Haliburton County Huskies head coach and general manager Ryan Ramsay said there were “hugely encouraging signs” this past weekend as his new outfit hit the road to take on two of the top teams in the OJHL, picking up a win and taking a loss to improve their seasonal record to 2-2.
While the Huskies fell to a 5-1 defeat to divisional rival Wellington Dukes on Friday night, they rebounded in the best possible way on Sunday – dominating the previously undefeated North York Rangers and cruising to a 3-1 victory.
Reflecting on the games, Ramsay said he couldn’t be more proud of his team and the way they battled on the ice against topclass opposition. Both the Dukes (4th) and the Rangers (20th) were included in the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s top 20 pre-season rankings, and have been touted as potential frontrunners for the Centennial Cup national Jr. A championship.
“That we were able to compete against these teams was huge,” Ramsay said. “Against the Dukes, I don’t think the score was an indicator of how the game went. I would say we were right there in the game throughout. We were out shooting them all game.
Their goalie played really well and I think ours had an off night. Sometimes that’s just how it goes. “Then, against North York, I think we played pretty much the exact same way. The boys played hard and fought for every inch. The difference, maybe, is that the bounces went our way in that game. But I think we deserved the win,” Ramsay added.
The Dukes got off to a hot start on Friday night – racing away to a 3-0 lead before the midway point of the second period. Forward Oliver Tarr brought the Huskies back into the game with a wellplaced finished after good work from Jack Staniland and Bryce Richardson, before the Dukes once again took control, with a fourth goal late in the second, and a fifth part way through the third.
The Huskies showed remarkable character at the Herbert Carnegie Centre in North York on Sunday. The Rangers took the lead just 32 seconds into the game. Rather than let their heads drop, the Huskies dug in – outshooting the Rangers in that opening period and silencing the raucous hometown crowd for large spells.
Then, forward Patrick Saini took centre stage. He scored the tying goal at 3:51 of the second, assisted by Will Gourgouvelis, and would go on to grab the game winner at 13:54 of the same period, assisted by Tarr and Lucas Stevenson.
Saini then set up Tarr for an empty netter with 23 seconds to play to confirm the victory. “Pat Saini plays the same way every game. He just comes in and keeps working hard, he’s like the ‘Steady Eddy’ of the team. He’s got great skill and comes in and competes every single night,” Ramsay said.
The coach also reserved special praise for Tarr, who picked up his team-leading fourth point of the season in the game against the Rangers, rookie defenseman Will Gourgouvelis and recent forward acquisition Nicholas Athanasakos. The Huskies completed a trade on Tuesday, adding 20-year-old goaltender Christian Cicigoi to the roster. Cicigoi comes to the Huskies from the OHL’s North Bay Battalion.
He played seven games for the Battalion in the 2019/20 season, before COVID-19 shut league play down, posting a 6.24 goals against average and .837 save percentage.
Ramsay said he’s expecting to welcome forwards Jacob Dupuis and Kolby Poulin back into the fold as early as this weekend, with the pair having recovered from concussions they picked up during preseason. “We’re very happy with the group we have now. I think we look good – we’ve added some bodies, and we’re starting to get some of our injured guys back on the ice. Christian Linton should be back soon – he’s a really good goalie who came to [summer] camp with a high ankle sprain,” Ramsay said. “I think we’re going to be very competitive this season.” The Huskies will take on the Cobourg Cougars at S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena on Saturday. With the provincial government recently lifting capacity restrictions at hockey rinks, there will be a full complement of seats available to the public for the first time this season.
The arena can hold a crowd of approximately 500 people. Puck drop on Saturday is slated for 4:30 p.m. To enquire about tickets, visit www. huskieshockey.ca.