The Bulldogs looked sharp off the opening puck drop, but despite that it was an immediate hole again as Kyle McGrath won a draw in the Bulldog zone where Brady MacDonald simply put it on net from the right point. John Hawthorne would make the save, but Marty Westhaver tapped the rebound inside the far post to make it 1-0 just 1:18 of first. The Bulldogs didn't show any signs of letting the early deficit get to them, as they responded right back to push the pace and get pucks on Kurtis Chapman. He would make a great save to protect the lead near the midway point of the period, as Keaton Mastrodonato made a fantastic play to pick up a puck off a bounce from the kick plate in full flight up the right wing at centre ice. Chapman would stop the initial shot, but give up a bouncing cross-ice rebound that Jackson Doucet managed to fight on net, only to have Chapman dive post to post through the crease to get his body on it to keep it out. The Bulldogs kept pushing, and were rewarded for it as they tied the game as Stephen Castagna knocked a puck loose on a battle on the left wing in the Grizzlies zone. Marcus Walter would step up to keep it in, and walked past traffic to create a 2 on 1 where he kept the puck aj11:18 of the first. Before the crowd had a chance to celebrate the Grizzlies tied it almost instantly, as the Bulldogs attacked on the rush, but turned it over on a cross-ice pass entering the zone. A quick head-man pass was picked up behind the defence by Marty Westhaver who raced in alone and put a backhand deke past Hawthorne to make it 2-1 at 11:36 of the first, with Henri Schreifels and Kyle McGrath getting credit for the helpers. The Bulldogs once again answered to tie it, as Austin Spiridakis forced a turnover and bumped it up the wall on the right side where a pinching in Hayden Hurst kept the battle alive to force it down the wall. Josh Zary would find it and fought off a defender to drive the net where he beat Chapman low far side at 13:31 of the first. Neither team would find the net before the buzzer, with the shots being 11-10 Bulldogs.
The second period saw neither side be especially crisp, but the Grizzlies having a great chance to take the lead in the opening moments as John Hawthorne came up with a pad save on a Kyle McGrath breakaway to keep it tied. The Bulldogs would earn a power play on a large-scale after the whistle dust up four minutes into the frame, but finally took their first lead of the series just short of eight minutes in when Ryan Novecosky took a Keaton Mastrodonato pass at the left point and walked to the middle where he threw a puck on goal that his traffic in front before landing at the left side of the paint where Ryan Miotto banged it in to make it 3-1 at 7:51. The Bulldogs didn't have a chance to build on it, as just a minute later the Grizzlies went to the power play when Alex Newhook was checked going to the net off the bench. They would connect on the chance to tie the game as Alex Newhook walked into the top of the right circle where he snapped one long-side through a screen blocker side to make it 3-3. Assists on the play went to Kenny Johnson and Kyle McGrath, but they should've went to Riley Hughes and Carter Berger at 9:23 of the second. A dust-up at the benches behind the play resulted in Stephen Castagna given four minutes for butt ending. The Grizzlies again connected on it, as a point shot was tipped on goal but stopped by Hawthorne. Ryan Nolan would find the rebound first though, and tapped it home to make it 4-3 at 11:34 of the period, with assists to Nico Somerville and Charlie Campbell. Another penalty on the second minor put the Grizzlies to a 27 second two-man advantage, but the Bulldogs killed it off. The Grizzlies would find the net again though in the second penalty as Nico Somerville scored on a one-timer long side past the blocker of Hawthorne, with assists to Cameron Thompson and Charlie Campbell at 14:43 of the second. Ryan Nolan would celebrate the goal by taunting Hawthorne instead of celebrating with his teammates, and would earn a 10 minute misconduct. The Bulldogs earned a power play seconds later when Marcus Walter was hit awkwardly into the end boards but would be unable to capitalize on it as the Grizzlies led 5-3 after 40 minutes. Second period shots were 10-10, for a 21-20 Bulldog edge.
