It wasn’t pretty, but it’s a W — and the Yotes now only need one more to dispatch the Kelowna Chiefs.
Connor Onstein slapped in a rebound with 2:40 remaining and the Osoyoos Coyotes held off the resilient Chiefs 4-3 to take Game Five of their Okanagan Division final.
The win gives the Yotes a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
It took the full measure of 60 minutes to decide this one. The Yotes have developed a characteristic of providing for exciting (read last-second) finishes and tonight was no exception.
After allowing the Chiefs to claw back into the game with six-tenths of a second remaining in the second period, the Coyotes had 300 spectators on the edge of their seats to end the third as well.
The game was a rough start for the Coyotes, smarting from a 6-2 Game Four drubbing in Kelowna Saturday night that also saw them lose defenceman Levi Holz to a suspension for fighting.
That had them sporting just four blueliners.
“We used (Seth) Kriese a little bit and he wasn’t bad,” said head coach Ken Law after the game. “We’ll have to use him again up there was well. We get Holz back, but we’re still short.”
The Chiefs scored two first-period goals — Myles Mattila opening the scoring with 7:40 remaining in the first and Brett Witala’s punching one in on the tail end of a five-on-three four minutes later — to take the early lead.
Hunter Johnson scored with 3:17 remaining to draw the Yotes within one before the period closed.
After putting several pucks off goal posts — and dragging another along the goalline — in the early minutes of the second period, the Coyotes evened the score with 6:11 remaining when Jack McNamara got behind the Chief blueliners.
Onstein made it 3-2 less than a minute later. That goal looked to be sending the Yotes into the third with a one-goal lead until Mattila got his second of the evening with just six-tenths of a second remaining.
The Coyotes opened the third with a five-minute powerplay after Brandon Onstein took a shot to the head from Rhys Colpren. Colpren was sent packing, receiving a non-fighting game misconduct.
The Coyotes couldn’t score over that stretch and both clubs tested weary legs for much of the final frame until Onstein managed to beat Chief netminder Joseph Mcleod.
Onstein then appeared to have added some insurance on an empty-netter with 16 seconds remaining, but that goal was called back when McNamara was whistled for slashing.
The Coyotes managed to survive those final seconds of six-on-four hockey, two faceoffs in their own end and the inevitable goal crease scramble to seal the win.
Osoyoos managed 40 shots on Macleod. At the other end of the rink, Daniel Paul turned away 27 of 30 shots.
Play now shifts to Kelowna for Game Six Tuesday evening. Game Seven, if necessary, is scheduled for Wednesday night at the Sun Bowl.
“They’re a quality team,” said Law. “We have to battle every time we’re on the ice against them. They’ve got some guys with a lot of skill.”
Meanwhile, the Revelstoke Grizzlies kept pace with the Coyotes, running to 3-2 their best-of-seven series with 100 Mile House with a 5-4 overtime win. The Grizzlies can wrap up that series Tuesday evening in 100 Mile House.
In the Kootenay Conference, both Kimberley and Nelson won tonight, wrapping up their respective series in five games.