CORNER BROOK — Jordan Richards went hard to the net like he was told to do so many times this year and it paid huge dividends.
The stocky winger scored the winning goal with 93 seconds left in regulation time to lead the Colemans Western Kings to a 5-3 victory over the Central IcePak in Game 7 of a best-of-seven semifinal series Sunday afternoon at the Pepsi Centre.
Richards showed excellent hand-eye co-ordination by tapping a waist-high, cross-ice pass from David Budgell into a yawning cage past IcePak puckstopper Andrew Manuel with 1:33 left in regulation time.
The IcePak pressed for the equalizer in the dying seconds with Manuel on the bench in favour of an extra attacker, but Kings forward Ian Skinner dove for a loose puck at his own blueline and chipped it out to the neutral zone to Neil Woolfrey who skated 20 feet uncontested before firing it into an empty net with 1.9 seconds left on the clock.
The third period was a defensive juggernaut with players on both sides clearly battling nerves and not willing to be the one to make the mistake that would cost their team dearly. Both goalies had very few in the way of stops to make in the third period as the defence corps on both sides kept oncoming forwards to the outside of the perimeter.
Richards finished the game with two goals, opening the scoring just nine minutes into the first period on a setup from Budgell and Jordan King.
Woolfrey also had a two-goal game, his first of the game coming with 54 seconds left in the middle stanza when he stripped an IcePak defender of the puck on the side boards and fired a snapshot high under the crossbar to the far side past Manuel to make it a 3-3 game heading into the final stanza.
Josh Taylor, who was seen shadowing IcePak star forward Cody Drover for most of Sunday’s encounter, scored a first-period goal for the Kings.
Nick Fitzgerald, on a power play, Mike Mason and Graham Oldford scored for the IcePak, who were defeated 5-4 in Game 6 Saturday night at the Hodder Memorial Recreation Complex as the Kings forced a Game 7.
On Saturday night, Richards and Woolfrey scored two goals apiece to lead the Kings to victory in a spirited game played in Deer Lake because icetime wasn’t available at the Pepsi Centre with the facility booked solid Saturday for the 15th annual Captain Cook’s Hockey Tournament.Ryan Gillam had a goal and an assist for the Kings.
Jordan Maher had four goals for the IcePak, while league MVP Cody Drover provided the spadework on all four of his team’s goals.
The Kings will now rest up for a best-of-seven final against second-place St. John’s Privateers this weekend at the Pepsi Centre. Game 1 is slated for Saturday night and Game 2 goes Sunday with the start times still to be determined at press time.
The Privateers earned a berth in the final by disposing of crosstown rival St. John’s Maple Leafs in five games in the other Newfoundland and Labrador Major Midget Hockey League best-of-seven semifinal affair.