An emotional night inside S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena Nov. 25 helped inspire the Haliburton County Huskies to one of their biggest wins of the season.
It was a full house Saturday as the organization held its second Pink in the Rink Huskies Conquer Cancer event. Hockey took a back seat pre-game as team president, Paul Wilson, welcomed Julie MacInnes onto the ice for a ceremonial puck drop. Julie’s husband, Wade, passed away in August following a battle with lung cancer.
Buoyed by an exuberant home crowd, the Huskies dominated the toothless Aurora Tigers 7-1, with a hat-trick from team captain Patrick Saini and further tallies from Nicholas Lamont, Adam Smeeton, Lucas Vacca, and Lucas Stevenson cementing the win.
“It was nice to see the guys playing with some confidence and putting up a big win. Smeeton getting his first of the season was a nice moment for him – we haven’t really had any secondary scoring all year, so that’s a nice thing to get, especially coming into a busy stretch,” said head coach, Ryan Ramsay.
The Huskies enjoyed lots of time on the puck in the first, regularly testing Yianni Karkoulas in the Tigers’ goal. Ian Phillips went close to establishing a lead halfway through the period, picking up speed coming out of his own zone and beating two Tigers players before flashing a wrister off the post.
With time ticking down, it appeared the Huskies would have to wait for their opening, but Saini had other ideas. After Phillips had found Charlie Fink in the slot, the 20-year-old saw his shot padded away by Karkoulas, but Saini was in the perfect position to slam home the rebound at 19:03.
The home crowd was back on its feet seconds later as Lamont notched his 10th goal of the season. After Stevenson skied the puck out of his own zone, Lamont expertly brought it out of the air while in full stride, went eye-to-eye with Karkoulas and beat him glove side at 19:40 to give the Huskies a two-goal lead.
Smeeton made it a three-goal game 1:25 into the middle frame, assisted by Raine Nadeau and Izayah Luddington, with Vacca adding a fourth five minutes later, finishing off a nice move that also involved Alex Bradshaw.
Luke Hampel netted a consolation for the Tigers at 7:49, but that’s as good as it got for the visitors. Stevenson got in on the action at 16:10, assisted by Saini and Phillips, before the Huskies captain potted an unassisted shorthanded tally at 19:52. He completed his hat-trick three minutes into the final frame, assisted by Stevenson and Phillips.
Ramsay said he was pleased to see his team get back to winning ways following a disappointing 4-3 loss on the road against the Lindsay Muskies Nov. 22. He noted this would be a big month for the Huskies as they look to improve on their ninth-place league standing and solidify themselves as championship contenders.
“We’re coming into a busy stretch here leading up to Christmas. These games are really going to make or break our season. Either we climb the ladder and start to put some pressure on those teams near the top, or we stay where we are [which is outside playoff contention],” Ramsay said. “It’s going to be a good challenge for the boys.”
The team lost 6-3 to rival Cobourg Cougars Nov. 27, and travel to Brantford Nov. 30 for a tilt with the 99ers. They play six more times in 17 days before Christmas, with three home match-ups – Dec. 3 against the Stouffville Spirit, Dec. 9 against the Pickering Panthers, and Dec. 16 against the North York Rangers.
Huskies in the community
Ramsay said Christmas is also the time of year his team likes to give back to the community. After participating in the Minden and Haliburton Santa Claus parades the past two weekends, the Huskies assisted the Minden Hills Fire Department with its annual toy drive Nov. 26.
The organization also partnered with the Haliburton Highlands Health Services Foundation earlier this month for a 50/50 fundraiser to help bring in money for a CT scanner and mammography unit at the Haliburton hospital.
“This community has been great with us since we arrived… it’s Paul’s and my vision to not only have a great hockey program in the County, but to work with our community and rally behind great causes to show you can bring good things to small towns through sport,” Ramsay said.