An overtime goal by Gage Stephney just 2:46 into the extra session would give the Hounds a 4-3 win, forcing their final series with the Nickel City Sons to a deciding fifth game.
Last night in Azilda, the Sooites completed their mission, doubling the Sons 4-2. Nickel City got the start they wanted as captain Bradley Chenier chipped a puck past a defenceman and made no mistake on the short-handed breakaway, opening the scoring.
But with the Sons two men short, Zach Taylor would pull Sault Ste. Marie even just 35 seconds later, blasting a shot past netminder Andrew Rocha. The 1-1 tie remained intact right through until the start of the third period when Stephney once again rose to the occasion, giving the Soo a 2-1 lead exactly three minutes into period three.
With the momentum on their side, the Greyhounds kept pressing, increasing the lead to 3-1 as Mark Tassone pulled the trigger at 6:36. With time winding down, Nickel City would have one last kick at the can, with the visitors assessed two separate minor penalties on the same stoppage with 4:21 showing on the clock.
It would take almost the full two minutes of the five-on-three advantage before Glenn Therrien redirected a shot from Alex Laliberté, cutting the deficit to just a single goal.
But disaster would strike for the Sons only 22 seconds later. As Rocha left his crease to retrieve a loose puck and quickly move the offence up ice, his pass attempt was knocked down by Steven Khull, leaving the Soo forward an easy tap-in for the insurance marker.
"We've basically been two different teams in the playoffs," said Sault Ste. Marie coach Keith Coletti after the game. "The games that we did lose, we just never showed up. I just told them, before the game, that they had the chance to live something they would remember for the rest of their lives.
"They've never been to the All-Ontario's. We were standing on the bench at the beginning of the third period and I had a feeling, I just knew. I had seen the progression from period to period."
After finishing just one point back of Nickel City in the regular season standings, with numbers that were eerily similar, Coletti and the Greyhounds continually addressed the one area they felt could let it all slip away.
"Discipline," he said. "At the beginning of the year, these guys would take a lot of penalties. We had seven guys suspended after the first tournament of the year. To show them that they had to put everyone else before themselves, that was the biggest thing."
The Sault will now head to Stratford from March 31 to April 5, site of the provincial Bantam AAA tournament.
"A realistic goal is to make it to the playoff round," said Coletti. "Anything less and I think we would be disappointed."
The Greyhounds will open play on Monday morning (March 31) at 11 a.m., taking on the host Huron-Perth Lakers before facing the London Jr. Knights at 5 p.m.
The remaining teams in the competition include the Ottawa Jr. 67's (HEO), Quinte Red Devils (OMHA), Thunder Bay Kings (HNO) and Toronto Young Nationals (GTHL).