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The Preeceville Midget Pats went up against the Moosomin Rangers in back to back nights in the team’s quest for an advancement to the provincial southern semifinal in Preeceville on February 29.

The Pats started off game one at home and got caught in the all too familiar territory as of late, giving up the first goal early. Although the first period saw quite a few exchanges of shots that pushed the goalies, it was the Rangers finishing the frame up 2 to 0, reported Kirby Pankratz, Pats head coach.

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The second period saw the Pats come to life with a bit more edge and desire. They closed the lead to one just three minutes in. Late in the period Moosomin took another two-goal lead on the hometown boys.

Shortly after the goal, on a questionable hit that staggered a Ranger player, the inevitable nastiness erupted and the refs had to break out the pad and pencil to keep track of it all. “I’m not surprised that we were going to see a few wrestling matches in this series the way these guys have been pounding each other and how many times we’ve met already, but I’m glad that our guys kept it together enough and stepped up for each other when it mattered without serious consequences that would hurt our team," said Pankratz.

When the smoke settled and ejections and penalties were handed out, the Pats answered with the tying goal before the end of the period on a clean faceoff win to the point.

“After the hit and fisticuffs that went down, and us being on the shorthanded end of those exchanges, it really seemed to spark our group. They killed off the penalty and got the tying goal to carry over to the third and it showed huge character how we quickly got back on focus to play hockey, that other stuff isn’t our focus or our game," he said.

A minute-and-a-half into the third the Pats put up their first lead of the game and kept the rest of the period in their favour and scored another at the midway point, which was all they needed for the comeback victory, 5 to 3.

In less than 24 hours it was a trip to Moosomin for game two of the provincial series, and again the Rangers jumped out to an early lead, with the Pats answering back shortly after to knot the game at one. In the last minute of the period the Pats scored another. taking the lead into the second period. The Rangers tied the game four minutes into the second before the string of “back and forth goals” started coming and the period finished at six goals apiece.

Preeceville started the final period shorthanded for four minutes and had almost completed the kill when the Rangers got the lead on the power play. As the rough stuff continued throughout the third the Pats put up the majority of scoring chances for most of the period only to have the Rangers take a two-goal lead with four minutes left. The Pats emptied the net for the extra attacker and although the guys came close, they couldn’t put one in.

With the Saskatchewan Hockey Association new provincial format, having games one and two tied at a win each, the teams were to play a ten-minute mini game to decide the winner. If still tied it would go to sudden death victory.

“We told the guys to forget fast, this was a new game and we were in good contention with how we finished the period,” said Pankratz.

As bad luck would have it, the Pats slipped very early and gave up a goal on a terribly unfortunate bounce 36 seconds in. The Preeceville squad stayed the course and put up chances with the push but eventually gave up an empty net goal with 41 seconds remaining while trying to get the equalizer, putting a disappointing end to a good provincial run.

With the provincials in the rear view mirror the Pats and Moosomin Rangers resumed their league playoff series with game three being played at home for the Pats on March 4, with the series now becoming a best of three after exchanging home wins in games one and two.

The first frame ended scoreless with the only excitement being a power play opportunity for the Pats, who out shot the opponent 10 to 6. It only took a minute and change for the Pats to get the first goal of the game off a great pass through traffic to an open stick redirection right in the crease. Two minutes later the same tandem of players from goal one set up goal two with a great shot from the point, which also ended the night for the Rangers goaltender who had to leave with an injury.

“With any backup goalie coming into a game late, it’s always a simple plan, get lots of pucks to him and test him early,” explained Pankratz.

That’s what the Pats did and they scored two more in the next three minutes after the backup entered the crease for Moosomin. The Pats took the third period with their best momentum of the series yet, and added three more goals to a very defeated effort from the visitors, putting a stranglehold on the series.

“The last one of the series is the toughest to get usually, and we’re in a good position now,” said Pankratz.

The teams were set to resume hostilities on March 6 in Moosomin, with the Pats in position to wrap up the series on the road.