HIRING: INTERN, HOCKEY OPERATIONS
Date: Oct 17, 2019
Ryan Nicholson of the Oakville Blades guards the net during his team’s 5-4 win over the Portage Terriers at the National Jr. A Championships in Brooks, Alberta on Tuesday (Hockey Canada photo)
By Ron Valentine
A ‘must-win situation' is perhaps an over-worked phrase in sports but it must surely apply to today's matinee at the National Junior A Championships in Brooks, Alta.
Both combatants – the Oakville Blades and Portage Terriers – come into the contest with 0-2 records, with the winner earning a spot in Saturday's semifinals.
I congratulated Blades' forward Harrison Israels on being named his team's player of the game in Sunday night's loss to Prince George. He replied: “Thank you but right now I would much rather have had the win. Both games this week are huge and we will be ready to go. We know we are not out yet and we want another shot at the teams we just played with more rest and knowing what to expect.”
Head Coach Mike Tarantino, just named OHA Coach of the Year was succinct: "I'm going with 'win and you’re in.' “
GM of the Blades Jordan Selinger: “Absolutely still possible to get through with a loss, but you never want to leave it up to the math. Lust take care of business today and keep getting better heading into the weekend.”
In the game, Oakville built up a three-goal lead but ran into penalty problems in the third. However, they hung on for the big victory by a 5-4 count, the closest game of the tournament to date.
The Blades would score first as they had in their previous two games with Kyle Lewis sliding the puck past Portage starting goaltender Ethan Peterson after only 39 seconds.
It would not take long for the Terriers to reply as at 3:21 Joey Moffatt's speculative shot from just inside the blueline was partially stopped by Will Barber but it had enough momentum to go in. Moffatt led the club in its regular season with 56 points.
Alton McDermott picked up a loose puck and deposited a high wrist shot past the 'keeper to restore the OJHL club's lead a few ticks shy of the six -minute mark. Josh Nixon made it 3-1 when he kept the puck on a 2-on-1 and despite Peterson getting his glove on it he could not keep it out. That would be it for the North Dakota-born goalie with Nathan Moore taking over at 7:40.
Just after the midway mark, the Blades scored on the powerplay with Spencer Kersten patiently waiting with the puck before firing it high past Moore. The best period of the tournament so far for Oakville who scored on 50 per cent of their shots on goal. A three-point opening frame for Kersten, with a goal and two helpers.
In the second period, the Terriers got a goal back with Scott Micoski scoring right at the crease after taking a nice pass from Jay Buchholz at 9:13. A powerplay goal restored Oakville's three-goal lead with Israels redirecting a Kersten pass in front. A big penalty-kill late by the Blades kept the score at 5-2 after 40 minutes.
In the final frame while enjoying a 5 on 3 advantage, Oakville’s Kyle Potts clanged a shot off the post. The Blades would then be short two men themselves and it took just seconds for Ty Barnstable to get the Terriers' third goal and a few more seconds later they cashed in again courtesy another Barnstable' goal inside 17 seconds.
A hockey game now at 5-4 Blades! Oakville found themselves short again but managed to survive and then in a nail-biting finish with the Portage goal empty and Barber under siege they hung on for the one-goal victory.
Joey Moffat took the Player of the Game Award for Potage, while Kyle Lewis was named for the Blades. Kersten had four points in the contest. Perhaps the officials confused #7 for number #77! A good showing, though, by the entire lineup.
Overall the Blades' best game despite the third period hiccup and they take tomorrow off before having a chance to go .500 for the tournament in their final round-robin game on Thursday.
Portage's next action Wednesday versus Prince George while the Blades will take on the Junior Senators on Thursday.
The top four teams in the tournament round-robin qualify for the semifinals Saturday. The final will be played Sunday at 5 p.m. EDT.
All preliminary round and semifinals will be streamed live on HockeyCanada.ca. The championship game will be broadcast on TSN and streamed on TSN.ca
All Oakville Blades games at the nationals are being broadcast on Oakville Blades Radio. Listen at oakvilleblades.ca