It was a mixed opening weekend of the new OJHL season for the Haliburton County Huskies, who dropped a 4-2 decision on the road to rival Lindsay Muskies on Friday before securing a 4-3 overtime win over the Pickering Panthers in Saturday’s home opener.
The blue and white went into the ‘Battle of Hwy. 35’ Sept. 8 full of confidence having won 11 of their 13 games with the Muskies since the beginning of the 2021/22 season. It was a scrappy opening few minutes as both teams tried to take control. Huskies defenceman Hunter Martell registered the game’s first shot, firing the puck low from the faceoff circle, drawing a good save from Ethan Fraser in the home goal.
Johnathan Mead, acquired by the Huskies last week from the Georgetown Raiders, was impressive in the early goings, consistently finding the puck and driving play. He was unlucky not to register his first point nine minutes in after finding Declan Bowmaster in space at the point, only for the 17-yearold’s shot to cannon back off the post.
Seconds later, the Huskies thought they’d found the breakthrough. Jack Staniland shot low from the blueline, with the puck appearing to beat Fraser before striking the iron at the back of the net and coming back out. The officials called no goal on the play.
“I didn’t have the greatest view, but I heard the sound you usually hear [on a goal], like a jingle in the back of the net,” said winger Ian Phillips, who watched the play from the bench. “The guys on the ice were a little closer and they thought it was a goal.”
Staniland was sent to the box at 14:53 for interference, but the Huskies kept pushing. Captain Patrick Saini chased down a loose puck behind the Muskies net, coming away with possession and going close on a wraparound attempt. Lucas Stevenson then had a breakaway, which was well saved by Fraser.
The Muskies landed a sucker punch with a minute to go in the period, Devin Shoreman beating Vlad Visan to give the home side a one goal advantage heading into the break.
The Huskies thought they had another powerplay opportunity a minute into the second after Nate Taylor was called for boarding after a dangerous hit on Saini, but Mead was handed a roughing after the whistle minor for his reaction. The Muskies added a second on the ensuing four-on-four play, scoring through Owen Fitzgerald.
Phillips, Gavin McGahey-Smith, and Lucas Marshall all went close to getting the Huskies on the board, with the visitors dominating the puck for large spells in the second. It was to no avail though – Brandon Nye added a third for Lindsay at 17:42, beating Visan bar down after a scramble in front of the net.
The Huskies started the third on the man advantage but couldn’t create any significant scoring opportunities. Staniland had a shot from the point well saved by Fraser, before taking a harsh interference penalty midway through the period. Lindsay capitalized on the opportunity, with Cole Patey adding a powerplay marker with 9:32 remaining.
With the clock ticking, Rhyse Brown missed a golden opportunity to get the Huskies on the board – firing a rebounded puck wide from dead centre after Fraser had denied Raine Nadeau.
Bowmaster finally ended the shutout with a little over two minutes remaining, stripping a Muskies defenceman of the puck behind the net and wrapping around to beat Fraser.
There was a frantic finish. Muskies defenceman Nick Galeazza was handed a double minor for kneeing with 1:54 left on the clock – leading to Huskies coach Ryan Ramsay pulling Visan and ending the game six-on-four. Saini and Mead were each robbed by Fraser, who finished the game with 38 saves, before Staniland added a consolation at 19:42.
Despite the loss, Phillips said the team took encouragement from the performance after outshooting their rival 40 to 22.
“I don’t think we played badly at all – we had a couple of breakdowns in bad areas that ended up costing us, but we created a lot of chances. We hit four or five posts, which, if a couple of those go our way, then it’s a totally different game,” said Phillips, who will serve as one of the Huskies alternate captains this season. “We’ll build off this and keep improving the more we play together.”
Win on home ice
It was standing room only inside S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena Saturday as 510 fans witnessed the return of junior hockey to Minden.
The Huskies had to battle from behind after Nolan Connolly notched a powerplay marker for the visiting Panthers 14 minutes into the first period. The home side got going midway through the second, Saini scoring his first goal of the season, assisted by Lucas Vacca, with 8:53 on the clock. The Panthers retook the lead at 11:01, but the Huskies replied quickly – Stevenson added a powerplay goal at 14:40 to send the teams into the second intermission tied.
Saini helped himself to his second goal of the game seven minutes into the third, assisted by Phillips and Mead, but former Husky Nick Athanasakos sent the game to overtime with a late tying goal at 18:53. Mead was the hero in the extra frame, beating Panthers netminder Aidan Feddema at 2:23, assisted by Staniland and Phillips.
The Huskies will be back in action Sept. 16 when they host the Toronto Jr. Canadiens. Puck drop is set for 4 p.m.