The atmosphere was electric last night but the result was heartbreaking as team WHL lost 7-5 to Russia at Mosaic Place in the final game of the 2011 Subway Super Series.
Russia took the early 1-0 lead on a goal from Vladislav Kartaev at 2:18, but Warrior Quinton Howden brought the fans out of their seats when he scored on a penalty shot at 5:57. The teams exchanged goals late in the period and went into the intermission tied at two.
Prince Albert Raider Mark McNeill put the WHL up 3-2 nine second into the second, and then his second of the frame at 5:30 put them up by two. Russia pulled to within one two minutes later, but a late power play goal from Brandon's Ryan Pulock put the WHL back up by two going into the third.
The WHL wasn't able to hold onto the lead, as Russia came storming back in the third period with four games to silence the crowd and take game six 7-5. Despite the loss the CHL was still able to win the series 10-8 based on standings that awarded three points for a regulation win, two points for a shootout win, and one point for a shootout loss. The two point margin is the closest in the nine year history of the event.
WHL and Canadian Junior Head coach Don Hay says they got away from their game. "It was disappointing, I think we got away from what we accomplished in two strong periods."
"We started turning pucks over and played into their game instead of pushing puck down the wall and taking pucks to the net. We started to turn pucks over and pushed it into the middle and they capitalized," added Hay.
Quinton Howden was with Canada at the World Juniors last year when they collapsed in the third period of the gold medal game. Unfortunately the Warrior forward said last night brought back tough memories of the World Juniors.
"You can never count them out, they did it once to us at World Juniors and then again here. I know it's a bit of fun game but it's still heartbreaking to still lose to those guys. Hopefully we can turn it around and be ready come Christmas time."
Brandon's Mark Stone had a goal and two points and was named the WHL's Player of the Game, and says last night will make them hungrier come World Juniors.
"It obviously leaves a bitter taste in everyone's mouth, especially with a two goal lead going into the third period and they get four unanswered," said Stone. "It's obviously disappointing for everyone, but we'll use it as a learning experience and not let it happen again."
Dylan McIlrath was one of five Warriors dressed for the game and says he adjusted to the Russians speed well. "It's a lot different game. I've never played against the Russians in a game like this. They're a really skilled team and I thought I did alright."
The game put Moose Jaw into the national spotlight and Howden says the reaction they got from the crowd was amazing. "It was awesome. To be able to have an event like this here at home is pretty special, not only for us but for the community. The crowd was awesome, we could hear them from ice level, we have to give a shout out to them and say thank you."
The Subway Super Series is used by Hockey Canada to evaluate players for the upcoming IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in Alberta. Players will now wait for the announcement on invitations for camp which will be sent out in early December.