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Grande Prairie, AB – The Athletics (16-5-1) concluded their regular season Thursday night at the Coca Cola Centre with a 5 to 3 win over the Spirit River Rangers (10-10-1).
Heading into tonight’s game both clubs all but knew it was a preview of the playoffs which is set to begin this Tuesday night in Grande Prairie at the Coca Cola Centre. As a preview it’s a safe bet both clubs are set for an entertaining opening round in the NPHL playoffs.
As of late it’s been a problem for the Athletics as once again they fell behind in the opening twenty. Both clubs found themselves with chances but it wasn’t until Rangers forward Trevor Mazurek opened the scoring at 6:21 on the powerplay with a redirection in front of starting goaltender Dave Larson.
The second period was a tale of two stories. With some early chances in the opening 5 minutes Grande Prairie couldn’t capitalize and it was Spirit River who added to their lead when Nathan Smith scored at 8:28. Both teams traded goals as Spirit’s two goal lead quickly disappeared after Smith’s goal. Dennis Rix scored the first of two on the night to pull the A’s back to within one. Mere minutes later though Brain Sommers regained Spirit Rivers two goal lead.
Once again though Dennis Rix pulled the A’s to within one pushing the puck ahead on a faceoff and finding an opening on the five hole of Michael Teslak. 30 seconds later rookie Jace Weegar put home a rebound to tie the game at 3 heading into the third.
Grande Prairie got stronger as the game went on and managed to kill off the last of a 5 on 3 to start the third before going to work. At the mid point Morgan MacLean scored the eventual game winner. Forward Dustin Kersey sealed it at 6:53 on a beautiful individual effort.
With the clock winding down both teams found themselves face to face with numerous scrums in the closing moments setting the stage for what should be another entertaining series in the long standing history between both clubs.
Both teams meet once more this Tuesday Night (Jan 31st) as they are set to open the first round of the NPHL playoffs. Grande Prairie will be looking to avenge some playoff demons as Spirit River has eliminated the A’s the past four seasons on their way to win four straight championships.
In the other West division semi finals the Fort St. John Flyers will host the Dawson Creek Canucks which is also scheduled to begin Tuesday night.