Josh Currie had a feeling something good was going to happen heading into overtime.
He was bang on.
The P.E.I. Rocket captain scored the game-winning goal 42 seconds into the extra period as the Rocket opened the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs with a 3-2 victory over the Val-d’Or Foreurs Friday at the Civic Centre.
“I was joking with a few of the guys, I said, ‘I feel like I should get it, I feel like I am going to get it,’” Currie recalled after the game. “It didn’t matter who got it, we knew how important Game 1 is.”
The play started with a scrum at the P.E.I. blue-line. The Rocket got the puck out and it bounced to Currie, who had a lot of open ice in front of him. When the Foreurs’ defenceman played Currie to go wide, the 20-year-old sniper made his move to the middle.
“I brought it in and luckily just chipped it over the goalie’s left shoulder,” he said.
The home fans erupted and so did the Rocket bench.
“We were pretty fired up. I jumped a few feet there,” defenceman Anthony Cortese said. “It was a big win for us.”
The story could have been much different.
Tomas Pavelka scored a power-play goal with 5:34 to go in the third, but the lead was short lived. A blocked shot at the Val-d’Or blue-line two minutes later sprung Anthony Mantha and the 50-goal sniper didn’t miss on a breakaway against Antoine Bibeau, who was sharp all night on his way to being named the game’s second star.
“Wow,” Currie said. “He was tremendous. Words can’t describe how good he was tonight. Save after save, he kept us in it. We had a few huge breakdowns with some of their guys having wide-open chances, he just stood there calm, cool and collected and made the saves.”
Many in the building suspected the game was over when Pavelka scored. Being able to respond after Mantha’s marker provided a confidence boost for the Rocket and swung the momentum of the best-of-seven series, Currie said.
“Now they’re down and they have all the pressure on them,” he said. “We can really put our foots on their throat tomorrow.”
Quickly turning the page will be critical.
“Emotions are on a real high right now,” Currie said. “We just have to put it behind us, that game is over and done with.”
There appeared to be some nerves in play early in the game with little pace in the first period.
“Anytime playoffs come around everybody is a little nervous, maybe gripping the stick a little bit tighter,” said defenceman Troy Vance. “Once we settled in and started playing our game, it was better.”
Cortese has dedicated the playoffs to his 20-year-old sister Chiara, who was born with a health issue.
“She’s been through a few battles in her life, so I am just dedicating this one to her,” he said. “It means a lot me. She’s supported me through my life and was always there for hockey.”
P.E.I. – 3
Val-d’Or – 2
P.E.I. – Alexis Pépin, Tomas Pavelka and Josh Currie.
Val-d’Or – Artem Sergeev and Anthony Mantha.
P.E.I. – Yan Pavel Laplante, Louick Marcotte, Ben Duffy, Josh Currie and Alex Micallef
Val-d’Or – Pierre-Maxime Poudrier, Randy Gazzola and Samuel Henley.
P.E.I. – Antoine Bibeau, 33 saves on 35 shots.
Val-d’Or – Philippe Trudeau, 33 saves on 36 shots.
Announced attendance – 2,295
50/50 – $3,302
Next game – Tonight at 7 p.m. at the Civic Centre
1. Josh Currie
2. Antoine Bibeau
3. Philippe Trudeau