Unaware that he had scored one of the most important goals this year for Dalhousie’s men’s hockey team, Jacob Johnston’s delayed reaction after his game-tying slap shot could sum up his team’s flounders this season.
“I heard the puck hit the post,” says Johnston, remembering his goal against UPEI on Dec. 1. “I didn’t really see it go in until the crowd started celebrating so I started celebrating after that.”
The fifth-year’s slap shot from the point came just when the Tigers needed it the most. Despite losing some key games this season, Johnston’s tying goal and the subsequent winner from Benjamin Breault puts Dal just one point back from the sixth and final playoff spot heading into the holiday break. They beat the Panthers, the team owning that last post-season berth, 3-2.
“It was nice to finally win,” Johnston says. “We had a few games early in the season where we were kind of giving up some leads, so it felt good to be at the other end and come back from a little bit of deficit in the third.”
The Tigers were down 2-1 after 40 minutes until they answered back with two unanswered goals in the third period.
Earning only five victories in 16 games was not the kind of first half Dal wanted. But with injuries once again starting to pile up, the squad has made the most of their opportunities. Dal’s deflated roster, which continues to struggle on the road, will need all the help they can get.
Two of those triumphs for the Tigers have come against the Panthers.
“We usually play pretty well against them,” says Johnston. “They work hard, they are a kind of in-your-face so we give them credit for that. They are a tempting team to play against. We kept working hard; a few shots went in and turned things around.”
Although the return of key defenceman Pascal Amyot, who played for the first time in six weeks, is an advantage, the growing number of game misconduct penalties are cause for concern.
“We have lost a few players throughout the year, whether they are getting 10-minute misconducts or kicked out. That’s just going to hurt us,” says Johnston.
“We admire the guys that are going out there and getting big hits for us. We have to do it properly because we can’t have them sitting in the box.”
The Tigers are on the road to start the second half of their season. They play UPEI and UNB on the weekend of Jan. 4-5.