SWIFT CURRENT -- It doesn't matter how you start, it's about how you finish.
Some choice words from a Swift Current Broncos' player was enough to spark the Moose Jaw Warriors on to a season-saving comeback and eventually a 3-2 win in triple overtime on Saturday night.
The Warriors trailed 2-0 early in the third period, but scored twice to tie the game before Jayden Halbgewachs played the hero in the third overtime, beating Broncos goalie Stuart Skinner for a power play goal.
"In the third period, one of their players skated by our bench and said something to our whole bench and that fired our guys up, they were really unhappy with what this guy said, that's when the team really started to go and they went after them," said Warriors head coach Tim Hunter after the win.
The win forces a deciding Game 7 in the best-of-seven series back at Mosaic Place on Monday.
The only reason the Warriors had a chance to mount the comeback in Game 6 was goaltender Brody Willms. Moose Jaw was being outshot 28-9 heading into the third period, but Willms held them in it with a number of big. He continued to do that into overtime, finishing with 58 saves on the night.
"I was just seeing the puck really well tonight and our defencemen were doing a great job and Halbgewachs was able to put one in there finally, so it was a big relief and we're looking forward to Game 7," said Willms.
Willms was pulled in the opening game of the playoffs, but he steadily improved each time he's stepped on the ice throughout the post-season, leading to a season-saving performance on Saturday.
"He was unreal, he stood on his head and in the end, he gave us the win, he was phenomenal tonight and that's what we need from him moving forward," said Halbgewachs.
Halbgewachs had been held off the score sheet since Game 1 of the series, but he came up huge when the Warriors needed him.
After drawing a penalty in the opening minute of the third overtime period, Halbgewachs made it count just 30 seconds later when he rifled a shot past Skinner to send the series to Game 7.
The 20-year-old San Jose Sharks prospect said it was the biggest goal of his career, "It feels unreal, our season is over if that goal doesn't happen, it's pretty indescribable and it feels awesome," he said.
"We've got a special team this year and to have our season done already is just not what we want and doesn't feel right, so to keep our season rolling with that goal is huge."
The night didn't start great for the Warriors and they struggled to get anything going over the first two periods. The Broncos outshot the Warriors, 12-4, in the first period, but neither team could find the back of the net in the scoreless opening frame.
Matteo Gennaro opened the scoring for Swift Current on a power play goal with under seven minutes to play in the second period. It was the fifth straight game in which the Broncos opened the scoring in the series.
Swift Current really took control of the game 3:35 into the third period when Broncos captain Glenn Gawdin forced a turnover and fed Tyler Steenbergen where he snapped in his ninth of the playoffs to give the Broncos a commanding 2-0 lead.
The Warriors found their legs as the third wore on and just over three minutes later a point shot from defenceman Jett Woo found its way past Skinner to get Moose Jaw on the board.
They got some momentum from that goal and then just past the midway point of the period, captain Brett Howden tipped a shot from the point into the net. The goal was originally called off as the back of the net was lifted up, but it was overturned and the Warriors tied the game.
Neither team could find the go-ahead goal to end regulation, which meant they were off to overtime for the third time in the past four games.
Swift Current outshot Moose Jaw 16-7 in the first overtime with the Warriors killing off a penalty midway through the period.
The Warriors seemed to get stronger the deeper that the game went and eventually got their break in the opening minute of the third overtime.
"I asked the team to play their best game tonight and I meant in the first game not the second game," said Hunter. "We were resilient, we didn't quit and we got a couple of breaks, found some pucks past Skinner and Halbgewachs came up big, it hards to keep your best players off the scoreboard for long and it's a big goal for him."
The two teams will both play their second Game 7 of the playoffs coming up on Monday night at Mosaic Place. Tickets go on sale on Sunday morning at 10 a.m. at mjwarriors.ca.