Snipers’ golden dreams dashed

Joey Payeur

The ’52 Canadians Arena has been home to many thrilling hockey moments—and another one took place Sunday.
Sadly for the home crowd, it was the visiting team experiencing the thrills when the dust had settled.
Luke Krause scored the title clincher at 4:53 of overtime to give the Baudette Bears a 3-2 win over the Fort Frances Snipers in the gold-medal final of a six-team Atom ‘AA’ tournament.
The Snipers, who went a mere 1-2 during the preliminary round before shaking off their underdog tag in the semi-finals, wouldn’t go away the whole game.
The Fort Frances crew twice fell behind yet steeled their resolve and battled back each time.
Gabriel Johnson had the lone goal at 12:16 of the first period to put the Bears ahead 1-0, but Eric Pitkanen tallied at 1:57 of the second to draw Fort Frances even.
Krause then set up Jackson Arpin at 9:18 of the second for a 2-1 Baudette lead, but Cole Allan set up Kendyn Faragher for another equalizer at 2:46 of the third.
That set the stage for Krause’s heroics, with the game-winner coming unassisted.
Krause finished the tournament as his team’s top scorer, and tied for third best overall, with four goals and two assists for six points behind Fletcher Anderson of the Thunder Bay Elks 82s (two goals, seven assists) and Jayden Mrakic of the Current River Comets (six goals, one assist).
It was the second time in the tournament that the Bears caused the Snipers grief as Baudette earned a 4-2 victory during the final preliminary round game for both squads.
In that one, Ethan Carlson-Jourdain put the Snipers up at 13:18 of the opening frame, assisted by Byron Stewart and Jonathan Busch, just as Baudette’s Reece Chorney was getting out of the sin bin.
But the Bears tied it on Arpin’s marker 15 seconds into the second.
Fort Frances regained the lead at 4:53 when Ian Tookenay took a feed from Faragher and ripped a shot past the Baudette goalie for a short-handed gem.
Instead of running for their dens, however, the Bears feasted after that—scoring three unanswered goals to steal the victory.
Nathan Poolman transformed into a master play-maker for Baudette, setting up Krause at 10:23 and then Shane Birkeland at 13:23 to give Baudette its first lead.
Johnson later added an insurance marker at 4:18 of the third during a Bears’ power play.
On the defensive
Fort Frances had opened the tournament Friday with a 2-1 loss to the Thunder Bay Elks 82s.
Trevor McRae’s goal with the man advantage at 11:50 of the first had Thunder Bay in the driver’s seat. But Nicholas Hahkala and Colton Bodnar teamed up to spring James Gushulak free for the tying goal 7:17 into the second.
Special teams proved costly for the Snipers, however, as Noah Francis netted the eventual game-winner at 12:14 of the middle frame during another Thunder Bay power play.
The Snipers cranked up the offence in their second game, scoring four-straight times to turn a 2-2 second-period tie into an easy 6-2 triumph over the Sioux Lookout Sioux.
Bodnar and Hahkala assisted on Gushulak’s short-handed opener at 3:43 of the first before Jakob McCleary tied it on the power play at 8:45.
In the second, Tookenay scored unassisted at 2:01 before Camden Flynn notched a short-handed marker at 7:18 to square matters again.
But the Snipers honed their rifle sights after that, ignoring their short-handed status to score twice within 35 seconds during the same penalty kill.
Sullivan Shortreed’s pass was knocked in by Pitkanen at 9:01 before Hahkala set up Gushulak at 9:36 for a 4-2 cushion.
Jacob Clendenning then assisted on goals by Carlson-Jourdain at 11:22 of the second and again at 2:45 of the third to close out the barrage.
The Snipers had to face a seemingly insurmountable obstacle in their semi-final opponent as Current River plowed through the preliminaries with a 3-0 record while outscoring the opposition 20-5.
Fort Frances didn’t look intimidated in the slightest from the get-go, however. Hahkala, who led all Snipers with five points in five games, bulged the twine at 6:56 of the first, assisted by Tookenay and Shortreed.
Carlson-Jourdain put the Comets even further back on their heels when he tallied, with help from Pitkanen and Hahkala, at 3:16 of the second.
Richard Crupi kickstarted Current River’s rally at 6:51 with his goal before Mrakic completed the comeback with his equalizer on the power play at 8:09 of the third.
But instead of collapsing like a pup tent in a hurricane, the Snipers dug their skates in and refused to fold.
Pitkanen put the stake through the Comets’ hearts with his unassisted goal at 4:03 of overtime to give the Snipers the dramatic 3-2 win.
The Comets bounced back to nip the Elks 82s 2-1 in a shootout in the ‘B’ final while the Dryden Paper Kings swamped Sioux Lookout 6-2 in the ‘C’ final.