On Sunday, the Saskatchewan Shockers and Seattle Sailors faced off in a virtual must-win situation for both squads’ flickering playoff hopes. As a result, the game unfolded with a fierce intensity, as both teams did whatever they could to snag a victory. As it turned out, one Sailors player went a bit too far over the line in helping his team score a key goal.
From the opening puck drop, the game moved at a breakneck pace, a style for which Seattle is well-suited. But the Shockers hung tough, trading goals with the Sailors throughout the contest.
“It was almost like an All-Star Game, defense optional,” said Shockers D Wyatt Barnes.
By the middle of the third period, the score stood 5-5. At that point, the offensive flow seemed to dry up. Both teams had chances to go ahead, but pinged shots off of posts or pushed them just wide.
With less than two minutes left in the game, the puck got lost in a scrum in front of the Shockers’ goal, as a mass of players struggled for control. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, the puck wound up in the back of the net. The goal horn blasted as the Sailors celebrated. But Shockers netminder Zeke Zagurski protested vigorously that he’d been interfered with, prompting the referees took a close look at the replay.
At first, it was almost impossible to see what had happened, given the mass of humanity in and in front of the crease. But eventually, matters became clear.
Zagurski appeared to see the puck in the middle of the scrum and dove to cover it up, but missed. Sailors D Woody Fairwood, seeing an opportunity, sat on top of Zagurski and pinned him to the ice. With the Shockers goalie helpless, Fairwood spotted the puck, scooped it up, and flipped it into the net by hand.
Referee Darren St. James announced that the goal had been disallowed, and gave Fairwood a minor penalty for goaltender interference. (After the game, St. James indicated that he wanted to give Fairwood an additional penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, but that his fellow referees disagreed.)
“I’m going to do whatever I can in that situation to get us a W,” said Fairwood after the game. “Was it too far? Well, I got caught, so yeah. But you can’t blame me for trying.”
“It was obviously the right call,” said Shockers interim coach Caleb Ponder. “You’re not allowed to sit on the goalie, and you’re not allowed to grab the puck and throw it in the net. I don’t know what [Fairwood] was thinking.”
Sailors coach Harold Engellund, on the other hand, couldn’t suppress a smile when discussing the play. “Yeah, okay, Woody shouldn’t have done it,” said Engellund. “But honestly, I kind of like that hustle in a young player. It’s do-or-die time for us, and Woody’s giving it the good fight. The league isn’t going to give him a good-conduct medal for that, but if you’re going to win, you need to push it right up to the line. And if you go a little over, that’s fine by me.”
Fortunately for Fairwood and the Sailors, they weathered the late penalty, and LW George Lane scored in overtime to give Seattle a 6-5 win. Fairwood earned a beer shower from his teammates for the play.
“If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying,” said Sailors RW Vince Mango. “Woody’s definitely trying!”