It’s a role Tyson Baillie has become happily accustomed to playing.
Baillie scored at 14:55 of overtime Friday to lead the Kelowna Rockets to a 2-1 victory over the Portland Winterhawks in Game 5 of the Western Conference final at Prospera Place.
Kelowna now leads the best-of-seven series three games to two.
In a frenetic overtime period, which saw Kelowna outshoot the Winterhawks 20-4, the 19-year-old forward beat Adin Hill from the slot for his eighth playoff goal and his second overtime winner of the 2015 postseason.
In 2013, in the opening round, Baillie scored in overtime in Game 7 to eliminate the Seattle Thunderbirds.
“That’s number one for sure, that definitely passes the Seattle one,” Baillie said of Friday’s game winner. “It was a great play, a scramble off the face off, Dillon Dube and Chance Braid won the battle along the blue line, and it was a great pass by (Dube) to find me in the slot.”
“It’s an unreal feeling, especially when I scored that goal, I blacked out, I couldn’t breathe…it was unreal.”
Baillie’s goal ended spectacular goaltending performances at both ends of the ice in front of capacity crowd of 6,261 at Prospera Place.
Kelowna’s Jackson Whistle made 42 saves, none bigger than a glove stop in the second period off Winterhawks sniper Oliver Bjorkstrand who broke in alone on a clear-cut breakaway while Portland was shorthanded.
Whistle was understandably pleased with his team’s performance in a pressure-packed playoff environment.
“It was a pretty surreal experience,” said Whistle, who has faced 87 shots in winning the last two games. “Obviously you live for those kind of games and you play all year to play in a game like that, so it was pretty unreal.”
Adin Hill made 47 stops in the Portland net, including several of the acrobatic variety in overtime.
Riley Stadel scored his third of the playoffs to open the scoring at 17:25 of the first, a lead that stood up until the late stages of third period.
With just 3:33 remaining, Nic Petan squeezed a shot between Whistle’s pads to tie the game and force overtime.
The Rockets, who were already missing leading goal scorer Rourke Chartier due to an injury, lost forward Tyrell Goulbourne to a lower body injury in the second period.
Rockets’ head coach Dan Lambert said despite not having all hands on deck his team found a way to get the job done in overtime.
“Obviously we had a lot of guys that played a lot of minutes for us, and they just pushed through it,” he said. “Conditioning is one thing, but it’s the will to want to push through and that comes from the heart. I thought the guys played with a lot of heart tonight.”
Game 6 is set for Sunday in Portland.
A seventh and deciding game, if needed, would be played Tuesday, 7:05 p.m. at Prospera Place.