It was a nail-biting series, but the Humboldt Broncos managed to come out ahead in the end.
The Broncos lost a battle on March 23 at the Elgar Petersen Arena when they took on the Battlefords North Stars in Game 5 of the Bauer Conference final series.
The Broncos didn't have things together in this game; nerves may have gotten in the way of their usual solid, unflappable play.
The bounces didn't seem to be going their way, either.
And at the other end of the ice, they faced a goalie who was clearly in top form.
Graham Hildebrand of the Stars blocked all but one of the Broncos' 45 shots on goal, made over four periods of play.
At his end of the ice, Bronco Matt Hrynkiw was also in fine form, blocking all but two of the Stars' 26 shots on goal.
The first period passed in a haze of penalties, both major and minor — including a checking from behind penalty and a game misconduct for Bronco Andrew Johnston at 17:30 of the period — along with some near-miss scoring chances.
The game remained scoreless until near the mid-mark of the second period, when the Broncos, spurred on by what many saw as a missed checking from behind penalty to one of the Stars, managed to get the puck past Hildebrand.
It was John Lawrence, assisted by Cody Pettapiece and Robbie Ciolfi, who scored Humboldt's lone goal of the evening at 8:50 of the second.
The Stars managed to score on a flukey shot on goal at 10:53 of the third. The puck travelled up and over Hrynkiw, bounced into a top corner and out again.
Despite a late run on the net by Ciolfi in the dying minutes of the game — the Stars' efforts to stop him resulted in a penalty shot, but he failed to score on it, the game ended with the score at 1-1.
The game went into sudden-death overtime, and Star Tanner Schwab managed to win the game for his team with a point at 8:32.
That gave the Stars their second win of the best-of-seven series, while the Broncos sat at three wins of seven.
Neither team was able to score on the power play in the game — the Stars were zero for four, while the Broncos were zero for five.
Hildebrand was named as the first star of the night. Rhett Blackmur of the Broncos was named the lone member of his team to the list.
A total of 890 fans attended the game.
Game 6 was played Sunday, March 25 in North Battleford.
Over 2,400 fans came out to watch the contest between the two teams that came down to the wire.
The first period of the game started slow, with the first goal of the night scored by Ryan Marshall of the Broncos at 8:13 on a power play, assisted by Matt Glowa and Josh Roach.
The Stars quickly tied the game at 11:15 of the first period, making the score tied at the end of the first period.
Penalties were low in the first period with one tripping for the Broncos at 5:42 and two — a roughing and a holding — for the Stars.
In the second period, things started to heat up a bit, with the Broncos getting a two-point lead. Chase Wharton, assisted by Adam Antkowiak and Adam Zbitniff, scored the Broncos second goal at 5:17. Later in the period, Robbie Ciolfi scored at 13:14, assisted by Logan Sproule, giving the Broncos the lead.
The game also became rough in the second period, with the Broncos earning four penalties to the Stars one.
Although they had a two-lead cushion, the Broncos let their lead slip away in the third period, with the Stars scoring two goals against goalie Colin Dzijacky at 3:22 and 8:54. It was a cleaner period, with only one penalty for each team.
The game went into overtime, with Kameron Ballas finally winning the game — and the series — for Humboldt with a goal at 1:32. The final score was 4-3 for the Broncos.
The Broncos are waiting for the winner of the south series between Melville and Weyburn to start their next series later this week.