REGINA - It can be tough to go with your gut with the game on the line, but that's exactly what Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice did with time winding down in the 2019 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic.
Trailing the Calgary Flames 1-0 and looking for the equalizer, Maurice switched out the right-handed Neal Pionk for the left-handed Josh Morrissey on the Jets power play unit during a critical late game chance on the man advantage.
"We needed a guy to shoot. I felt comfortable saying that directly to Josh," said Maurice, knowing Morrissey had spent some time with that top power play unit earlier in the season. "We wanted him to shoot that puck. He tried it and got blocked. Credit to him, he had the courage to do it again after the first one got blocked."
Video: POSTGAME | Morrissey and Little
That he did.
That second shot went off the bar and in, giving the Jets their first ever goal in the Heritage Classic - and more importantly at the time, tying the game with 4:11 left in regulation.
"I was able to make a good shot. You could see the double screen in front - I think it was (Mark Scheifele) and Kyle (Connor) in front," said Morrissey. "When you have two screens like that in front , the goalie can't see. You make a good shot and get rewarded, it's a nice feeling."
It was Morrissey's first goal of the season and perhaps what made it an even better feeling was the province - and city - he scored it in.
The 24-year-old played parts of five Western Hockey League seasons with the Prince Albert Raiders, scoring 60 goals and adding 119 assists in 229 games before being moved to the Kelowna Rockets in 2014.
But even more important than that connection is almost the entire part of his dad's side of the family is from Regina, including his grandparents, who passed away before they could see him play in the NHL.
"They were big Rider fans, they were season ticket holders at the old stadium of course," said Morrissey. "To get a win here in the fashion we did and personally score a goal, it's something I'll remember for a long time. It was like they were with me a little bit in that moment. So it's a pretty special moment for me and my family."
Video: CGY@WPG: Morrissey ties it with power-play goal
That's what made this Heritage Classic experience so special for Morrissey. When he became an NHL player, he didn't anticipate he'd ever get to play a game in the Saskatchewan capital ever again.
"I really tried to soak it in today. I thought a lot about my grandparents," said Morrissey, who finished his memorable night with a team-leading 29 minutes of ice time, along with six shots on goal. "To come back here where they lived their whole lives was pretty special."
While the story is almost a fairy tale, Maurice's decision to put Morrissey out there was based on a number of factors - not the least of which was Morrissey's ability to handle the moment.
"It needed to be him because they take away (Blake) Wheeler and they take away (Patrik) Laine so hard. The shot has to come from there," said Maurice. "I just thought he can carry the responsibility. That was a big power play at that point. We've got nothing to show for it. The game is going to be a penalty kill and a power play if we don't score. Josh was the right man to carry that pressure."