Huskies impressive through first half of season

MINDEN, ON - NOVEMBER 19: Ty Collins #77 of the Haliburton County Huskies shoots the puck during the third period at the S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena on November 19, 2022 in Ontario, Canada (Photo by Chris Harris / OJHL Images)

It’s been a half-season to remember for the Haliburton County Huskies who, at the midway point of the 2022/23 OJHL campaign, are sitting pretty in second place in the South/East Conference and remain in the top 12 ranked junior hockey teams in the country. 

Through 27 games, the Huskies own a record of 19-5-2, plus one tied game. They have the best defensive record in the league, giving up 53 goals – five fewer than the top-ranked Toronto Jr. Canadiens – while maintaining a top-five offense. 

Team captain Christian Stevens said he’s proud of the Huskies’ performance through the opening months of the season. “I think we can be pretty happy with where we’re at. We’ve got one of the deepest teams in the league and we’ve put ourselves in a great position… we have one goal this season, and we’re really fighting for each other out on the ice,” Stevens said. “It’s a good time to be a Haliburton County Husky.” 

In the middle of a five-game road trip, the Huskies saw off the Toronto Patriots Nov. 26, recording a 4-2 win. They followed that with a narrow 2-1 defeat to the Cobourg Cougars Nov. 28. 

Things started well in Toronto, with recently-acquired forward Luca Rea scoring his first goal as a Husky at 9:32 of the opening period, assisted by Sam Solarino and Declan Bowmaster. The Patriots tied the game with time ticking down in the first. 

Defenseman Isaac Sooklal re-established the Dogs’ lead in the second after a neat play from Stevens and Patrick Saini. That trio combined again later in the period, with Saini tickling the twine for the 18th time this season.

 The Patriots rallied in the third, making it a one goal game at 11:48 through Julian Bianconi. The fightback was short-lived, though, with Ty Collins adding a fourth for the Huskies at 13:00 of the final frame, set up by Saini and Sooklal. “It was a tough game – the first period was pretty close, but we started to take over in the second, got a few goals and put them back on their heels,” Stevens said. 

“We got back to playing how we usually play, kept things simple and finished the job in the end.” Stevens reserved special praise for Sooklal, who is having a stellar final season in the OJHL having logged 31 points in 26 games from the blueline. “I’ve known Isaac forever, so I’ve seen the skill he’s got since we were young. Things are finally coming together for him this year and he’s stepped up in a big way. He’s one of the best defensemen in the league. Hopefully it keeps going [well] for him,” Stevens said. 

The loss to Cobourg was a tough one, Stevens said. The Huskies outshot their opponents 42 to 23, but still found themselves on the wrong side of a 2-1 result. 

Solarino scored the Dogs’ lone goal in the third period, assisted by Jack Staniland and Boyd Stahlbaum, after Tommy Karmiris and George Krotiris had given the Cougars an early 2-0 lead. The hometown team is preparing for a double-header this weekend, playing the Lindsay Muskies Dec. 2 and the Mississauga Chargers Dec. 3. 

They will be back on home ice Dec. 11, when they host the Cougars.