Derek Bacon cooked up Wednesday’s game winner in overtime to defeat the Sherwood Park Crusaders at Performance Arena.
“It was a pretty greasy goal,” said the St. Albert Steel centre.
On the first shift in OT, Bacon connected 25 seconds into the five-minute three-on-three extra period. Spencer Pommells and Jordan Abt assisted on the scoring play.
“We had a good face-off and then they kind of had a chance and we went back into their zone. The puck ended up in the corner and I just threw it up to Abt. He had a lot of time and he took a good shot. I thought it was going in but it just kind of stopped. I went for it but I didn’t really get a stick on it. I kind of got tripped up and just slid into it and it slid into the net,” said Bacon.
His eighth goal this season lifted the Steel’s record to 9-7 in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. The Crusaders are 9-8-0-3.
“We needed that win for sure. We didn’t want to go to .500,” Bacon said of the fourth Steel victory decided after regulation time – three in OT and one by shootout.
After an impressive start to the season by Steel standards, the team has slipped down into the seventh and last playoff spot in the north but have games in hand on the rest of the division. They trail the sixth-place Crusaders by three points and have played four fewer games than the Park.
“We need to win those games in hand to climb back in the standings,” Bacon said. “Giving up that one extra point to Sherwood Park is tough for us. We would’ve liked to have won it in regulation.”
The win was the second in four games and the Steel’s fifth in 10 games.
“It’s kind of been a season of win one then lose one, or win two then lose two,” Bacon said. “We need to get on a roll and let teams know that we’re serious this year.”
After the first AJHL goal by Steel rookie Mitch Loose opened the scoring at 2:49, the Crusaders tallied twice in a 62-second span before the period ended. They made it 3-1 on a breakaway at 3:19 in period two.
The Steel rallied on goals by Pommells (eighth) on the power play and even-strength markers by rookies Ryan Berlin (sixth) and Jeremy Olinyk (sixth), who put the Steel on top 34 seconds into the third.
St. Albert product Garth Wallin tied it up with 9:48 left in the third.
A pair of power plays by the Crusaders in the period were killed off by the resilient Steel.
Rhys Hadfield (34 saves) of the Steel and Ty Swabb (39 saves) of the Crusaders faced a ton of rubber in the wide-open affair.
Weve had bad starts lately so it was good to get a good start for a change. After that we got down a few goals. Weve been kind of bad coming back [from deficits]but we came back. I guess thats two good things that weve improved on, Bacon said. Going into overtime we figured we shouldve won the game so we had something to prove. It was our game to win and we got lucky.
Bacon’s two-point effort gave the graduate of the Edge School academy in Calgary 21 points in his first AJHL season after the Steel acquired his services from the Victoria Grizzlies in the summer. Held pointless in four games, his biggest offensive outburst was three goals and one assist Sept. 30 in the 6-2 win over the Calgary Mustangs.
“It’s been going good, pretty consistent really. I had a bad stretch there for a bit but I’m feeling good now,” said the team’s fourth-leading point producer.
For the second game in a row, the 19-year-old was flanked by Pommells (22 points) and Olinyk (11 points) on a dangerous line combination.
“We’ve got lots of speed and we’ve been using it,” Bacon said. “We haven’t been putting the puck in as much as we would like but finally it turned out for us.”
Tonight the Steel visit the Bonnyville Pontiacs, co-leaders with the Fort McMurray Oil Barons in the north with 29 points apiece.
Next weekend the Steel host the AJHL champion Spruce Grove Saints (7 p.m. Friday), the fifth-place Grande Prairie Storm (7 p.m. Saturday) and the Calgary Mustangs (2:30 p.m. Sunday).
“We definitely would like to win all three, especially being at home. We need those points,” Bacon said.
The Steel rank among the league leaders offensively (4.10 goals-per-game average) but defensively (4.40 GAA), the team’s Achilles heel historically, they have been subpar.
“We’ve got a lot of firepower and so much depth. If one line isn’t scoring it seems the other lines will score so we haven’t had to worry about that,” Bacon said. “We just need better team defence. We can’t put our finger on it if it’s the D or the forwards; we just need to work together as a group. Our goalies are playing great. We’re just not giving them the opportunity they need because they’re giving us a shot to win every night. We’ve just got to work harder in the D zone and be smarter. If we do that it’s going to improve. We’re working on it a lot at practice so hopefully it will pay off.”
ICE CHIPS: Abt’s two-game suspension for running the goalie in last Saturday’s 6-5 loss to the Brooks Bandits in St. Albert was overturned upon further review by the league. The five-minute charging penalty was called by referee Craig Husselby against the Steel defenceman and the team’s 2010 rookie of the year.
In an exchange of defencemen, the Steel shipped 19-year-old Trammell Lynes (0-3-3, 15 games) to the last-place Drayton Valley Thunder for 18-year-old Jordan Pelletier (1-1-2, 14 games). Both players are in their second AJHL seasons. Pelletier (3-11-14, 18 PIM in 70 AJHL games) is the smaller of the two players at five-foot-seven.