The Bulldogs earned a power play early in the third, before a tough to accept scenario at the Victoria net took the advantage away. Mitchel Deelstra would stop in front of the net as Kurtis Chapman caught and held the puck. Chapman would then put his glove into the face of Deelstra, who responded with a slash, which brought about a response by the Grizzlies in the form of a crosscheck to the head of Deelstra. The only penalty, went to Deelstra. The Bulldogs would kill it off after the four-on-four ended, and continued to fight to get back into it, finally doing so with just under 10 minutes to play as Steven Castagna and Isaac Tonkin-Palmer kept it in at the Victoria line before Castagna fired a shot on net from the right circle where Chapman made the save but allowed a rebound in the paint that Mitchel Deelstra chipped home to make it 5-4 at 10:43 of the third. The Grizzlies pushed right back, and John Hawthorne made a huge save on an in-alone Marty Westhaver to keep the Dogs in it. The Grizzlies held on into late stages of the third, with the Bulldogs pulling their goalie with under two minutes to play. They earned a fantastic chance on a bounce across the slot, only to have the puck roll of the stick of Mitchel Deelstra and miss short-side. The Grizzlies would block a shot in the slot, that Jordan Guiney found and sent up the left wing for Ryan Nolan who raced away on a 3 on 1 rush. He would elect to keep the puck and attempt a shot, that was blocked by the last man back in Aaron Bohlinger to give the Bulldogs a second life. They would make the most of it, as Ryan Miotto head-manned it up the right wing for Jackson Doucet. He would carry it down the wall into the Grizzlies zone before putting a perfect cross-ice pass to Mitchel Deelstra who walked into the slot where he snapped one short-side past the blocker of Chapman to rattle the rafters and tie it at 5-5 with 55 seconds to play to force overtime. Shots in the third were 16-13 Bulldogs for a 60 minute total of 37-33 Bulldogs.
Here's the dramatic comeback to force overtime...
Overtime saw the Bulldogs have a solid push through the early minutes, with a series of pucks around Chapman resulting in scrambles but failing to find the net, perhaps the most notable chance seeing a Victoria defender block a cross-ice rebound on an open net. The Grizzlies would then tilt the ice, hemming the Bulldogs in their zone for several long stretches drawing repeated icings and a couple good opportunities that Hawthorne kept out. The Grizzlies would win it in controversial fashion, at least from the Bulldog side of the puck, as a pending icing was waved off at the last second - I'm not sure why, as play continued, as opposed to an attacking zone faceoff and a line change. The Bulldogs would clear it, and get caught on the long change in overtime as the Grizzlies seconds later had another chance to win it on a breakaway that saw Hawthorne come up with a blocker save on Marty Westhaver. Cameron Thompson would retrieve the rebound and be allowed to walk out front, and when a Bulldog defender couldn't get through being interfered with in front it allowed him to walk right in where he scored the game winner with a perfectly placed top corner, short-side high shot over the blocker of Hawthorne for the 6-5 final and a 3-0 series lead for the Grizzlies at 9:15 of overtime with Marty Westhaver drawing the only assist.
Here's the sequence that led to the game winner. Some may find it hard to believe, but I don't want to talk about Officiating. It's a developmental league. It's an incredibly tough job. They're only human. I certainly understand and respect all of the above. I'm not sure I can ever recall the same play happening in the span of less than a minute at both ends of the ice going against one team both ways, and going for one team both ways, at least with such a large consequence. I considered I missed something, I considered it was only me looking from the Bulldog side of the puck and to just forget it all. I usually trust my instincts and first view - but I went to the OTHER side of the puck, Grizzlies broadcaster Scott Didmon to find out what he saw. As it turns out, it was the same that I did. Great minds think alike, or fools seldom differ perhaps?
A final point on all this - It's not sour grapes, or an attempt to give the Bulldogs and excuse, or to take away from the Grizzlies in winning. Just doing my job in relaying how it happened. I absolutely would not avoid it should it have happened the other way. When I lack the passion to care enough to go through the steps of trying to summarize something like this, it's time to hang 'em up!
Shots in overtime were 6-4 Grizzlies, for a 41-39 Bulldogs total with Kurtis Chapman picking up the win while John Hawthorne took the loss. The Bulldogs went 0 for 4 on the power play while the Grizzlies went 3 for 5.,