Kyle Ward was the unlikely overtime hero as the Gee-Gees men's hockey team won game one of their best-of-three first round series against the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks by a 2-1 score Wednesday night at the Campus Ice Centre in Oshawa, Ont.
"Tonight was a tough game, we always expect that coming here," said Gee-Gees head coach Patrick Grandmaître. "They're one of the toughest teams to beat on the road – a small ice surface, tight checking team. I thought two out of the three periods we played well. We felt we were the best team in overtime, so we deserved the win."
Ward's shot from the high slot five minutes into overtime was fumbled by Ridgebacks netminder Leif Hertz. It was only Ward's second goal of the season and he appeared in just 11 regular season games.
"It was a good play by Quinn [O'Brien] in our zone and I had the puck coming in," said Ward. "I didn't have much, so I just shot it on net. Lucky enough it bounced and went in."
The Sackville, N.B. product joins Mathieu Newcomb as the only players in the modern iteration of the Gee-Gees to score in overtime in the postseason. Newcomb did it in the first round of the 2017 playoffs against Queen's.
The Gee-Gees took the lead late in the first period, courtesy of Kevin Domingue. Nicolas Mattinen fed Domingue on the powerplay, who broke in on Hertz. The program's all-time leading goal scorer got the better of that matchup, as he notched his tenth career playoff goal.
The teams split their regular season series, with the Ridgebacks winning in Oshawa in October and the Gee-Gees winning at home in November. The tight play continued for the majority of Wednesday's game, and the home side drew even in the second period.
Ottawa failed to clear their zone and the puck fell to Cody Grant, who hammered it past a helpless Domenic Graham.
The Garnet and Grey thought they'd retaken the lead shortly thereafter. A long shot from the point fooled Hertz, but struck the crossbar.
Graham was solid throughout the game, turning aside 30 shots. He made an important save in the early stages of the contest, sprawling to rob Ontario Tech's leading scorer, Austin Eastman, on the doorstep.
"It was an up-and-down season for him," said Grandmaître when asked about Graham. "He finished it off with a shutout against Queen's, so he's hot right now, he's confident and it's really helping our team."
Hertz made 33 saves. Ottawa outshot Ontario Tech 35-31 in the game.
The Gee-Gees strong play while down a man continued into the playoffs, as they went 6-for-6 on the penalty kill.
The series now shifts to Ottawa, with game two taking place on Saturday, February 15 at the Minto Sports Complex. Puck drop is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. If necessary, a third and deciding game will be played in Ottawa on Sunday, February 16 at 3:00 p.m.