The Haliburton County Huskies got a taste of adversity this past weekend. The Dogs lost a heartbreaker in double overtime Oct. 28 against the Pickering Panthers.
It was former Husky, Nick Athanasakos, who scored the game winner, at 44 seconds of the second OT frame. Then, on home ice Oct. 29, the Toronto Junior Canadiens held off a Dogs’ comeback for an empty-netter, 5-3 victory.
The Huskies had come into the weekend on a nine-game undefeated streak. Head coach and general manager Ryan Ramsay had to laugh at the fact Athanasakos potted the game-winner. “It always happens like that. He’s a good kid. I have nothing bad to say about Nick. It just simply didn’t work out so, good for him.” On Saturday, the guests from Toronto got on the scoreboard first. Cooper Bertrand fired in a powerplay goal at 17:34 with Will Gourgouvelis in the penalty box for hooking.
The Junior Canadiens padded their lead in the second on another powerplay, this one for too many men on the ice. Owen Saye made it 2-0 at 14:12. However, the Dogs got their own powerplay and Christian Stevens made good on it, scoring from recent addition Boyd Stahlbaum and Ty Collins at 15:54 to give the Huskies some life at 2-1.
But the Junior Canadiens answered back with less than a minute to go in the frame, as Tyler Fukakusa found the back of the net to put the visitors up 3-1 going into the third. Toronto’s Ben Van Waterschoot seemed to break the Dogs’ back when he scored a fourth Junior Canadiens goal at 5:01 of the third.
But the locals showed some grit as Stevens scored his second of the game on the powerplay at 14:39, from Patrick Saini and Isaac Sooklal, to make it 4-2.
Then, Collins bulged the twine at 16:17, from Saini and Stevens to make it 4-3. Ramsay said, “there was definitely no quit. We have enough skill, even if you’re down two to three goals with five to seven minutes left, you get a quick powerplay goal. Our powerplay is second or third in the league. We can crawl our way back into a game.”
The Dogs pressed for the equalizer but Van Waterschoot found the empty net at 19:22 to hand the Dogs just their third regulation loss of the season.
“You don’t want to go through a whole season with no adversity,” Ramsay said. “Because you get into the playoffs, and you get down in a series, and everyone doesn’t know how to take it. It’s a long season, a seven-to-eight-month season, so you’re going to have some ups and downs. It’s a good learning lesson for our group.”
Ramsay added they were the more skilled team but, “hard work will beat skill if skill doesn’t show up. I think we just have to work.”
Ramsay said the other thing is the Dogs are now ranked as one of the top teams, not only in the OJHL, but in Canada and teams know that so come ready. Panthers 2 Huskies 1 In the Friday night tilt in Pickering, the two teams traded second period goals before the game went into overtime. Chase Strychaluk opened the scoring for the Dogs at the 4:22 mark, unassisted. Pickering answered back at 12:51 when Aron Jessli scored on the powerplay. After a scoreless third and first overtime, former Husky, Athanasakos, exacted his revenge with the game-winning goal.
The Huskies travel to Caledon Nov. 3 and are back on home ice Nov. 5 against Trenton. Puck drop is 4 p.m. at the S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena.