When the Anchorage Igloos won the first three games of this championship series, the pundits were all but ready to hand them the Vandy. Maybe the Quebec Tigres would win one to avoid the embarrassment of a sweep, but that was all. Surely, Quebec couldn’t win back-to-back games in the hostile confines of Arctic Circle Arena, much less the four straight they’d need to win the series.
But after today’s 4-2 win in Game 5, the Tigres now have the back-to-back road wins they needed. And after they scored three goals in the third period to secure a come-from-behind win, the momentum is firmly in Quebec’s corner. Mind you, they haven’t won yet. They still need to win two more. But after a game that seemed virtually tailor-made to sow doubt in the minds of the Igloos, a miracle comeback no longer seems like an impossibility.
“Seems like Anchorage might have been taking this win for granted,” said LW Stellan Fisker. “But we never gave up on ourselves, and we aren’t going to.”
As for the Igloos, there was a definite undercurrent of unease in the locker room after the game. “We definitely felt like this was one we could have had,” said C Jake Frost.
Similar to Game 4, the first couple of periods were a little on the slow side, as the Tigres used their defense to set the pace. And just like Game 4, the visitors got on the board first, with RW Stephane Mirac getting on the board just 20 seconds in on a shot that banked in off the left post. Unlike in Game 4, Anchorage struck back and re-took the lead. RW Ben Summers tied it up on a power-play goal eight minutes in, and C Harvey Bellmore put the Igloos ahead with a redirect that found the upper left corner of the net with six minutes left in the period.
As the teams headed to the locker room after the first intermission with the Igloos up 2-1, the crowd seemed cheerful and confident of victory. Forty more minutes, and their heroes would be circling the ice showing off their latest trophy. Perhaps the boys in blue allowed themselves to entertain the same fantasies.
After a scoreless second period, the Igloos found themselves a mere 20 minutes away from the title. The crowd’s cheering became more intense, and the fans began serenading some of the players by name. “We might have gotten ahead of ourselves a bit,” admitted Frost.
Neither the Igloos nor their fans were ready for what happened in the third period, but it’s likely to be seared in their minds for a long time to come. 49 seconds into the period, Fisker fired a low line drive that deflected off of Anchorage goalie Ty Worthington‘s stick, bounced off his arm, and went into the net. “That was a soft one,” admitted Worthington. “I should have stopped it.”
After that, Tigres LW Walt Camernitz stole the show. Quebec made a splash in the offseason by signing the ex-Washington winger to a five-year, $20 million deal. Camernitz proved to be a worthwhile investment, jump-starting their moribund offense and turning the Tigres from a promising young club into a contender. It was only fitting that he would provide the winning goals in the biggest game of their season so far.
At 7:15 into the third, during the tail end of a power play, Camernitz fired a severe-angle shot that somehow eluded Worthington and found the twice, giving Quebec its first lead of the period. Just over three minutes later, C Mikhail Ilyushin fed him a pass in the left faceoff circle, and he thundered a slapper that Worthington never seemed to see to make it a 4-2 game.
“Walt is worth every penny we paid him,” said Tigres coach Martin Delorme. “He has brought us scoring, defense, and leadership all in one package.”
The Tigres weren’t quite out of the woods yet. They had to kill off an extended 5-on-3 situation in the latter half of the third; Frost nearly scored on the two-man advantage, but his shot rang off the post. But that was as close as the Igloos would come to scoring. By the time the final siren sounded, the crowd sat stunned and virtually silent, denied the celebration they were sure was coming.
Anchorage coach Sam Castor cautioned against panic. “We still just have to win one of these in order to get the title,” the coach said. “But we’ll need to play a sharper, more disciplined game than we saw out there tonight. We’re close, but we haven’t won anything yet. We need to remember that.”