The WOAA South Division men's hockey championship will go at least six games after Tillsonburg and Tavistock split Games 3 and 4 on the weekend.
Tillsonburg Thunder won 5-2 on home ice Saturday night fueled by a pair of Chad Barclay goals and a 27-save Jeff Bassindale performance to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
"I got one early, just kind of threw one out front," said Barclay. "Lucky deflection, it went in off their defenceman. So that was pretty fortunate, but it's always nice to get one early in the game, get your legs going. Not just individually, but the whole team, it kind of fires everybody up."
Leading 3-2, Barclay's second goal at 11:29 of the third came on a backhander, slashing across the top of the crease on partial breakaway.
"It kind of snuck through," he laughed. "I'll take it. Prettier than my first one."
Tavistock Royals rebounded Sunday afternoon winning 4-2 to knot the series at 2-2.
"We got home ice advantage after finishing first, so we wanted to take advantage of it," said Barclay. "Losing the first game at home kind of stung a bit, but it also woke us up a bit too. We knew they were going to be a good team. We've got to bring our A game and I thought we did tonight."
Tied 2-2 after the first period Saturday, Adam Wallace provided Tillsonburg a one-goal lead in the second. Mike Findlater and Barclay added unanswered goals in the third.
Both teams had numerous power plays and both converted once with the man advantage.
"The tempo of the game was a little slow because of the penalties, a lot of whistles," said Barclay.
"It worked out good for us, we played well throughout... but it was hard to keep momentum with all the penalties going back and forth. Not much flow to the game."
A mainstay on the Thunder PK Saturday, Brad Martin was busy all night.
"Everyone's got their own roles," said Martin, who honed his penalty killing skills in Junior B. "It's hard when everyone's working and playing here and there, it's nice to be able to fill every role.
"The last few games they've been calling a lot of penalties. You've got to be ready to penalty kill and power play for a while between the five-on-five. It disrupts the flow. You're ready to go, your line's been on the bench for a while, your lines up, then all of a sudden it's a penalty call, different guys are going out and the lines get all messed up. Some guys will end up on the bench a few more minutes than they should, so yeah it's tough."
Martin said Saturday's game was the first time this year the Thunder had their full lineup.
"Again, everybody's still getting used to one another. I still think we've got room to improve in a lot of areas."
On the plus side, the Thunder did win the regular season crown without a full lineup.
"I think that's where our advantage is this year – our depth," said Martin. "I think for any good team, when they win in the playoffs, it's when they have depth."
Player of the Game
Barclay was recognized by his teammates Saturday as 'player of the game', and donned the appropriate headgear.
"We just started doing this in playoffs. It's actually been a different guy every game – everyone's been stepping up, everyone's been playing well. It seems like from game to game it's a different line that steps up and I think that's a product of the depth we have. Four solid lines and six solid D. We can put anyone in net and expect to win hockey games – we have a lot of faith in either goalie."
The Thunder and Royals were back on the ice less than 24 hours later for a Sunday afternoon game in Tavistock.
"It's a quick turnaround," Barclay nodded, "but it's same with them too. You change your routine a bit, get up a bit earlier maybe. I thought we adjusted to it well last weekend... I don't think we had played an afternoon game all year. It was different for us, but we played well up there. It's just a matter of taking care of ourselves Saturday night."
The series continues Saturday in Tillsonburg at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday in Tavistock (2:30 p.m.). Game 7, if necessary, breaks the pattern with a Tuesday night game (8:30 p.m.) in Tillsonburg.
Mapleton-Minto swept their North Division final against Elora, and will meet the winner of Tillsonburg-Tavistock in a WOAA championship series.
Thunder 5, Royals 2
13:54 Tillsonburg, Chad Barclay (Brad Martin, Shawn Crowley)
7:37 Tillsonburg, Shane Balcomb (Mike Findlater, Jordan Skinner)
4:09 Tavistock PP
8:18 Tillsonburg PP, Adam Wallace (Ryan Fletcher)
11:29 Tillsonburg, Chad Barclay (Jason Skinner)
9:25 Tillsonburg, Mike Findlater (Shawn Crowley, Tony Rizzi)