Rookie forward Daniel Nikandrov scored with just 5.3 seconds remaining to lead the York University Lions men's hockey team to a 3-2 victory over the Lakehead Thunderwolves in the opening game of their OUA West quarter-final series at Fort William Gardens in Thunder Bay, Ont., on Wednesday night.
The second-seeded Lions now have a 1-0 lead over the seventh-seeded Thunderwolves in the series and can end it when action returns to Canlan Ice Sports on Saturday.
Nikandrov's (Richmond Hill, Ont.) goal completed the comeback after the Lions fell behind 2-0 in the first period.
The opening 20 minutes played out as a tight battle between the two squads, and it was the Thunderwolves who drew first blood when Cody Alcock beat York goaltender Mack Shields (Saskatoon, Sask.) at 8:31 for an early lead.
The Lions had their chances but Lakehead stretched its lead to two on a power play goal by Zach Whitlock just minutes before the end of the period and the Thunderwolves carried their 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
The Lions came out flying in the second period and outshot the Thunderwolves 17-2 in the frame. They were finally rewarded for their efforts at 17:37 when Derek Sheppard (Ajax, Ont.) scored to cut into the deficit. Less than two minutes later, and just before the end of the period, Scott Feser (Red Deer, Alta.) tied the game at 2-2 when he tucked the puck behind Devin Green at 19:22.
Early in the third Shields made a tremendous save to keep the game tied, and as the period went on both he and Green stood on their heads while their teammates tried to break the deadlock.
Just when it looked as though the game was going to overtime, Nikandrov ended it and silenced the home crowd. He, Sheppard and Feser all finished with two points on the night, while Shields made 22 saves to earn the win between the pipes.
Green was busier at his end of the ice, making 35 saves on the 38 shots he faced in the loss.
Game 2 in the best-of-three series is set for Saturday night at 7pm at Canlan Ice Sports, where the Lions will be looking to advance to the next round for the first time since winning the OUA championship in 2004. Should a third game be necessary, it will take place on Sunday afternoon at 2pm at Canlan.
Source: York Lions