It was far from their best but it was good enough as the Nipawin Hawks escaped Humboldt with a 3-1 win.
The Game 2 win pushed the Hawks ahead two games to none in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League best of seven quarter-final series over the Broncos, which was huge, admitted Doug Johnson, the head coach.
“We just want to get to four wins. We knew we weren’t at our best. We knew that Humboldt played a lot better and we have to make sure that we pick up our intensity for game three.”
Grant Baetsen did the damage for the Hawks, scoring the game’s opening goal and the game winner with under three minutes to play.
Brett Harasymuk added a late empty netter to seal the victory.
The Hawks came out flying in the first period, generating a great deal of offense off the rush and while cycling the puck.
“We just couldn’t bury,” noted Johnson.
The Hawks found themselves on their heels a little bit in the second period, but managed the only goal as Baetsen tipped home a nice feed from Keegan Kjargaard.
“Humboldt took it to us a little bit at times but we had some pretty strong goaltending and got that fortunate break,” admitted Johnson.
The Broncos tied the game with a power play marker in the third and built a ton of momentum as the Hawks were forced back on their heels.
With the Broncos dominating the latter part of the third period, Johnson noted experience played a large role in keeping the Broncos at bay.
“That’s why we went out and made the deals that we made to bring in some older guys. Some guys that have been through a few battles... They really stepped up.”
Getting that late third period goal was huge, admitted Johnson, adding that winning in regulation is always a lot better.
“It is nice if you can get it over with early because it is a different beast. But we’ve been there done that before in the regular season. And I know for my heart, [Assistant Coach] TJ [Millar]’s heart and [Athletic Therapist] Emma [Galloway]’s health a regulation win is always better than an overtime win.”
Despite sitting ahead 2-0 in the series heading back home, Johnson said it will be important for the players to play like they are down 3-0.
“If we take a night off, Humboldt’s going to come and beat us up and all of a sudden, then it’s 2-1.”
The series now shifts back to Nipawin for Game 3 of the series on March 21, and Johnson said to continue to have success they need to move the puck quicker and play better in the defensive zone.
“We just need to be a little more physical, need to be a little more defensively aware... Some way, somehow, we’ve got to start picking some corners because we’re having a ton of chances and just not putting them in the back of the net.”