HIRING: INTERN, HOCKEY OPERATIONS
Date: Oct 17, 2019
The Oakville Blades’ season ended with a 2-1 loss to Prince George, BC in the semifinals at the National Junior A Championship in Brooks, Alta Saturday night. (Hockey Canada photo)
By Ron Valentine
In 2007, the Prince George Spruce Kings lost in the final of the RBC Cup in their own rink to the Ontario Junior Hockey League's Aurora Tigers 3-1. The Oakville Blades got to the RBC in 2008 and 2010.
Saturday night, these two clubs battled it out in the semifinal of the National Junior A Championship – formerly the RBC Cup.
The Blades' Spencer Kersten led all pointscorers in the preliminary round with six points. Peyton Reeves and Garrett Pyke finished with five each. Ben Brar, Dylan Anhorn and Dustin Manz all had five points for the Spruce Kings whose goalie Logan Neaton had a 0.90 GAA.
Awards were given out before the game with the one for top goalie going to to Neaton, and the top scorer award to Kersten.
The starting lineups: for the Blades- Will Barber back in net; Callum Jones and Nicholas Aromatario on defence and the forward line of Kersten, Kyle Leiws and Josh Nixon. Prince George countered with Neaton in goal; Max Coyle and Layton Ahac on the blueline and up front Brar with Manz and Patrick Cozzi.
It would be a tight, close-checking scoreless first 20 minutes with the Spruce Kings holding an 9-6 edge in shots. The closest to a goal came on a late powerplay for Prince George but Nick Bochen's shot came back out off the goalpost.
The Spruce Kings had most of the territorial advantage in Period 2 especially early on and they would score late on the powerplay as Barber could not corral the sliding puck and Nick Poisson got his fifth goal of the tourney. It took Oakville only a minute to respond as Lewis got himself free in front to convert a pass from Harrison Israels. The tie did not last long as Brar cut down the left side, skated in front and scored on the backhand. Three goals in a minute and forty five seconds as the game came alive. 2-1 Prince George after two periods. A big third upcoming.
The Blades' Jack Lyons limped off early in period three and the Kings' captain, Ben Poisson, was assessed a five minute major behind the play. A big chance for the Blades but despite a strong start to the powerplay they could not get the much-needed score. An opportunity missed against the tenacious Kings. With the banishment of the elder Poisson Prince George had to do some line juggling but seemed to have gained much confidence from the penalty-kill.
With 1:40 left, Barber scurried to the bench to set up a dramatic finish. With Pyke the only Blade defenceman on the ice a shot from Potts was stopped by Neaton. After more goalmouth action a faceoff to the side of the Kings' cage with 20 seconds left and a last chance gasp but Neaton would steer aside a shot from Israels – his 18th save of the period to give Prince George the ticket to the final against the Brooks Bandits.
Players of the game: Brar for the Kings and Barber for the Blades.
Graduating after tonight's game from the Blades: Kyle Lewis, Kyle Potts, Callum Jones, Peyton Reeves, Christian Girhiny and Jason Pineo. Good luck to them in their futures. A good comeback after a tough (0-2) start for the club at the NJC but they fell just short to a very strong BCHL club.
The final will be played Sunday at 5 p.m. EDT. It will be broadcast on TSN and streamed on TSN.ca