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One of the strangest games of hockey ever played took place on February 26, 1901 in an Ontario Hockey Association match between the Stratford Hockey Club and the St. George's of Toronto. The game, played at Stratford, was the second leg of the two games, total goals OHA Intermediate semi-final series.
To provide a bit of background, in 1901 the OHA Intermediate Series was comprised of eight groups, the eight group winners progressed to the playoff round where they would play down until a champion was determined. The St. George's were the champions of group six, by virtue of beating the South Parkdale and Osgoode Hall, both in two games, total goals series. Then in the quarter final round the St. George's edged Collingwood 8-7 in another total goals series to set up the semi final round against Stratford.
Stratford on the other hand reached the semi-final by winning group eight over Sarnia, London and Tillbury, the latter two clubs being expelled from the OHA, over the course of the round. In the quarter final round Stratford played a close series with Paris, a club in its first OHA season and only two years away from the OHA championship, winning 9-8.
The first game of the semi-final series between St. George's and Stratford was played at the Mutual Street rink in Toronto on February 23. The game was rough, but closely contested and at the end of the first half the score was tied 3-3. For the first twenty minutes of the second half the "Saints" dominated scoring five consecutive goals, including four from Allie Gillies, before Stratford netted two goals to close out the game. The final score was 8-5 and the St. George's carried a three goal lead into the second leg of the series.
The second leg was played on the following Tuesday night, February 26, at Stratford. The Torontonians looked bound and determined to win as they scored the first three goals of the game, to extend their lead in the series to 11-5. The prospects of the Stratford club looked rather dim, but they finally managed to score once before time ran out in the opening half and at the break the score in the game stood 3-1 in favour of the "Saints". In the second half of the game, according to the Toronto Star, Stratford "warmed up" and "played with a vim which was too much for the visitors." But alas, the strong defence of the St. George's, combined with the weak shooting of the Stratford forwards held Stratford to only two goals in the half and at the end of sixty minutes of play the score in the game stood tied 3-3, which gave the St. George's an 11-8 lead in the two game total goals series.
One would think that this is where the story would end, with the St. George's winning the round and moving on the OHA Intermediate finals, but the OHA had a rule in place at the time that no game could end in a tie and a ten minute overtime period, played in two five minute halves, was ordered. To complicate matters even further, the ten minute overtime period was not sudden death, which meant that Stratford could still win the series if they could score four times in the ten minutes.
The first five minutes of the overtime period resulted in no goals being scored. As time wore on in the second five minutes of the overtime period it occurred to St. George's cover point Bert Bisch that with his club holding a three goal lead in the series they could still win the round even if they lost the game, and with that he fired the puck past his own goalkeeper giving Stratford a 4-3 lead. The Stratford players realized that they did not have enough time to score an additional two goals to tie up the series, so when the puck was put back into play they quickly scored on their own goal to make the score 4-4 and hopefully buy some more time as an additional ten minute overtime period would be needed if the score remained tied at the end of the first ten minutes. With still a bit of time remaining after Stratford's own goal, the St. George's tried to pull the same trick again a started to take the puck toward their goal, at which point Rankin of Stratford started to furiously defend the St. George's goal and prevent them from scoring on themselves once again to the amusement of the fans who had figured out what was going on, and to the confusion of the rest. Eventually time ran out and the first overtime period with the score tied 4-4 and an additional ten minutes was ordered. This time around Stratford scored three times in the ten minutes to win the game 7-4, bringing to an end one of the strangest games ever played. The series however, was not yet over as the teams were now tied 12-12, and a third and deciding game would need to be played.
The final game of the series was played on neutral ice in Guelph on March 1, and the St. Georges, after almost blowing the series in the second game, edged Stratford 2-1 and advanced to the OHA Intermediate final where they beat Port Hope 10-8 over two games to win the OHA Intermediate championship for 1901.
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