It was another missed opportunity for the Haliburton County Huskies Jan. 15 as the team stumbled to a second defeat in three games, dropping a 4-3 decision on the road against the Wellington Dukes.
The hometown team started slowly in Sunday’s tilt, surrendering possession of the puck for large spells of the opening period against a team looking to chase them down in the OJHL’s South/East conference. Following the result, the Huskies sit second with 59 points from 39 games, with the Dukes breathing down their necks in third, with 56 points from 39 games.
Head coach and general manager, Ryan Ramsay, wasn’t happy with his team’s application through the opening half of the game.
“The first 30 minutes, we didn’t play well at all. Any time you’re playing a team that’s four or five points behind you in the standings, and you’re not giving your all, they’re gonna’ sense that, and feed off that,” Ramsay said. “The compete level just wasn’t there for us. They came out much harder than we did.”
While goaltender Aidan Spooner was able to keep the Dukes at bay through the opening period, the floodgates opened early in the second. Jacob Vreugdenhil made it a 1-0 game 90 seconds into the second frame, with Ryan Cutler doubling the Dukes’ advantage a minute later.
Down two goals, the Huskies finally hit their stride. They peppered Jacob Osborne in goal, scoring a quick two to tie the game – first Leo Serlin from Isaac Sooklal and Luca Rea at 15:14, then affiliate player Ben Hofstetter, making his Huskies debut, from Joshua Currie and Patrick Saini at 15:59.
The relief was short-lived, though, with the Dukes re-establishing a lead at 16:43 through Lucas LaPalm.
Ramsay mixed things up heading into the third, and it paid almost immediate dividends. Jack Staniland scored the gametying marker, unassisted, at 1:51. While the Huskies huffed and puffed in the offensive zone, they couldn’t find an answer for a game Osborne. LaPalm tallied the eventual game-winner, his third point of the night, at 16:32.
“Our slow start really hurt us, but you can’t expect to win if you’re only showing up for half a game against good, quality teams,” Ramsay said. “I’m looking for a little more consistency from our top players in these situations.”
He reserved praise for Currie, who was seamlessly slipped into the Huskies top six and put up three points across his first three games, and Hofstetter, who was a late call-up to stand in for the injured Zack Terry.
“Josh is a great hockey player, very offensively gifted and also mindful in the defensive zone. He’s stepped into a leadership role with the team right away,” Ramsay said. “Ben is a 20-year-old defenseman that has a lot of experience. If we can get him some games, and call him up when a player goes down, or we need another body, that will be a big help to us. He’s a veteran back there, and played really well.”
The Huskies will be in action Jan. 21 at S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena when they take on the Lindsay Muskies in the battle of Hwy. 35. Puck drop is slated for 4 p.m.
A perfect five-game winning run in December was enough to earn the Huskies starting netminder, Aidan Spooner, the OJHL Warrior Goaltender of the Month award.
The six-foot-six Spooner posted a 0.80 goals against average, .971 save percentage and two shutouts in wins over the Cobourg Cougars, Toronto Patriots, St. Michael’s Buzzers, Mississauga Steelers and Aurora Tigers. Statistically, he ranks as the third best goaltender in the OJHL this season, behind James Norton (Toronto Jr. Canadiens) and Reece Proulx (Pickering Panthers).