It seems fitting that Kalamazoo Wings forward Justin Taylor, who was honored with a pre-game ceremony marking his milestone of becoming the K-Wings all-time franchise leader in games played with 496, scored the game-winning goal in overtime on Saturday night in game 497 against the Tulsa Oilers.
Taylor, who is also marking his 10th year with the K-Wings, said he didn’t know the puck crossed the line until he saw the fans reactions in the stands.
“Kyle Blaney made a desperation one hand pass to me in the high slot,” Taylor said. “I corralled the puck and saw an opening on the blocker side as a defender was coming out and the fans let me know that it was in.”
Taylor noted that as a hockey player, you always want to be on the ice for the big moments.
“The goal was a great feeling,” Taylor said. “We battled hard to come back in the game. Our team perseverance is what won us the game, we had no quit to our game.”
Trailing the Oilers by a score of 2-0 midway into the second period thanks to goals by former K-Wing Danny Moynihan and Brent Gates, Jr., the K-Wings came back with two goals of their own later in the period to knot the game at 2-2.
Tanner Sorenson scored a short-handed goal after taking a Luke Sandler pass to the net at the 11:47 mark of the middle period.
Boston Leier added his first goal of the season later in the period. It didn’t take long for the Oilers to regain the lead as Moynihan struck for his second of the night just under a minute later.
With the K-Wings still trailing by a goal with under five minutes remaining in the game, Dylan Sadowy scored his fifth goal in the past three games to tie the game at 3-3.
As the game moved into overtime, the two teams battled, each firing six shots on net as time wound down.
That is when Taylor had that “big moment” on the ice. With just 31 seconds remaining in OT, Taylor found the back of the net to give the K-Wings the win.
K-Wings goaltender Jake Kielly turned away 42 of the 45 shots he faced in the win. Both teams came up empty on the power play.
The K-Wings, who are in the midst of an eight-game homestand, are currently undefeated on home ice, having won all three games.
“We are clicking as a team right now,” Taylor said, “We have a lot of talented and eager players this season. Our internal competition this season, I think, is the key.”
“We have a lot of bodies sitting out right now and they are all capable of being in the lineup on any given night. Our team compete level in practice and games is really helping us push ourselves to be good on a daily basis.”
Before the game, the K-Wings honored Taylor with a video tribute of his years in Kalamazoo followed by a jersey presentation. The jersey is numbered 496 in recognition of his record. To start the game, Taylor’s wife, Kelsey and son, Johah dropped the ceremonial first puck, for which Taylor was on the ice for.
It was a little emotional,” Taylor said of the festivities. “I had a lot of friends and family in the stands supporting me for the game. Having my wife and son there to drop the puck was awesome.”
“My wife kelsey is an amazing woman. I am so happy to have her by my side for these moments.”
Taylor said that he was fortunate to have his parents at the game on Wednesday when he broke the record and his sister and husband were on hand Saturday. Taylor said now that it is all over, he is a little more emotional looking back at all the support he had at the game, but also in life.
Taylor finds it pretty amazing to have his name in the Kalamazoo Wings history book but added a little humor to his record-breaking achievement. .
“I laugh a little to think I was born the year Kevin Schamehorn set the record 30 years ago,” Taylor said. Schamehorn played for the K-Wings from 1976-79, 1981-85 and 1989-90, in which he played in 495 games with the team.
“It’s a special moment for me, and I can’t say enough good things about this city, team, and organization. I am truly blessed to be able to play here.”
The K-Wings will take on the Toledo Walleye on Tuesday morning for Education Day at 10:30 am.
By: Mark C. McGlothlen