Rnd 1, Gm 3: Whalers scuttle Steelers (3rd OT)

Steeler Colby Longeau screens Whaler goalie Mark Paton. (Grandview Steelers)

Grandview’s Belanger ties Game 3 late; White Rock ‘C’ Smythe ends sudden-death marathon

Kori Belanger’s clutch effort sent Game 3 to OT. (Alistair Burns)

CENTENNIAL ARENA – Seventy-four seconds away from elimination. Grandview goalie Ronin Geraghty pulled for the extra man. Enter star rookie Kori Belanger.

Unfortunately, Whaler Travis Smythe scored in triple OT. (Alistair Burns)

On a remarkable solo effort, the 16-year-old stepped up and put his teammates on his shoulders.

Belanger got greasy and snapped a rebound past White Rock Whaler goalie Mark Paton to tie the Pacific Junior Hockey League’s (PJHL) postseason winner-take-all Game 3 for the first round Feb. 19.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. After a scoreless two overtimes – yes, you read that correctly – Whaler captain Travis Smythe sent the Steelers home by himself, unassisted.

Captain Gabe Adam: ‘We battled the full game’

For Grandview, the fifth-seeded Steelers came agonizingly close – within inches – of advancing through old-school playoff grit.

They almost pulled off the upset even without any points put up from their most talented scorer, Tanner Milne, who led the Steelers in regular season points (48). Grandview also failed to score any power play goals – though full credit to their sharp penalty killers, who did jump up and notch two shorthanded beauties during the three-game series.

Another complication was the loss of Grandview captain Gabe Adam, who unfortunately was sidelined with a broken wrist after Game 1, Feb 14. While he was cheering from the stands, Adam was proud of his team.

Steeler Landen Mailhot made his postseason debut. (Alistair Burns)

“We battled the full game. Can’t ask anything more from the guys,” the defenceman, 19, pointed out.

AP Mailhot: ‘Just kept pushing’ but ‘we came up short’

Meanwhile, Steeler affliated player Landen Mailhot filled in and played his first postseason game for Grandview.

“Everyone, including me, were a little nervous and tired. But, as the game went on, we all just kept pushing and going 100 per cent,” the 15-year-old said after six gruelling periods of hard skating hockey.

“We came up short…one goal can totally change your season. Whether you’re moving on to the next round of the playoffs or it’s the end,” he added.

Four hours earlier, the Whalers had an excellent start to Game 3. White Rock’s Max Lyons – who had scored twice in Game 2 – kept the good mojo going when he converted a pass from defenceman Quinn Orr for 1-0.

Looking for answers: Tanner Milne’s impressive final junior season ended Feb. 19. (Alistair Burns)

A few minutes later, Milne headed to the penalty box. On that man advantage, Whaler Cohen Massey extended the lead.

Down 2-0 halfway through regulation – many teams would throw in the towel. However, Grandview’s veterans began to skate harder and three 20-year-olds handed the Steelers a lifeline.

Ben Ruthven – the only black-and-gold player to score in this series before Feb. 19 – lit the lamp off passes from defenceman Conner Nelles and five-year Steeler Luke Cox.

Through his powerful strides, six-foot-four Steeler Aidan Teixeira tied the contest up with an unassisted shorthanded marker. Both teams kept trading goals until Belanger’s brilliance late in the third.

Dehydration, fatigue, exhaustion for goalies

Between the pipes, both netminders faced an astonishing number of shots. Grandview’s Geraghty saw 54 shots, stopped 49, and was named third star; White Rock’s Paton had 63 fired his way and saved 59 in his first-star performance.

Next series: Whalers v. Sockeyes

Off the draw: Luke Cox (9) and Cam Northard. After five years, Game 3 was Cox’s last. (Grandview Steelers)

With the victory, the Whalers have advanced to the Tom Shaw Conference semi-final series (best-of-7) against the Richmond Sockeyes – the Pacific Junior Hockey League’s (PJHL) best team.

Richmond had an historic season: an overall record of 45 wins, one loss, and two shootout losses for 92 points, along with a season series sweep against the Whalers. In short, White Rock will face Goliath.

Steeler faithful: thank you!

Meanwhile, for the Steeler faithful: we thank you for your unwavering support throughout the 2023-2024 campaign and look forward to seeing you again in August for the pre-season. Until then!