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Brace late goal lifts Hawks over Red Wings at SJHL showcase

Nipawin coach Doug Johnson needs to have his Hawks more focused as the league moves on

WARMAN — Dawson Brace scored the winning goal to lift the Nipawin Hawks to a come-from-behind 3-2 overtime win over the Weyburn Red Wings in the final day of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s 2021 Player Showcase late Wednesday night at the Legends Centre.

The Hawks rallied back from a two-goal deficit after two periods sparked by Christian Albertson’s unassisted score with 44 seconds gone in the third.

Hawks’ goalie Chase Hamm made an excellent stop on Weyburn left winger Jackson Hassman’s penalty attempt to prevent Nipawin being down by two goals again at 3:46 in the third period.

Carter Wickenheiser, on a power play, tied the count at 2-2 off an assist by Carson Dobson. Both teams challenged every possession and toughened up their defence the rest of the way. Weyburn keeper Dazza Mitchell even had a pair of saves in the last five minutes of the match to foil Nipawin’s attempt to seal the win.

It was almost the same in overtime and the match seemed to go into a shootout, if not for the heroic efforts of Brace and Dobson.

The 18-year-old forward, with the clock winding down in extra time, perfectly received a Dobson pass and found a crack on Weyburn’s wall-like defense at the net to dump the puck against a surprised Red Wings goalie Chase Hamm.

There was 53 seconds left on the clock when Brace scored the winning goal as his teammates flooded the ice to celebrate with him. It was also Brace’s second goal of the season while Dobson had his second assist in the game and third overall.

The Hawks are currently third in the overall standings with a 5-2 card behind the 5-1 records of the Battlefords North Stars and Melfort Mustangs. They are in second place in the Sherwood Division that is currently being led by the Mustangs.

“It was a lot closer than it needed to be. We dominated the play but just couldn’t find the back of the net early on, but things happened and we’re pretty happy about it. We just didn’t do a great job on the penalty kills and we took some bad penalties,” Hawks GM and head coach Doug Johnson told SASKTODAY after the tightly-fought match.

Johnson said they still played aggressively despite being down two goals going into the third period.

“Again, in the third, we came out and we were still controlling play like we just went in the game. Sometimes that happens and we found a way to win the game. That is what matters.”

Weyburn, after a scoreless draw at the of the first period, got on the board off a pair of power play goals. Shayde Peterson struck at 4:42 with Braden Birnie and Drew Kuzma involved in that offensive play.

Birnie, midway in the second, had his fourth assist of the season when he hooked one up to Cayde Agustin to put the Red Wings up at 2-0.

“I try not to focus too much on the other team. We just have to make sure we get better every day, especially after the long COVID layoff in the season. We’re just trying to make sure we compete at the top level. Make sure that shift after shift we’re rolling and doing things right,” said Johnson.

Despite being one of the top contending teams Johnson remains cautious.

"We’re at 5-2 and we’re happy with that, but there’s still 51 games left in the season. Nobody has won a championship in the first seven games. So, we can feel good about this until midnight and then you get to focus on tomorrow.”