It most certainly was not for the faint of heart, but it got the job done.
The North York Rangers blew two three-goal leads but were saved from being swept by the Oakville Blades Wednesday evening by an overtime winner from Nick Zanette.
The 5-4 victory in Game 4 cut the series to 3-1 in favour of the Blades, and earned the Rangers a Game 5 Friday night at Sixteen Mile Sports Complex in Oakville.
The first 40 minutes of the contest were definitely the team’s best of the post-season so far, and began in earnest when Nick Campoli banked a puck in off Blades’ defender Sal Filice 8:15 into the contest on a North York power play for the centreman’s first of the playoffs.
Ross Krieger made it 2-0 on a sweet wraparound 8:06 into the middle frame, and then Matthew Galli chipped a rebound from a Shawn Tessier point shot past Blades’ goaltender Brendan McGlynn just over a minute later to really give the Rangers some breathing room.
Tyler Hildebrandt’s long wrister that beat North York net minder Jeremie Lintner blocker side at 12:08 gave the Blades life, but rookie Dante Fantauzzi grabbed his first career junior goal by banging a loose puck into an empty net with two minutes remaining in the second period to give the Rangers what felt at the time like an insurmountable lead.
First, Oakville Captain Jackson Bales tore into the North York zone on an individual rush and whipped a wrister far post on Jett Alexander, who had come into replace Lintner late in the second period.
Ryan Foss chipped in a puck from close range at 8:22 of the third to really cue the comeback, and then Drew Worrad tipped in a Nick Turenko point shot just over three minutes later to finish it off.
Overtime was wild, including a number of brilliant stops by Alexander, such as a breakaway stop of veteran Blades’ forward Tyler Hildebrandt.
Yet the character of the Rangers shone through, as Ethan Wiseman weaved his way through the Oakville defence early in the second overtime. The puck fell to the tape of Zanette, and the 20-year-old then flipped it gingerly into the Blades’ net that had been vacated by an over sliding McGlynn, sending the North York bench into hysteria.
The North York win snapped a six-game win streak for Oakville stretching back to the regular season.
Every Rangers goal was the scorer’s first of the post-season.
North York’s mountain to climb is still very high, but they will look to begin the trek back in the series Friday night, puck drops at 7:30.