Forge falls short in overtime of NAHL finals
PLYMOUTH, MICH. — No matter how many times it seems like the Forge have taken their last breath, they resurface for one last gulp of air and continue to survive.
This time, they didn’t wait until the third period to fight back from a 2-0 deficit Saturday night in Game 2 of the North American Hockey League Robertson Cup finals at the Compuware Sports Arena.
The Forge, who rallied from the same deficit against Texas last Sunday to reach the finals, scored three times in less than 10 minutes with Sean Berkstetter’s go-ahead goal coming early in the third period.
But Compuware wouldn’t go away either, as it showed its speed an playmaking ability on a Mike Walsh’s slick pass to Matt Rutkowski for an easy one-timer to tie the game, 3-3, six minutes into the third to send the game into overtime.
Just two minutes into overtime, Compuware’s Mark Cannon crossed a pass to Dan Knapp for a picture perfect one-timer and the Robertson Cup trophy with a 4-3 victory.
Once again, the Forge’s special teams dug itself a hole. This time it came in the first period of a scoreless game. Compuware Defenseman Justin Thoel’s high sticking penalty gave the Forge a power play at 18:37. Less than thirty seconds later, the Forge turned the puck over at center ice to Knapp.
Forge defenseman Dylan Reese turned and followed Knapp, but couldn’t catch him. On the ensuing breakaway, Tim Heneroty stopped Knapp’s shot but Rutkowski cleaned up the rebound for a short-handed goal, his league-leading sixth playoff tally.
In Game 1, the Forge gave up two power play goals and went 0 for 5 with the advantage in a 4-0 loss. But late in the second period, the Forge’s fortunes changed. Reese took a shot it bounced right back to him. He tried again, the puck deflected to forward Mike Handza, who didn’t miss for the Forge’s first goal of the series. The goal cut Compuware’s lead to 2-1.
Less then two minutes later, the Forge got another power play when Rutkowski put a stick to the face of Andy Cote, dropping him to the ice. The Forge quickly set up in Compuware’s zone. This time, looking like a polished unit.
Compuware’s defenders gambled by aggressively pursuing the puck handler and that left holes for open shots. Reese found another shot and ripped it off Tobe’s chest. The rebound bounced left of the net to forward Josh Colye. Tobe still hadn’t regained his position and Coyle wristed a short angle shot just inside the far post to tie the game, 2-2.
Coyle lifted his hands after scoring as much in celebration as relief. The Forge had found themselves and just in the nick of time.
Compuware nearly crushed the Forge’s momentum a few minutes later, when Walsh skated in all alone on Heneroty. Walsh faked left, but Heneroty didn’t budge and easily stopped Walsh’s attempt.
The Forge could meet Compuware next weekend in the Junior A National Championships in Bozemont, Montana. The Forge plays Bozemont in the semifinals while Compuware plays Fernie, B.C.