The Haliburton County Huskies laid down a marker to the rest of the OJHL this past weekend, recording dominant wins over the Toronto Junior Canadiens and North York Rangers to move into fourth place in the East Conference standings.
There was a big game feel inside S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena Saturday as 514 fans came out to watch the hometown team do battle with the undefeated Canadiens. After a back-and-forth duel in regulation time, Declan Bowmaster potted an overtime winner to hand the visiting side their first loss of the season.
New additions Antonio Cerqua and Izayah Luddington were in the home lineup, taking on their former team following a midweek deal that saw former Husky Will Gourgouvelis move to the Canadiens.
The Huskies made a strong start, with Rhyse Brown, Lucas Vacca, and Lucas Marshall each testing Sergei Litvinov in the visiting goal with some early pot shots. The pressure paid off when, three minutes in, Vacca sniped the puck high over Litvinov’s shoulder with a shot from the boards, assisted by Luddington.
The home fans were still celebrating when, 25 seconds later, Lucas Stevenson made it a two-goal game, pouncing on a loose puck in front of the goal after Litvinov had denied Ian Phillips and then Jack Staniland.
It was one-way traffic for much of the rest of the period, as the Huskies chased a third goal. Winger Johnathan Mead had a great chance to extend the lead after eight minutes but could only find Litvinov’s glove after barreling down on goal. Phillips, Luddington, and captain Patrick Saini also went close.
The momentum shifted after Cerqua was sent to the box for slashing a Canadiens forward. The visiting team scored on the powerplay, Brenden Anderson beating Vlad Visan on a rebound after the young goaltender had done well to stop a Boris Kofman shot.
The Huskies ended the period with 16 shots, to the Canadiens’ eight.
It was a different story to start the second, with the visiting team taking control. Chris Soares tied the game two minutes in, assisted by Luka Graziano, and Evan Malkhassian completed a remarkable turnaround 90 seconds later, firing high over a prone Visan, who had done well to save earlier efforts from Evan’s twin, Luc, and John McKinney.
Stevenson hit the outside of the post after skating into the crease midway through the period, with Cerqua denied after a net-front scramble minutes later. A nice give-andgo between Saini and Ty Petrou with the seconds ticking away presented an excellent chance for the Huskies captain to send the teams in tied at the end of the second, but he was robbed by an outstretched glove from Litvinov.
The crowd came alive to start the third, cheering the Huskies on. They got an instant response, with the home side retaking control of the game. Litvinov made a series of spectacular saves before Phillips bested him at 16:29, assisted by Saini and Petrou.
There looked to be only one winner in the extra frame, with the home side tilting the ice. Bowmaster was the eventual hero, scoring unassisted after almost three minutes of play.
Win on the road
The Huskies roared to a huge 5-1 win away against the North York Rangers Sept. 17
Bowmaster was on the scoresheet again, tallying the game’s first goal with 14:21 played, assisted by Saini. Marshall added a shorthanded goal a couple of minutes later, set up by Gavin McGahey-Smith. Cian Noble responded for the home team, firing past Logan Kennedy at 17:24 of the opening period to get the Rangers on the board.
Phillips added a powerplay goal three minutes into the second, with Marshall doubling his personal tally five minutes later. Saini completed the scoring 14:53 into the third, assisted by Hunter Martell and Mead.
The Huskies are back in action tonight (Sept. 21) on the road against the Stouffville Spirit and will host the Aurora Tigers Saturday (Sept. 23). Puck drop in Minden is set for 4 p.m.