In a do or die game in the Eastern Conference Finals for the Colts, the Colts traveled to Niagara for Game 4, down 3-0 in the series. Despite trailing 3-1, the Colts battled back in the third period, but were unable to tie the game in the dying minutes, ending their season against the IceDogs.
The Colts started the game with plenty energy as Dylan Sadowy and Justin Scott combined for the first big chance of the game. Less than five minutes in, the Colts intercepted an IceDogs breakout, leaving Scott alone in the slot. He got in tight and fed and Sadowy, who then went for a one-timer but couldn’t beat Nedeljkovic in tight.
Midway through the first period, Josh Ho-Sang had a breakaway after slipping through the Colts defensemen. But the last line of defence, Mackenzie Blackwood, would make an outstanding split save and rob Ho-Sang of a great opportunity.
Moments later, the Colts had a chance of their own when Nattinen once again got a good look in front. He crossed through the slot and dropped it for Mangiapane, but Mangiapane’s shot sailed just over the goal.
With 5 minutes left in the period, the IceDogs had a great chance of their own when Johnny Corneil sailed a redirection in the slot just over the empty Colts goal as Blackwood was sliding from the corner. But, before the end of the period, with 19.6 seconds remaining, the IceDogs would even the game back up when Stephen Harper redirected Blake Siebenaler’s point shot. Josh Wesley also assisted on the IceDogs tying goal.
The first period would end in a 1-1 tie, with the Colts outshooting the IceDogs 11-7 through 20 minutes.
The second period would see the IceDogs score two to put the Colts in a hole. The IceDogs would earn their first lead of the game only three and a half minutes in, when Jonathon Schaefer scored his first goal of the post-season. Schaefer cut through the slot and put the puck on net. The puck tipped high and bounced over the goal line before the net was pushed off. Despite the review, the IceDogs goal would count. Ryan Mantha also assisted on the goal.
Minutes later, Pavel Jenys had another solid chance for the IceDogs as he was waiting on the doorstep as a cross-crease pass just hopped over his stick. But, only three minutes after Schaefer’s go-ahead goal, the IceDogs would extend their lead to 3-1 after Josh Wesley fired home a point shot through a slew of traffic in front of Blackwood. Wesley’s goal was his second of the post season and was assisted by Tyler Boston and Blake Siebenaler.
After DiTomaso was penalized for tripping with nearly five minutes left to play in the second period, Labanc broke into the IceDogs zone, beat the defenceman, but put his shot just over the crossbar. Despite spending a solid amount of power play time in the Colts zone, the IceDogs were only able to get one shot on net, with another chance going wide.
With nearly three minutes left in the period, Ho-Sang and Maletta were sprung on nearly a two-man breakaway, with Justin Murray chasing between the two. Maletta was able to get the puck through Murray to Ho-Sang, but Blackwood came up with an incredible diving glove save to deny the IceDogs.
The Colts pressed hard in the remaining couple of minutes in the period. After Josh Carrick threw a slap shot on net, Dylan Sadowy and Roy Radke battled in front to try and find the loose puck. But, it wouldn’t take long for the Colts to return to the penalty box as Kevin Labanc was sent off for slashing on the ensuring faceoff. Then, only 45 seconds later, Andrew Mangiapane was sent off for tripping, giving the IceDogs over a minute of 5-on-3 time, dipping over to the third period.
The second period would end with the IceDogs outshooting the Colts 13-5.
In the early seconds of the third period and on the penalty kill, Justin Scott intercepted an IceDogs pass and went off on a breakaway. Despite pulling a fake, Scott couldn’t beat Nedeljkovic for his second of the game. The Colts were able to kill off the penalties and give themselves the remaining time to claw back.
Despite having a power play midway through the Colts, they couldn’t get anything going. However, momentum started to turn in favour of the Colts after that power play, and with 10:18 to play, playing in his first post-season game this season, Kody Gagnon would bury a wrister for make it 3-2. Sadowy found him open in the slot and Gagnon made no mistake. Rasmus Andersson also assisted on the goal to bring the Colts within one.
Asked about the grit of this team and their drive to win, Coach Dale Hawerchuk said in his post game press conference, “This team never really gives up.”
Both teams found ways to earn plenty of chances in the second half of the period. The Colts were doing everything they could to find the equalizer, keeping the pressure in the IceDogs zone for the majority of the last half of the period.
However, the Colts wouldn’t be able to find an equalizer, as their season came to a close, losing four straight to the Niagara IceDogs.
“We left it all out on the ice tonight,” said Colts overage forward Kevin Labanc. “Everyone gave it their all.”
The Niagara IceDogs will face the London Knights, who defeated the Erie Otters in four straight, in the OHL Finals.