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Attack blow three-goal lead, clinch a playoff spot


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The Owen Sound Attack blew a three-goal lead to the Guelph Storm Friday night and are headed to the playoffs.

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It’s that time of year.

Danny Zhilkin capped off a wild night at the Sleeman Centre by scoring the overtime winner after Cooper Walker’s hat-trick performance helped the Royal City club come back from being stuck 5-2 at the end of 20 minutes.

Thanks to the Hamilton Bulldogs, who shut out the Erie Otters 3-0 Friday night, Owen Sound still managed to clinch a playoff spot – which probably helps lighten the mood on the bus back to Owen Sound. The Attack have made the playoffs every season since winning the championship in 2010-11.

In this game, there were times the Attack dominated. There were times one wondered if Owen Sound was going to break the single-game goal-scoring record. There were times Owen Sound looked shaky. There were times Owen Sound looked beat, and finally, there were times Owen Sound seemed lucky just to hold on for a single point.

Both teams entered the contest shorthanded as injuries, illness and suspensions kept several high-profile players from each club off the ice. Perhaps most notably Attack starting goaltender Nick Chenard, who has been lights out head-to-head against Guelph this season. Chenard missed the game with an illness.

The two clubs combined for four goals in the opening four minutes Friday night as a little appetizer for what was to come.

Nick Porco and Cedrick Guindon scored just 30 seconds apart before Cooper Walker and Sasha Pastujov answered back for the Storm in a span of less than a minute.

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After the scorekeeper downed some electrolytes Owen Sound proceeded to pour it on. Ethan Burroughs, William Portokalis and Servac Petrovsky would all hit the mesh behind Owen Bennett before the horn sounded to end the first period.

The horn also signalled the end of Bennett’s night after allowing five goals on 11 shots. Jacob Oster stopped all 13 shots he faced in relief.

It was all Guelph from there. The Storm scored four unanswered goals in the second and third periods en route to snapping a four-game losing streak.

Attack-killer Jake Karabela notched his 12th of the year midway through the second period before Walker’s second brought the Storm within a goal, 5-4, headed into the third period.

In the third, Guelph peppered Corbin Votary and outshot Owen Sound 18-4. Votary had to stand on his head at times in the frame just to help eke out the single overtime point after Walker’s third goal tied it at 5-5 at the 8:30 mark of the period.

Votary then stole a goal off the stick of Matthew Papais in the final minutes of the game. With time winding down, and Owen Sound clawing in desperation, Attack captain Mark Woolley simply trapped the puck along the wall in the Attack zone and waited for the buzzer to stop the bleeding.

A little before-overtime reset didn’t do much to slow the Storm, and just 37 seconds into the extra frame Zhilkin walked into the slot and wired his 20th goal of the year by Votary for the winner.

Votary made 35 saves on 41 shots in the contest as Owen Sound lost their second-straight road game. The extra point helps Guelph creep up behind the Attack in their hunt for the fifth spot in the Western Conference. Currently, Guelph sits three points back of the Attack with three games in hand.

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A win for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds over the Saginaw Spirit Friday night puts them five points ahead of the Attack in the fourth spot, with a game in hand over the Attack.

The Attack will return to the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre Saturday to host the Western Conference-leading Windsor Spitfires, who topped Kitchener 5-3 Friday. Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m.

NOTES:

Orillia Terriers (PJHL) goaltender Reed Spinola spent Friday night as an emergency backup on the Attack bench as Nick Chenard was bit by the illness bug going around the Owen Sound room. The 19-year-old from Alliston was fresh off a double-overtime loss to the Schomberg Cougars where he faced 65 shots Thursday night. The Terriers and Cougars will play a deciding Game 7 Saturday night in Orillia.

Cedrick Guindon is the Ontario Hockey League’s Rookie of the Month for March after leading the Bears with 10 goals and eight assists over a jam-packed 14-game schedule. Guindon’s memorable four-goal effort helped Owen Sound snatch an overtime victory in Guelph. He’s been a fixture on the team’s top line since late February. As of Friday afternoon, Guindon is second in OHL rookie scoring with 54 points on the year while his 27 goals place him third in the lamp-lighting race, one back of teammate Colby Barlow. Guindon is the first Attack player to win OHL Rookie of the Month honours since Artur Gavrus in October 2011

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