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Grande Prairie, AB – The Grande Prairie Athletics (7-3-1) avoided blowing a two goal lead twice in the second period and erased a Fort St. John (10-2-0) comeback with three unanswered goals in the third to beat the league leading Fort St. John Flyers, 7-4, Thursday night at the Coca Cola Centre in Grande Prairie. Andrew Buote’s goal early in the third would end up as the game-winner as the A’s finally earned two points against Fort St. John this season.
Despite a slow start the Athletics found themselves in the lead after the first, 2-0, thanks in large part to the goal-tending of Dave Larson. Larson would be sharp in the opening frame which paved the way for the Athletics to take the lead when Mac Caron opened the scoring putting home a one-timer at 13:21. Ryan Trudeau added to the lead after finishing a pretty passing play from his brother Nolan late in opening twenty.
In the second the Flyers rebounded and carried much of the momentum as both teams combined for 6 goals. NPHL leading scorer Rick Cleaver pulled the Flyers to within one early on (18:50) in the second. It was short lived as newcomer Jace Weegar restored the Athletics two goal lead at 18:02 as he beat Flyers starting goalie Travis McLean short side. Fort St. John would score twice in under a minute to tie the game, Cole Calliou scored on a nice effort at 12:08 and then Adam Horst at 11:22. Once again the Athletics would gain the lead and lose it. Defensemen Tanner Labbe made it 4 to 3 when he banged home a goal in the slot at 7:54. Mere minutes later though Horst would strike again to tie the game (5:39) and send both clubs back to the dressing room knotted at 4.
In the third, Grande Prairie finally pulled ahead and managed to tighten up defensively. Buote would score early at 18:04 which would became the eventual game winner. Two quick goals from Caron, his second, (13:14) and Nolan Trudeau (12:53) would seal the Athletics 7-4 win.
Larson would stop 33 shots in the win while McLean stopped 37 in the loss.
With the win the Athletics now pull to within five points of first place with only one game remaining against Fort St. John this season.
The Athletics continue their short two game home-stand with a tilt against the visiting Grimshare Huskies at the Coca Cola Centre on Saturday, Dec. 10. Puck drop is set for 8:30 p.m. The A’s then return to the road with a game on Dec. 15th in Dawson Creek.