By Ken Pagan
Marco Costantini saved the season.
Chris Ishmael then made sure the series will go on.
Just minutes after Kilty B’s goaltender Costantini made a breathtaking goal-line stop among his 64 saves on the night, Ishmael batted in a puck past St. Catharines Falcons goaltender Noah Battaglia with 1:56 remaining in triple-overtime to give Hamilton a 2-1 win in Game 5 on Friday night at the Jack Gatecliff Arena in St. Catharines.
Game 6 is Sunday night at the Dave Andreychuk Mountain Arena at 7:30 p.m.
“It’s even more special, having watched a couple of games from the stands, but coming in to make an impact … we were going crazy in here after the game,” Ishmael said following the win.
For both teams, it was the fourth game in five nights, and the third straight overtime game. After the score was tied 1-1 after the second period, the teams battled for almost four full scoreless periods before Ishmael ended it by directing in a loose puck after Battaglia blocked a shoulder-high shot from captain Tanner Brennecke.
“All the boys were going and we came out of every intermission pumped up and ready to go,” Ishmael said. “We knew it was our game. We came up short yesterday (losing 5-4 in overtime in Thursday’s Game 4) but we just took it home here. It was a long game.”
Kilty B’s head coach Ken Peroff had a couple of forwards go down with injury during the game, while players from both squads were visibly running out of gas as the game went on.
“I was proud of how hard they played and how they stuck with it,” Peroff said. “Everybody contributed. It was a total team effort.”
In the five-day span from Monday to Friday, including the overtimes, the teams played the equivalent of five games of intense playoff hockey, earning a well-deserved day off Saturday before the grind picks up again on Sunday night.
“This is my first junior playoffs and it’s like we just played two games tonight,” Ishmael said. “Everyone’s battling and these guys are just warriors.”
Speaking of warriors, Kilty B’s forward Freddy Teeple opened the scoring in the first period with his fourth goal of the playoffs, matching his total from the regular season. The Falcons’ Dakota Miskolczi evened the score in the final minute of the second period.
The ensuing goaltending duel between Costantini — a 16-year-old who is committed to the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs next season — and Battaglia — an 18-year-old who started this season with the OHL’s Erie Otters — over the next four periods had the 700-plus fans on the edge of their seats for more than two hours.
The Falcons outshot the Kilty B’s 65-50. Battaglia made his own game-saving stop with a quick glove hand on a point-blank shot by Marino Moro in the second overtime and later made a diving stop to smother a Lucas Thompson attempt.
But the season-saving goal-line stop by Costantini — foiling the Falcons’ Christian Girhiny, who appeared to have an empty net to bang in a rebound — earned the rookie goaltender a tap on the pads from half the Kilty B’s roster before the next faceoff.
“Costantini was great,” Peroff said. “Anytime you face that many shots and only give up the one, he more than did his part for us. The paddle save he made in overtime was one of the most clutch saves I’ve ever seen. The St. Catharines fans were treated to a real goalie battle.”
Hamilton fans could be in for the same on Sunday when the Kilty B’s will be looking to force a Game 7.