Huskies take early lead in first-round OJHL playoff series

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Captain Christian Stevens had a goal and an assist, while Isaac Sooklal had a pair of assists in Thursday's 5-2 first-round playoff win over the Toronto Patriots. Photo by Amy Deroche / OJHL Images)

The Haliburton County Huskies kicked off its quest for a first OJHL championship in perfect fashion March 9, downing the Toronto Patriots 5-2 in game one of their first round, best-of-seven playoff series.

A near-capacity crowd of 526 fans inside Minden’s S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena were treated to a spectacle Thursday evening as the hometown team lay down the gauntlet to the visiting city outfit.

It wasn’t all one-way traffic, particularly in the opening exchanges. The Huskies had to overcome some early adversity in the first period, falling behind after just six minutes – the Patriots’ Zach Ophoven finding a way past Aidan Spooner, assisted by Ryan Nichols and Michael Bianconi, to briefly silence the home fans.

The lead didn’t last long, though. On the very next play Lucas Stevenson tickled the twine after being set up by Luca Rea and Nicholas Dowling. There were just 22 seconds separating the two goals.

With momentum shifting, the Huskies took full advantage – Patrick Saini giving the home side the lead at 7:28, finishing off a move also involving Josh Currie and Sam Solarino, who picked up assists on the play. The team’s PK specialists then killed off a two-minute penalty after Zack Morissette was sent to the box at 7:58 for tripping.

The Huskies continued to push in the opening frame but got caught by a Patriots sucker punch – Ray Hou tying the game at 11:54, unassisted.

Head coach and general manager Ryan Ramsay encouraged his team during the first intermission, and his messaging worked. A reinvigorated Huskies squad came out flying in the second frame, getting the go-ahead goal their play deserved just 54 seconds in – regular season top-scorer Ty Collins helping himself to his first tally of the post-season, assisted by captain Christian Stevens and Isaac Sooklal.

Stevens added a goal of his own 8:21 into the third period, with assists for Patrick Saini and Sooklal. The Patriots huffed and puffed as they tried to get back into the game but couldn’t find a way past a dialed-in Spooner in the home goal. Josh Currie settled the tie with a late empty netter, assisted by Rea and Solarino.

Six Huskies players had a multi-point night, much to the delight of Ramsay, who was all smiles on the home bench as the final buzzer rang.

The team will travel to Toronto Saturday for game two, with the tie coming back to Minden Sunday for game three. Puck drop at S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena is slated for 2:30 p.m. Tickets are available for purchase at Dollo’s Foodland in Minden and Haliburton Foodland and cost $16.