PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. — The Vancouver Giants have pushed the Western Hockey League final to the distance.
The Giants downed the host Prince Albert Raiders 4-2 in Game 6 on Sunday to force a deciding game.
Vancouver captain Jared Dmytriw scored the winner at the 3:40 mark of the third period, backhanding home a rebound to break a 2-2 deadlock.
"It was unbelievable," said Dmytriw. "To get the lead at that point in the game was huge.
"Then we kind of locked it down. I thought the team played well down the stretch."
Davis Koch scored his second of the game into an empty net to round out the scoring in the third for the Giants, while Owen Hardy had the other.
Game 7 is set for Monday in Prince Albert.
It’ll mark the first time the WHL final has gone to a Game 7 since 2014, when the Edmonton Oil Kings got past the Portland Winterhawks.
Just 53 seconds into the game, Raiders forward Parker Kelly shot down the right wing, cut to the front of the Vancouver goal and banged home the rebound of his own shot to give the host side a 1-0 edge.
The Giants weren’t shaken by the early goal and Koch and Hardy responded by netting singles to give Vancouver a 2-1 edge.
Before the first period ended, the Raiders evened things up at 2-2 when Kelly scored his second of the game with 32.2 seconds remaining in the frame.
Dmytriw was pleased with how his squad bounced back after falling behind early.
"It has kind of been the identity of our group this whole year is to bounce back," said Dmytriw. "We knew coming into tonight whether they got the first one or we got the first one we weren’t going to change our game.
"We were going to stick to our game plan, and I was proud of the way the boys handled that adversity early and bounced back."
The teams played through a scoreless second before the Giants produced the game’s final two goals in the third.
David Tendeck turned away 36 shots to pick up the win. Ian Scott stopped 23-of-26 shots in defeat.
"I thought we were OK," said Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid. "Outside of a couple of things in our D-zone that could have been better, I thought we missed a couple of assignments.
"We weren’t as good as we could have been. They played heavy. We can be better in our own end, and that will help us out offensively."
The Giants are trying to become the first team to overcome a 3-1 series deficit to win the WHL final since the Victoria Cougars pulled the trick in 1981 against the Calgary Wranglers.
"We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves," said Giants head coach Michael Dyck. "We didn’t think about winning three games when we were down.
"We thought about winning one. It was an opportunity to come back into here, and we just wanted to keep moving forward from there."
This year’s WHL final features the league’s top two clubs.
The Raiders topped the WHL regular season standings with a 54-10-4 record and were rated No. 2 in the final CHL Top 10 rankings.
Vancouver finished second overall in the WHL with a 48-15-3-2 mark and No. 6 in the final CHL Top 10 rankings.
The winner will earn a berth to the Memorial Cup being held May 17 to 26 in Halifax.
The Raiders last won the WHL title and the Memorial Cup in 1985.
The Giants last won the WHL title in 2006, and they captured the Memorial Cup in 2007 as the tournament’s host team.
"This is a special group that I coach here," said Habscheid. "It is a great bunch of guys. "We treated Game 5 like it was Game 7. We treated Game 6 today like it was Game 7. We will treat Game 7 like it is Game 7."