon native, who played left wing in the deciding game.
Left winger Kevin Clark, who was able to return from a hip pointer in Game 7 but with reduced minutes, also played his final game as a Klipper.
After clawing back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game in the third period, the Klippers received a rare penalty shot when Duzan was hauled down with 7:04 to go in regulation. The 18-year-old winger shot high and wide.
"I can just imagine what was going through Duzy’s head in that situation, standing there with the game on the line," said Wintoneak.
It was another missed opportunity on a night that saw the Klippers' share of them and then some.
"Both teams had numerous chances," said Wintoneak. "The difference is when we make a mistake, they execute; they made a couple mistakes and we didn’t execute.
"The better team won that game. They had the opportunity and scored the goal."
Andrew Dommett scored twice for Kindersley, including the opening goal only 95 seconds into the game on a long wrist shot that beat Peters blocker side.
Riley Paterson tied it about five minutes in on a wraparound that beat Thorimbert after Sanfred King had fallen behind the net.
Adam Moar gave the Terriers their first lead late in the period when David Ahl stabbed at and missed the puck at the Yorkton blueline and got caught, setting up a 3-on-1 that Moar finished off by tapping a pass past Thorimbert's right pad.
Yorkton took a 3-1 advantage at 4:35 of the second on a turnover at the Klipper blueline which evolved into a 2-on-1 and a Rylan McDonell wrister that beat Thorimbert glove side.
But Braeden Adamyk chose a good time to break out of his slump two minutes later, beating Peters five-hole on a breakaway deke that had more moves than a chess master.
The 3-2 Terriers lead held up until the end of the period, despite Yorkton carrying the shots 12-5 in the frame.
Dommett surfaced again at 4:01 of the third, tying the game with a dazzling effort. The Major product crossed the blueline on the left side, undressed stalwart defender Drew McDermott by slipping the puck between his skates, and snapped a hard wrist shot over Peters' blocker.
"We were down 3-1 and you find ways to get yourself back in the game, and obviously Andrew Dommett did a hell of a job for us," said Wintoneak.
The Terriers thought they had taken the lead again 48 seconds later when the puck entered the Klipper net, but the would-be goal was called off on a high stick.
Yorkton advanced to face the La Ronge Ice Wolves for the Credit Union Cup, an improbable match-up if there ever was one. La Ronge finished a measly fourth in the Bauer Conference, but they have home ice advantage because the Terriers finished even lower: fifth in the Sherwood.
"I’m still kind of stunned that we’re going to the league final," admitted Cassan, 26, who checked his BlackBerry after the game to discover 35 new messages.
"When we started this, there were only 25 people who believed that we could get this far and that was the right people, the guys in the room and the coaching staff. Everyone stepped up their game so much and I’m really proud of everyone."
Cassan may have best summed up the incredibly tight series when he argued there was no better team.
"It’s tough that one team had to lose in this series because they’re just as deserving as we are," he said of the Klippers. "They have a great young team that’s going to be scary next year with the experience from this year. Larry’s done a tremendous job with them and all those guys on their side should be very proud because they showed a lot of heart and determination and grit."
Despite the crushing defeat, the 2009-10 season was without question a feel-good story for the blue and green, given the team's youth - only three 20-year-olds compared with eight for Yorkton and seven for Notre Dame - and the January fire that turned their daily routine upside down.
"There’s nothing to be ashamed of for these kids," said Wintoneak.
"Everything happens for a reason and it’s all about our development curve and we feel we’re going in the right direction. We’re very excited for what lies ahead for the Kindersley Junior Klippers."
The coaching staff held 1-on-1 sessions with players on Thursday and teammates had returned home for the summer by Friday afternoon.
The Klippers will hold their annual banquet and awards night May 1 at the Kindersley Inn.