Whistler’s Jesse Clemiss had the final word in front of a hometown crowd on Jan. 2, an empty net goal in the last minute against the Port Moody Black Panthers that put the Squamish Wolf Pack up 5-2.
Fans got all of their $8 worth, with 90 shots, solid goaltending on both sides of the rink, dozens of solid bodychecks — mostly at the Wolf Pack’s expense — an obligatory fight in the closing minutes, two short-handed goals and a come-from-behind win.
The teams were evenly matched in the first period, with Port Moody outshooting the Wolf Pack 16-13. Wolf Pack goalie Graham Hallenbeck was solid, and shut the door on a breakaway and a two-on-one opportunity early in the game.
The Wolf Pack got on the board first 8:41 into the second period, with Ross Pattison stealing the puck and Trevor Beaupre taking the pass and cutting in front of the net to score the first goal of the game short-handed.
Port Moody answered back about seven minutes later at even strength, tying the game heading into the third period.
Port Moody scored on an innocent looking short-handed play just 33 seconds into the third period to take the lead, scoring through a screen of players. Hallenbeck took it personally, and stopped the next 20 or so shots include some good scoring opportunities and second chances off of rebounds.
Squamish kept up the pressure, and it paid off about nine minutes later as Ross Pattison scored the equalizer on a slapshot from the faceoff circle to make the game 2-2. That’s when Squamish took over, stealing pucks on the forecheck, and peppering Port Moody goalie Nick Enegren with shots.
In the final 10 minutes the Wolf Pack scored three more times, with goals from Nils Hanfstingl and Tadz Brown, and the empty-netter from Clemiss.
Coach Matt Samson credited goalie Hallenbeck for keeping the game close early, and the persistence of his team in the second and third periods. The team has been averaging just over 30 shots per game and allowing as many as 60, but outshot Port Moody 49 to 41.
“There was a time when this team would get down when they were behind and say ‘oh no, we’re not going to be able to come back,’ but I wanted to keep the positive momentum going after that goal so early in the third,” said Samson. “I told them that there was a whole period left, and we were going to tie it and keep going from there.”