The Haliburton County Huskies overcame a 0-2 first period shut-out to win 3-2 over the Trenton Golden Hawks April 13 their second Ontario Junior Hockey League playoffs game.
The home victory means they’ll face the Hawks once more April 14 in Trenton, the winner advancing to a showdown with the Coburg Cougars.
Trenton dominated play in the first period, scoring two against an overwhelmed Huskies defense.
It was Simon Rose who sparked the Huskies’ comeback. Waiting behind a Patrick Saini, Bryce Richardson and Christian Stevens attack, he caught a loose puck and fired it low into the net.
After the goal and a successful penalty kill, the Huskies roared to life. The crowd did too, the S.G Nesbitt arena reverberating with chants and cheers.
With 33 seconds to go in the second period, Lucas Stevenson bulged the net, assisted by Cameron Kosurko and Patrick Saini.
It was Christian Stevenson who nabbed the winning goal after breaking past Trenton’s back line, assisted by Bryce Richardson and Oliver Tarr.
The game was on a knife’s edge as the clock ticked down, with Trenton pulling their goalie in a desperate attempt to level the score.
The tension on the ice spilled over into multiple fiesty confrontations between the Dogs and Hawks, with Sam Solarino being sent to the box with 4 minutes to play.
The Dogs prevailed, sending the series to a grand finale of a third match in Trenton April 14 at 7:30.
The first-round best-of-three series against the Golden Hawks started in the worst possible way for the Dogs April 10, as they limped to a 5-2 defeat. It was a tough pill for head coach and general manager, Ryan Ramsay, to swallow, watching his side struggle against a team they had bested throughout the regular season.
The Huskies had previously come out on top in five of the previous eight games against the Golden Hawks. “I don’t think we had the start that we wanted. Right from the first shift, I felt the guys were a little slow. They definitely outplayed us in the first period,” Ramsay said.
Things actually looked good for the hometown team in the early goings, with Patrick Saini opening the scoring.
The Dogs couldn’t make the lead stick, however, giving up a pair of goals to Golden Hawks forward Jake Campbell, at 12:13 and 17:49, of the opening period.
The Dogs battled back in the second frame, creating multiple openings only to be denied by a game William Nguyen between the pipes. Then, with the seconds ticking down, topscorer Oliver Tarr created something out of nothing, slamming home an unassisted goal at 16:17.
The Huskies bench erupted, and while Ramsay was eager for his team to keep their composure and see out the period, they fell behind again just a minute later. Winger Kolby Poulin was sent to the penalty box at 16:38 for interference and the Golden Hawks took full advantage, with Campbell firing home his hat-trick goal just 37 seconds into the powerplay.
“I think we outplayed them during the second, but we took a bad penalty late and they got the go-ahead goal heading into the third. Obviously, it’s a different look, a different feel going in again behind, especially after we played so well to bring ourselves back into it,” Ramsay said. The team huffed and puffed in the opening minutes of the third, but couldn’t find a way past Nguyen.
With the clock running down, the Dogs started to get desperate and took a pair of cheap penalties late on, first Noah Van Vliet for holding and then Ryan Hall for cross-checking. Golden Hawks captain Dalton Bancroft took full advantage, scoring the Golden Hawks second powerplay marker at 16:45. Aiden MacIntosh added an empty netter at 19:29.
“Their powerplay went 2-4, while ours went 0-3, that was probably the difference on the night,” Ramsay said. “Our special teams have to step up and be better. I think some of our top guys need to play a lot better as well. You look at the stat sheet and their top guys really performed, while ours I don’t think did.” Campbell had five points for the Golden Hawks on the night, with Bancroft and MacIntosh each putting up four points.
The Huskies have it all to do now, as they have to win two straight to progress to the second round of the playoffs. Ramsay said he was confident his team would rebound and backed them to put Sunday’s disappointment behind them ahead of a pivotal match-up April 13 on home ice. “We were going to have to win one game there anyway. We’ve come back, had a good practice, fixed a couple of things and are ready to get back on the saddle. We’re confident that we can play and beat these guys. We’re a good team, and we’ve shown that we can do it during the regular season,” Ramsay said.
He added, “I think Trenton was a little more ready mentally for playoffs. We’re a pretty young side, and for a lot of guys this was their first playoff game. Now, maybe they know what to expect a little bit more and we have to be ready, because there’s no more chances after this.”