Gabriel Vanier hero in OT; Blizzard takes a 2-1 lead

Gabriel Vanier was the game hero Thursday in Yarmouth scoring the winning goal in double overtime. Photo archives Digiphoto

YARMOUTH, Nova Scotia – When the Edmundston Blizzard acquired Gabriel Vanier on November 12, the team knew it was getting an elite scorer.

Thursday night, the big right-handed forward mesmerized everyone by scoring the winning goal at 6:15 of the second overtime period giving the Blizzard a 3-2 win over the Yarmouth Mariners and a 2-1 lead in the Maritime Junior A Hockey League final series.

Linemate Liam Leonard prepared the play leading up to the winning goal. He made a nice zone entry to get around the net and pass the puck to defenseman Alex Lavoie who took a shot that was partially blocked by defenseman Duncan McKie. Vanier grabbed the puck and completely mystified goalkeeper Leif Hertz with a sharp wrist shot passed the blocker’s side. The Blizzard’s victory put an end to the Mariners’ streak of seven home wins in the playoffs. The game was played in front of a packed crowd of 1,501 spectators, including more than 100 noisy Blizzard fans who made the 1,000 kilometer trip.

The two teams meet again on Friday night (7:30 pm) at the Mariners Centre for the fourth game of the series.

The Blizzard never got behind in the game. After a scoreless first period, Kyle Ward opened the scoring for the visitors at 16:13 of the second period. Keenan Gillis and Alexandre Bernier got the assists.

In the third, Logan Timmons tied the score at 4:03. Then, Gabriel Vanier restored the Blizzard’s lead to 2-1 thanks to a perfect play by Leonard and Dany Coulombe who made a perfect pass to Vanier for the best-looking goal of the night.

The Blizzard was hoping to end the game that way, but the Mariners pulled out their goalie with over a minute to play and tied the game with a lucky deflection by Luc Poirier, at 18:43.

At the end of the third period, the two teams resumed the action immediately with a ten-minute extra-time period during which no goal was scored.

The further the game progressed, the more we felt the Mariners put constant pressure on Blizzard’s defense visibly exhausted. But goalie Francis Asselin held the fort majestically. With 45 saves, he has certainly had one of his best outings of the season. He certainly deserved one of the stars that went to Vanier (1st), Ward (2nd) and Timmons (3rd).

The penalty killing units on both sides outmatched the power play units. Blizzard (0-for-5) and Mariners (0-for-4) failed to capitalize on the man-advantage.

The Mariners led 47-37 in shots.

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Contact: Hugues Chiasson, vice-president communications – The Edmundston Blizzard; (506) 740-0623 – cell phone