The February 6 SHL schedule saw an intriguing first game match-up between Peak Biolabs and Aware. Aware had been showing signs of improvement since the start of 2020 and Peak hadn’t played with a full squad since early in the season. Peak needed a win to keep pace with the league leaders and Aware continues to look to get into form before the playoffs.
The game started with a fluke goal, when veteran forward John Schachnovsky threw the puck on goal only a few minutes into the game. The shot seemed to bounce in front of Aware goalie Dream and skipped through his pads to give Peak a 1-0 lead. A few minutes later, SHL leading scorer Corry Day took a pass from SHL super-sub Mankorn Sukwiboon and pocketed the puck past Peak goalie Gabor Toth to tie the score at one. The rest of the first period was a back and forth affair with nobody being able to dent the twine and the score stayed 1-1 at the end of the first period.
The second period was also tightly contested. Both Gabor and Dream stood tall for most of the frame, but with a little over three minutes to play, Peak defenseman Christian Olofsson fed the puck to Harrison Oztemel, who split the defense and scored to put Peak up 2-1 going into the third period.
The game opened up in the third period a little more, with both teams knowing the next goal would most assuredly seal the game for Peak, or give Aware the momentum they would need for a third-period comeback.
Only a few minutes in, Stephen Sproule found a streaking Oztemel, who, once again, proved why he’s one of the best finishers in the league, as he neatly tucked his second goal past Dream, and gave Peak the insurance they needed.
Less than two minutes later, Sproule sent Schachnovsky and Forstner on a 2 on 1 break from the red line. Schachnovsky held the puck as he entered the Aware zone and waited for Forstner to make a quick move towards the Aware net, and Schachnovsky hit the streaking Forstner for a tap-in past Dream.
Aware didn’t go away though, and superstar Finnish D-man, Jari Eerikainen took a pass from Corry Day at center ice, and the Finnish rear guard wound up and powered a shot past Gabor. This brought Aware to within two again.
After their second goal, Aware pushed hard, with extended time in the Peak zone, pushing for the important third goal. However, with five minutes to play, Schachnovsky picked up his second goal of the game, as he picked up the puck at the red line, deked around both Aware D, and, after Dream made the first save on a low shot, Schachnovsky banged home his own rebound to put the game out of reach.
The two-goal and one assist performance for Schachnovsky gave him his first Rolling Stone Pizza player-of-the-game award of the season.
Gabor made 26 saves two get the win and Dream made 25 saves in the losing effort.
In the late game, Hertz clawed back from a 3-1 deficit on two goals (and an assist) by Mike Wilson, defeating the Novotel Spitfires 4-3 and creating a three-way tie for first as the SHL heads into the final stretch of the regular season.
Wilson, who earned Rolling Stone Pizza player-of-the-game honors, was seemingly everywhere in the third period, controlling the puck and peppering Spitfires netminder Yu Cheng Liao with shots from all over.
Tan Limpinphet and Non Aekkasemnarong notched assists on Wilson’s first goal, and Jordan Ashton and Darius Konotopetz helped out on his second tally, Hertz’s winning goal.
Limpinphet brought the teams even at three with 6:53 remaining in the third, with a second assist to Konotopetz, before Wilson scored the winning goal with 4:06 left in the game. Darius had scored Hertz’s first goal of the night on a 3-on-1 in the first period, as Spitfire forward Jason Bitter found himself the lone man back defensively for the Spitfires.
Heading into the third period, the Spitfires were up 2-1 on goals by Bill Bredesen and Marcel Bouwens, and Mike Nightingale extended the lead to 3-1 in the opening minutes of the third.
But just as Novotel looked set to pull away with the win, Hertz started firing on all cylinders, while goalie Lance Parker kept the Spitfires off the board for the remainder of the third period.
The Spitfires had six powerplay opportunities on the night but struggled to put more points on the board. Hertz outshot them 32-28 overall.
With the win, Hertz joins Novotel and Peak at the top of the league.