The Haliburton County Huskies’ season is over after the hometown team fell to a tough 3-2 defeat to the Wellington Dukes at S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena March 30.
The second-round OJHL playoff series ended in a 4-0 sweep.
Head coach Ryan Ramsay made a big call ahead of the game, opting to hand 17-yearold goaltender Tyler Hodges his first start of the post-season. Hodges was named to the league’s rookie all-star team March 23 after a regular season that saw him win 13 of his 19 starts, posting a 2.00 goals against average and a .931 save percentage.
Ramsay said he decided to ride the hot hand after Hodges impressed in a tough situation in Game 3, where he relieved regular starter Aidan Spooner early in the first period with the Huskies down 4-0.
“It was a simple call – going into Game 4, Hodges had two wins and one loss against Wellington, while Spooner was 0-4, with one tie. Sometimes when things aren’t going your way, you’ve got to try something new,” Ramsay said.
Thursday’s do-or-die encounter couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start for the Huskies, with the Dukes squeezing an early goal past Hodges three minutes in to silence the home crowd. The visiting side doubled their lead at 14:12, scoring on the powerplay.
Josh Currie halved the deficit at 16:02. Picking up a loose puck in the slot, he wasted no time adjusting his body and firing one in top cheese to breathe new life into the game.
The home side thought they’d tied the game 18 seconds into the second after the puck inconspicuously found its way into the Dukes’ net, though the refs immediately waved the goal off, with some debate as to whether it had crossed the line before the net had come off its frame.
The Huskies dominated, but couldn’t find an answer for an impressive Jacob Osborne, who turned away 18 shots in the period – the best a cross-crease scramble to deny Leo Serlin a certain goal at the 12-minute mark.
The home side maintained the pressure during the third and twice struck the iron. The air was sucked out of the building at 12:50 when Lucas LePalm notched a powerplay marker to make it a 3-1 game. Marco Iozzo gave the Huskies a chance with a short-handed tally at 15:59, but even after pulling Hodges for the final two minutes they couldn’t find a way past Osborne, who finished the night with 46 saves.
Emotions spilled over afterwards, with this marking the final junior game for captain Christian Stevens and stalwarts Isaac Sooklal, Sam Solarino, Boyd Stahlbaum, Currie, Iozzo, Luca Rea, Ty Collins and Spooner.
Ramsay was left to rue a spate of injuries that left him without four key contributors for the second-round series.
“I thought we played well for three of the four games. That last one was one of the best games we’ve played all season. Sometimes you need some luck on your side, and we just didn’t have it,” Ramsay said. “We had Collins out with a concussion, Josh Sordo out with a concussion, Zack Morrissette out with a shoulder issue, and Jack Staniland out with a broken leg. Missing our top scorer and three top defencemen… made it difficult for us to compete.”
The Huskies finished the 2022/23 season with 40 wins, 19 losses, three overtime defeats and one tie.