It wasn’t so long ago that Spruce Grove Saints looked like they were all but done in the Doyle Cup Junior A Hockey Championship. Trailing 3-1 in the regional series against the fired up Vernon Vipers, the Saints have clawed their way to a Game 7 on the strength of a pair of first-star performances by netminder Vince Marozzi.
The Edmonton product backstopped Spruce Grove with a 36-save showing to lead the Saints to a 3-2 win over the host Vipers in Game 6 Saturday night at Wesbild Centre.
Game 7 goes Sunday night at Wesbild, the winner advancing to the Royal Bank Cup, May 1-9 in Dauphin, Man.
Marozzi even earned an assist on Joshua Lazowski’s winner, a shorthanded goal midway through the third period. With Vernon pressing, the agile keeper lofted a lob to clear the puck, which the speedy Lazowski scooped up behind the Viper defence and went in alone to rip a shot past netminder Graeme Gordon’s glove hand.
Saints’ captain Malcolm Thomlinson, who opened the scoring with a point shot in the first period, was thrilled to keep their post-season alive.
“We were celebrating hard, another day with the boys. We were playing for tomorrow and that’s what we did,” he said, as loud music blared from the Spruce Grove dressing room. “Our backs were against the wall, we gave it everything we got, taking big hits, blocking big shots, totally 100 per cent all the way.”
The Saints scratched netminder Travis Rolheiser and veterans Kodie Curran and Scott Allen from the lineup for Game 6. When questioned about the decision to not dress the trio, Thomlinson called it a “family thing,” and said the replacement players – Jesse Slobodian and Shaun Rolling – stepped in a played hard.
Vernon got on the board while shorthanded late in the second frame as Kellen Jones fed defenceman Adam Thompson as he walked in from the blueline for a top-shelf snapshot.
The cheers of 2,564 fans at Wesbild were short-lived as Spruce Grove restored their lead 17 seconds later while still on the powerplay. Spruce Grove’s Nate Fleming was credited for getting a touch on Wes McLeod’s point shot.
Vernon started playing with desperation in the third, swarming the Saints’ zone in the first five minutes, but the visitors did well to keep Vernon’s speedy forwards to the outside, and collapsed around Marozzi as soon as they tried to make any plays at the net.