It’s a script even Hollywood screenwriters would snub for being too far-fetched.
The Airdrie-Cochrane (AC) Avalanche enjoyed a rare sporting achievement Jan. 25, clawing back from a six-goal deficit to record a 7-6 win over the SEAC Tigers in Medicine Hat, Alta.
“From a coach’s perspective, I’d never experienced that,” head coach Terry Sydoryk said. “You could see the momentum building as we got closer, and the players actually started to believe it was achievable to come back from 6-0. With 17 seconds left, we ended up scoring the winning goal, which was phenomenal.”
The Cochrane-based Avalanche, which competes in the Alberta Minor Midget Hockey League (AMMHL), started the fixture on a disastrous note by conceding six goals in the first 20 minutes.
Ironically, Sydoryk said, the coaches’ message to the players before the game had been to start strong – something the team has struggled with, recently.
“I think five minutes in, we were down 3-0 or 4-0, so it was a quick spiral and there was a lot of emotion on the bench,” he said. “We came out of the first period in a massive hole.”
Despite the large deficit, Sydoryk said, his message to the players was to remain positive heading into the second stanza.
“We said, ‘Let’s start by winning the period,’” he said. “We went out in the second and said, ‘Get one goal and see where it goes from there.”
The Avalanche players obliged, scoring five unanswered goals in the second frame.
“They started to see it wasn’t that far out of their grasp, so they went out in the third and continued that high level of play,” Sydoryk said.
“The Medicine Hat team, you could see as we crept closer and closer that the energy went the opposite way. They started to question if they were going to be able to hold on, and that didn’t work in their favour.”
Early into the third period, Colton Alexander tied the game with his second tally for AC before Carson Crawford, with less than 20 seconds left, capped off the comeback with a high backhanded goal.
The late game-winner elicited a huge celebration from the Avalanche bench.
Despite the adrenaline of rescuing the result against SEAC in such dramatic fashion, the team faltered the following day, losing 4-0 in a battle for second place against the Lethbridge Hurricanes. The loss resulted in the Hurricanes overtaking the Avalanche in league standings.
“I don’t think the score represented the game – we had a goal turned back with five minutes left in the second, when it was 1-0,” Sydoryk said. “That’s when the wind went out [of our sails].
“It’s no excuse, but you could see everything shift. We didn’t step up, but it was our third game in three nights, so the guys were tired.”
Regardless of the setback, it’s been a highly positive season for the Avalanche, according to Sydoryk, as the team boasts a 21-7-2 record – good for third place in the AMMHL South Division.
A season highlight for the team was defeating the high-flying Okotoks M15 Oilers, which currently tops the South Division with a 25-1-3 record. The Avalanche overcame the Oilers 2-1 Jan. 11, marking Okotoks’ only loss of the season.
“It was a hard, hard-fought game, and a fantastic game,” Sydoryk said. “We had tremendous goaltending from Cody Jaman and, defensively, we played very [resolutely]. We took our advantages when we got them.”
Apart from its regular-season schedule, the Avalanche won Hockey Calgary’s Midget 15 Winter Blast in December 2019 and kicked off 2020 by making it to the semi-finals of the Okanagan Classic Minor Midget Tournament in Kelowna, B.C., before losing to the team that ultimately won the competition.
With five fixtures left before the AMMHL playoff tournament in March, Sydoryk said his team’s focus will be peaking at the right time.
“Anybody could ultimately show up and come up with an amazing five games in four days,” he said. “It all comes down to that one weekend.”
The Avalanche’s next home game is Feb. 9 against the Calgary Royals. Puck drop is at 5:30 p.m. at the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre.