|Acadie-Bathurst Titan||Baie-Comeau Drakkar|
|Blainville-Boisbriand Armada||Cape Breton Screaming Eagles|
|Charlottetown Islanders||Chicoutimi Sagueneens|
|Drummondville Voltigeurs||Gatineau Olympiques|
|Halifax Mooseheads||Moncton Wildcats|
|Quebec Remparts||Rimouski Oceanic|
|Rouyn-Noranda Huskies||Saint John Sea Dogs|
|Shawinigan Cataractes||Sherbrooke Phoenix|
|Val-d'Or Foreurs||Victoriaville Tigres|
|Brandon Wheat Kings|
|Edmonton Oil Kings|
|Medicine Hat Tigers|
|Moose Jaw Warriors|
|Prince Albert Raiders|
|Red Deer Rebels|
|Swift Current Broncos|
|Prince George Cougars|
BELLEVILLE, ON - It was a quiet second intermission at the Yardmen Arena on Sunday afternoon. Not only did the shot to win his and her's jeeps from Ralph Neale's Belleville Dodge miss the net entirely drawing a groan from the Belleville fans, but their battling Bulls were trailing 3-1 with twenty minutes remaining. Staring a 3-0 series deficit in the face however, the Bulls somehow found life.
Through games one and two in Ottawa on Thursday and Friday they'd played hard, fighting for loose pucks and registering quality chances on Ottawa goaltender Petr Mrazek. Despite their tireless efforts however, it seemed the Bulls couldn't buy a break, falling 3-2 in overtime on Thursday and 4-2 on Friday in a game where they controlled the majority of the play.
Finally, in the third period of game three on Sunday afternoon at the Yardmen, those bounces finally came. A pair of third period goals within one minute of each other tied things up at three before overaged centreman Jordan Mayer put the 67's on ice just 14 seconds into overtime with a great shot over the shoulder of Mrazek as he rushed down the right wing.
It'd be tough for any devoted hockey fan to cheer against the Bulls the way they've played through the first three games of this series. The grit and sandpaper was evident early in game three as crash and bang forwards Garrett Hooey, Scott Simmonds and Carter Sandlak were hitting everything in sight, forcing a depleted Ottawa blueline without captain Marc Zanetti to work hard and move pucks quickly.
A crew of boisterous 67's supporters made the Sunday trip to cheer on their club, forcing the Belleville faithful to step up their game in support of the Bulls. As the fans in the stands jostled back and forth for volume control, the two teams on the ice were waging war as the 67's got the first real good scoring chance of the afternoon just 15 seconds into the game. Ottawa managed to force an odd-man rush as they entered the Belleville zone with Dalton Smith centering for Sean Monahan who couldn't chip a quick deflection past Malcolm Subban who was solid in the first period, denying five Ottawa scoring opportunities.
Jordan Mayer had the puck on a string in the opening frame, registering three of his own scoring opportunities. Petr Mrazek carried over his strong play from the 44 save performance on Friday night, making some clean saves off Mayer and a point blank save off of Michael Curtis. The Bulls hit iron once in the first, as Luke Judson's spinnorama created a chance on the forehand but he couldn't beat the post.
The two clubs couldn't create a goal in the opening twenty as both goaltenders looked to be upholding their reputations as a pair of the CHL's finest. Just one minute into the second though, one of them would crack.
Finally, a bounce came for Belleville, as a dirty goal got them up 1-0. Daniil Zharkov's first career OHL playoff goal deflected past Mrazek off the body of 67's defender Jake Cardwell as Zharkov sent a puck towards the goal from the half wall in the Ottawa zone. It was just the second time in eleven meetings that the Bulls drew first blood against Ottawa as they wouldn't be playing from behind to start this game.
The lead would be short-lived. Ottawa's third line trio of Ryan Van Stralen, Steven Janes and Tyler Graovac converted as they forced a Belleville turnover before the Minnesota Wild prospect Graovac beat Subban with a wristshot from the left circle at 5:06.
The mood dampened further just 44 seconds later as a fourth line duel went in favour of the 67's as Brett Gustavsen collected his second goal of the postseason. The pesky Gustavsen finished on a cycle play with linemate Nicholas Foglia as he curled around the left faceoff dot to snap a low shot through Subban's legs.
With the 67's suddenly in control, the Yardmen got a whole lot quieter for a short time before the loyal Bulls fans rallied behind their Bulls to push them in the direction of a comeback.
Despite their efforts, the situation got increasingly dire as the speedy Ottawa penalty kill made the Bulls change for a poorly timed line change. With the powerplay already struggling offensively as it failed to capitalize on a four minute advantage earlier in the game, it didn't pass the test defensively either as Sean Monahan scored shorthanded at 9:53. Defender Stephen Silas was stranded on the backcheck as his tired mates retreated to the bench with Ottawa's two top scorers barreling down on Silas off the forecheck. Tyler Toffoli was able to get to the puck first, sending the puck to the slot where Monahan counted three steamboats before beating Subban on a backhanded deke to give Ottawa a 3-1 lead.
The five minute unraveling that saw Ottawa score three times on less than ten shots made the impending comeback all the more magical as the Bulls would come out in the third period and overcome adversity to pull themselves back into a big first round series.
Michael Curtis hammered the first nail into the Ottawa coffin as payback was in order after the Bulls were burned on a powerplay of their own. Curtis' shorthanded breakaway tally came as the result of a Monahan turnover at the Belleville blueline. Curtis knocked the puck free and was off to the races, beating Mrazek on the backhand through the five hole at 4:43 of the third.
With the momentum building and a 67's defensive corps relying heavily on four bodies, the Bulls began to take control. Another fortunate break would come Belleville's way just 58 seconds after Curtis drew the Brahmas within one as Jake Worrad beat Mrazek on a long shot that somehow snuck through the armor of the Czech netminder. Worrad let go of a slapshot from just inside the Ottawa blueline that handcuffed Mrazek and beat him over the right pad as the puck trickled over the goal line behind him.
All knotted up at three, the energy was in Belleville's corner as 67's Head Coach Chris Byrne called a timeout to try and halt the momentum. The 67's managed to hold off Belleville for the remaining minutes of the third with some good bounce-back goaltending by Mrazek who's most notable save came when he flashed the leather on Carter Sandlak as he eyed up the top corner on a shot from below the left circle.
Sandlak's physical tone cost him a couple of teeth after he took a high stick from Jake Cardwell in the first period. He'd play the rest of the game with a full cage on his helmet.
Regulation settled nothing, so the two clubs headed to overtime for the second time in three games. The Bulls were seeking vengeance for a game one overtime loss when Tyler Toffoli scored just 2:02 into the extra frame. Although that was a short overtime lifespan, it didn't compare to what happened on Sunday.
Before the ice was even dry, Adam Payerl chipped a puck past a pinching Sean Callaghan, sending Jordan Mayer in on a two-on-one as the Kingston native caught Mrazek off his near post, beating him with a shot under the crossbar to give the Bulls their first playoff victory since April 23rd, 2009.
"That was one of the bigger goals I've ever scored," said Mayer with a chuckle following the game. "I thought we fought really hard today as we did in the first two games of the series, it's just nice to see that effort starting to pay off for us."
With the Bulls down 2-0 in the series as they entered the third period down 3-1, Mayer says the team pulled together to find away to rise above the frustration. "We were rattled after allowing those three quick goals, no question about it. I think we should be proud of ourselves for pulling out of that state of mind and getting back to focusing on the right things."
The Bulls have been warriors in extra time this season, skating to a collective record of 11-2 in overtime and shootouts between the playoffs and regular season.
Tyler Graovac was the third star of the game with a goal while Michael Curtis' shorthanded breakaway marker earned him the second star. Jake Worrad was acknowledged for his stellar play in all three zones while scoring a goal to be named the afternoon's first star.
Jordan Subban was back in the lineup on Sunday while Branden Morris did not dress for Belleville. The 67's were without overaged blueliners Marc Zanetti (suspension) and Daniel Broussard (injury).
The Bulls will have Monday off before getting back to the ice on Tuesday night in game four against Ottawa at 7:05pm. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 613-966-8338 or by visiting between 10am and 5pm on Monday. Let's #packtheyard and get behind the Bulls as they try and tie this series up on Tuesday!