Fort Macleod Mavericks would not be denied in their quest for a Central Alberta Tier 5 Midget Hockey League championship.
The Mavericks rallied from an early deficit Friday to double Chestermere Lakers 4-2 in front of a large, raucous home town crowd.
The victory gave the Mavericks, who finished the regular season seven points behind Chestermere, a two-game sweep in the championship series and a chance to celebrate on home ice.
The fourth-place Mavericks were on a roll heading into the playoffs, having won three straight heading into their series with Okotoks Oilers.
The Oilers, who finished five points behind the Mavericks in regular season standings, gave Fort Macleod all it could handle in the opening round.
The Mavericks prevailed 2-1 though, and advanced to the semifinals against first-place Medicine Hat Venom, who were 12 points higher in the regular season standings than Fort Macleod.
The Mavericks opened that series with a 7-4 win in Medicine Hat, but dropped the next game 5-3 at home.
That forced a showdown in the deciding game at Medicine Hat, which the Mavericks won 7-4.
After a late-night bus ride home from Medicine Hat, the Mavericks had to head to Chestermere the next day for the first game of the championship series.
Road warriors that they are, the Mavericks pounded Chestermere 4-1 to take a one-game lead.
That set the stage for Friday’s game, which attracted what was likely the biggest crowd of the year for a hockey game at Fort Macleod and District Sports Centre.
Fighting for their very playoff lives, the Lakers quieted the Fort Macleod crowd with a goal less than two minutes into the game.
Nicholas Toner got the goal, assisted by Joel Saracini.
The action went back-and-forth through the rest of the opening period, with Fort Macleod holding the edge in scoring chances.
Mavericks goalie Cole Nathe and Chestermere counterpart Brett Height were equal to the task, however, and the teams went into the break with the Lakers leading 1-0.
Less than two minutes into the second period the game was knotted at 1-1 as Andrew Shade, parked in the slot, banged the puck home.
Wilfred North Peigan Jr. and Tyrus White Cow assisted on the goal by Shade, which was his third of the playoffs.
The Mavericks got their first lead of the game mid way through the second period when Eligh Big Bull brought the puck out of the corner and drilled a shot home. Jacoby Provost assisted on the goal.
Fort Macleod poured it on in the second period and the Lakers were just hanging on.
The Mavericks were rewarded for their strong play when Big Bull potted his seventh goal of the playoffs with just 25 seconds on the clock. Shade and Eric Maskowitz drew assists.
Trailing 3-1 heading into the final period, the Lakers refused to quit and took it to the Mavericks.
Just over four minutes into the third Drew Poot scored to narrow Fort Macleod’s lead to 3-2.
The Lakers continued to pour it on, dominating the game offensively, but Nathe calmly handled every shot that came his way.
With just over five minutes to go Mavericks coach Trevor Curran called a time out and settled his team down.
From that point the Mavericks shut down the Lakers attack, turning the Chestermere attackers away time and again.
With just over a minute to play Riley Vanee took a pass from Hunter Curran at his own blue line, pulled away from the Chestermere defender and fooled the goalie with a nifty forehand-backhand move to make it 4-2.
Fort Macleod killed off the final minute and then celebrated, saluting the home town crowd and taking a victory lap with the Central Alberta banner.
The Mavericks are Cole Nathe, Sly No Chief, Connor Grier, Kelly Halcrow, Riley Vanee, Andrew Shade, Eligh Big Bull, Jordan North Peigan, Wilfred North Peigan Jr., Colten Holtz, Matthew Warren, Tyrus White Cow, Bryce Brown, Eric Maskowitz, Michael Big Bull, Jacoby Provost, Hunter Curran and Cale Three Persons.
Head coach is Trevor Curran, assistants are Kyle Grier and Wes Big Bull and manager is Kathie Nathe.