“Three’s a streak,” said Idaho Falls Spud Kings head coach John Becanic after beating the Provo Predators in back-to-back games. “We’ve got three in a row, so I guess you can call it a streak.”

It was probably dangerous for the health of the crowd’s eardrums to be at Mountain America Center when Owen Pitters scored in overtime to win the game for the Spud Kings.

“For the fans, I can’t imagine how emotional they had to be,” Becanic said after the game. “It’s pretty darn cool.”

Becanic went on to explain that he doesn’t normally celebrate with the fans, but this one was different.

“One fan said to me, ‘I’ll give you a hundred bucks, coach, if you win this hockey game,’” Becanic said. “It’s very electric.”

Tale of the tape

To give starting goaltender Tucker Inabinet some rest, the Spud Kings started Prestyn Carter. It was Carter’s first start since Jan. 19 and it took him a while to shake the rust off.

Einar Naslund tallied two goals in the first eight minutes to give the Predators a 2-0 lead. Luke Steffen got the Spud Kings back within one before getting a 5-minute major and a game misconduct for slew-footing.

The Predators scored twice during their five-minute powerplay, taking a 4-1 lead into the first intermission. To the Spud Kings’ credit, they didn’t quit.

Defensemen DJ MacLeish and Tobias Omholt each chipped in a goal in the second period to cut the deficit to one. Despite the fact that the second period had nine minor penalties, both goals came at even strength.

The third period consisted of major highs and major lows, especially for MacLeish. Nine minutes in, he accepted a beautiful low-to-high pass through the crease from Easton Edwards. MacLeish wasted no time firing a shot by the shoulder of Michael Polston to make it 5-4.

DJ MacLeish scored a hat-trick Saturday night in the Idaho Falls Spud Kings’ 7-6 win over the Provo Predators.

DJ MacLeish scored a hat-trick Saturday night in the Idaho Falls Spud Kings’ 7-6 win over the Provo Predators. Photo credit: Will Vasseur

A few minutes later, with the Spud Kings on the powerplay, MacLeish knocked down a Predators clearing attempt in the slot in front of his own net. He had trouble handling it, however, and before he knew it it was in the back of his net.

With a two-goal deficit and less than seven minutes to go, the impatient fans started filing out to beat the traffic rush. The Spud Kings, however, had no intentions of getting out early.

Omholt scored his second goal of the game on a shot from the point, which deflected off of a Predators defenseman and in. Then, with an empty net and 23.7 seconds left, MacLeish roofed a shot — also from the point — to complete his hat trick and send the game into overtime.

Hats rained down as the lights, music and fans went crazy — but the best was yet to come.

The teams traded chances in 3-on-3 overtime. Polston made a number of excellent saves to keep his team alive, but when Pitters found himself in alone with the puck on his stick, there was nothing he could do.

Final score: 7-6 Spud Kings.

The standings

Coming into the game, the Spud Kings trailed the fourth-place Pueblo Bulls by three points in the standings. The top four teams in the NCDC Mountain Division make the playoffs, so the Spud Kings want nothing more than to take the Bulls’ spot before the season ends.

The Bulls lost 7-1 to the Utah Outliers Saturday, allowing the Spud Kings to come within one point of them, with three games in hand.

What’s next?

The second-place Outliers come to town Friday, Feb. 9. With a new determination and a winning streak to defend, the Spud Kings are sure to put up a fight.

“We’re not ever losing a game at home,” MacLeish said after Saturday’s game. “I’m so thankful for these fans and this organization and I want to keep winning for them.”