The defending playoff champion Memphis RiverKings and the regular season champion Austin Ice Bats both earned exciting double overtime wins Thursday as the Conference Finals continue in the Central Hockey Leagues Ray Miron Presidents Cup Playoffs. Brett Seguin gave Austin the win 10:15 into double overtime to tie their Southern Conference Final series with Laredo 2-2, while Jonathan Gagnon performed the heroics for Memphis 3:46 into the second overtime period to give the RiverKings a commanding 3-0 lead in the Northern Conference Finals.
Game 4: Austin 4 @ Laredo 3 (2OT) Final
Austin entered Game 4 in a near must win situation, as a loss would have then forced the Ice bats to win three straight to advance past Laredo. Instead, with the victory, the series now becomes a best of three games beginning Friday at the Travis County Exposition Center and continuing Saturday back at the Laredo Entertainment Center. The Ice Bats appeared to have Game 4 in control early in the contest, taking a 3-1 lead after 20 minutes of play. Austins Tab Lardner and Laredos Stefan Keski-Kingas exchanged goals early in the period, then the Ice bats capitalized on a pair of 5-3 power play advantages. Gerald Tallaire notched his fifth goal of the post-season at the 10:20 mark, then Dan Price added his second post-season goal 1:33 later.
The Bucks roared back in the second period to tie the contest with goals from Morten Ask (who later left the game with an injury) and Joey Sewell, knotting the contest at 3-3 9:13 into the middle frame. The clubs would then play just over 60 minutes of hockey without a goal. In double overtime, Dan Price gathered a loose puck and skated behind the net of goaltender Lance Leslie before circling in front and throwing a backhand shot towards a pile of players blocking Leslies view. Somewhere in the scramble, the puck deflected off the shoulder of Brett Seguin and slipped into the net to end the game and tie the series. Both clubs recorded 40 shots in the game, which was the third of the four playoff meetings between the Southeast Division rivals to require overtime. Neither team will have much time to recover, with back to back games Friday in Austin and Saturday in Laredo. If necessary, a deciding Game 7 will be played Tuesday, April 15th in Austin.
Game 3: Memphis 2 @ Indianapolis 1 (2OT) Final
In Indianapolis, it was another case of the Ice coming up just short in their attempt to defeat the Memphis RiverKings. The Ice played an outstanding defensive game, and it appeared they were en route to a 1-0 victory until late in the third period. Ice All-Star defenseman Bernie John opened the scoring on the power play with just seconds remaining in the middle period, beautifully deflecting a Kevin St. Jacques pass high past Memphis goaltender Mark Richards. That goal held up until the 15:22 mark of the third period, when RiverKings forward Greg Lakovic picked a most opportune time to score his first playoff goal of the year, deflecting in a Derek Landmesser shot from the point.
From there, Game 3 remained scoreless until early in the fifth period. Memphis center Kahlil Thomas carried the puck into the Indianapolis zone, centering a nifty pass to right winger Jay Neal, who swooped in on Ice goaltender Jamie Morris and let a backhand shot go. The rebound bounced to Gagnon, who easily dumped the puck past a defenseless Morris to seal the victory and give the RiverKings a 3-0 series lead. Memphis will now have four opportunities, if needed, to advance to their second consecutive Ray Miron Presidents Cup Finals. The Ice can take some solace in the fact that all three games, despite being losses, were close, and with a couple of bounces could possibly be leading the series. That being said, Indianapolis now has the unenviable task of trying to win four consecutive games to defeat Memphis and advance to the finals.