On Tuesday night at Save on Foods Memorial Centre, the Kelowna Rockets were one second away from being eliminated from the Western Hockey League playoffs.
Then Justin Kirkland stepped up.
The 19-year-old forward tied the game at 19:59 of the third period, then watched teammate Calvin Thurkauf score at 5:56 of overtime to boost the Rockets to a 3-2 win over the Victoria Royals in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinal series.
With the win, the Rockets advance to the Western Conference final for the third year in a row.
Kelowna will take on the Seattle Thunderbirds in the best-of-seven third round series beginning Friday at Prospera Place.
The defending WHL champs trailed 2-0 after two periods, but Kirkland’s seventh goal of the post season just over three minutes into the third cut the lead in half.
Then, with goaltender Michael Herringer on the bench for an extra attacker, Kirkland connected on a wrist shot with .2 seconds remaining to force overtime.
Thurkauf’s second goal of the playoffs in overtime boosted the Rockets to victory and their third consecutive trip to the Western Conference final.
After falling behind early, Thurkauf said his teammates played desperate hockey.
“We knew we had to change it, so we tried to do our best,” Thurkauf told Shaw TV. “We got the first goal after four or five minutes, then got the tying goal and did what we had to.”
The following is the schedule for the Western Conference final:
1) Seattle @ Kelowna Friday, April 22 7:05 pm
2) Seattle @ Kelowna Saturday, April 23 7:05 pm
3) Kelowna @ Seattle Tuesday, April 26 7:05 pm
4) Kelowna @ Seattle Wednesday, April 27 7:05 pm
5) Seattle @ Kelowna Friday, April 29 7:05 pm
6) Kelowna @ Seattle Sunday, May 1 5:05 pm
7) Seattle @ Kelowna Tuesday, May 3 7:05 pm