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Blades Add Six Points Over a 3-in-3 Weekend

NIAGARA FALLS, ON- JANUARY 26: The Oakville Blades celebrate the goal during the second period at the Gale Centre Arena on January 26, 2024 in Ontario, Canada.(Photo by Larry Mathewson / OJHL Images)

By Ty Brooks

Much better week

After a turbulent previous four games in February, the Blades really did a good job of getting back on track, starting on Family Day with the big win in Burlington. The team had a tough 3-in-3 to play through this past weekend but managed really positive results despite plenty of travel. If you were able to catch any of the games this week, you were probably pleasantly surprised. If you weren’t able to make it out for a game, it’s time to get caught up.

 

Feb. 23rd, Niagara Falls Canucks

Blades Top Players:

Belanger 1G, 1A

Tyrrell 1G

McCarthy 19/21 SVS .905 SV%

 

The team was ready for this game tonight. They came out and posted great numbers while besting the Canucks in almost every category of positive play. It started early on when Belanger made a quick deflection in front of a McKenna shot to take control of the game quickly. Although the lead was quickly taken away by the Canucks leading scorer, the Blades would put up another before the period ended.

 

It was what seemed to be a fairly dull play when Belanger noticed that the Niagara Falls players had become a little too eager on the forecheck and sent too many players. Instead of panicking, he flipped it over the heads of the forecheckers, and it would land quite nicely next to Matthew Indovina. He had another player with him on the 2-on-1, and at one point it looked like he might pass, but instead he rang it off the inside post on his own shot and put his team up 2-1.

 

The second period was a really good period for Oakville defensively, and McCarthy only had to stop four shots on net. If you’ve been to a Blades game before, you know four shots is nothing for our star goaltender, and he turned them all away with ease. As for the offence, the squad formulated 16 shots and a goal to make the period even better. In another 2-on-1 situation at 17:26, Noah Tyrrell flew in down the wing and also elected to shoot, but he was stopped. Incredibly, just after the goalie made the save, he batted the puck out of midair to secure what would be the game-winning goal.

 

The game would finish by a score of 4-2 after Jack Churchill put home a rebound midway through the third period, and the Canucks would grab a second goal. The game was largely decided by the strong play of Oakville in the first 40 minutes, as they outshot the opposition 36-13. It was about as great of a start to the 3-in-3 that one could ask for.

 

Feb. 24th, Mississauga Chargers

Blades Top Players:

Bonsteel 1G, 1A

Johnston, 1G, 1A

McCarthy, 29/30 SVS .967 SV%

Yovetich 1G

 

This intra-conference matchup was one that typically favoured Oakville, and they were hoping to come out on top for the third time this season against the Chargers. After a calm first 10 minutes or so, Oakville sprung two goals in just under a minute to take a quick lead. The initial goal came as Logan Yovetich’s first of the season, as he scooped up a loose puck in front and showed off some smooth hands to deke around the goalie and tuck it home! That’s an important goal for the winger, who will likely try to build off the momentum he generated with that one. Next, in a very similar situation, the puck found itself alone in the slot with nobody around. Instead of deking like Yovetich did, Sean Clarke decided to blast one that would beat the goaltender easily over the high glove side. The Chargers would also score one near the end of that period.

The Blades would clock 49 shots throughout the game, including 19 in the final frame, as a second-period goal from Eric Bonsteel and an empty netter from Luke Johnston would add extra insurance to the outcome of this game. Gavin McCarthy was also notably excellent in net, having already played the night before. He made 29 saves on 30 shots and posted a .967 SV% in this contest, making his combined totals 48 saves on 51 shots and a .941 SV% between the two games.

 

Feb. 25th @ Leamington Flyers

Blades Top Players:

Bonsteel 1G, 1A

Churchill 1G

Christensen 38/41 SVS .927 SV%

Indovina 1G, 1A

 

The last and by far toughest game to be played on the 3-in-3 is in Leamington against the Flyers. The last three matchups in between the Flyers and Blades have all been super close games, resulting in a 1-1-1 record for both teams. Both teams have won a game, lost a game, and tied a game against each other. So we already knew this was going to be a fun one.

 

We got a very solid 24 shots of action in the opening frame, but rather surprisingly, not a single goal. Both young rookie goaltenders held off the incoming shots from the other teams for 20 minutes, and we headed into intermission just as we had started.

After a little bit of time in the second period to get things moving again, Matthew Indovina caught the puck at the blueline and started skating as hard as he could from down the wing. Just when it looked like he had beaten his defender, he was tripped, and instead of a two-minute penalty, the referee pointed straight to centre ice, signalling a penalty shot. The rookie had a great set of hands and a shot he’s already used plenty of times to beat goalies from distance, so it was interesting to see which he’d pick. He skated in with an air of confidence, and after a quick fake, he lasered the puck under the blocker of one of the top goalies in the league for the goal!

 

It was a very nice goal, the first of the game, but the celebrations wouldn’t last too long. Oakville would only get 8 shots on net the whole period, and after scoring, they would let in not just one, not two, but three goals all in the span of 8 minutes. Completely collapsing and the result being 19 shots against and down by 2 goals headed into the 3rd period. Not the place to be while staring down the final 20 minutes against one of the strongest defensive teams in the league.

 

We knew the Blades would try to make a comeback; the question that remained was whether they could or not. As we opened the period, the Blades seemed in control of the play. But slowly, as time went on and the Blades hadn’t scored yet, chances began to look more and more slim. Then suddenly, a missed chance from Oakville turned into a scramble in front, and even though he was right in front of the net, former flyer Kyle Kussmann passed the puck across the crease, and speeding in was Eric Bonsteel, who slammed home a one-timer to cut the lead to one! The Blades were officially back in the hockey game and had about 6 minutes left to score just one more goal. Although they had 6 minutes left, they wouldn’t need it all, and Noah Tyrrell scored straight off a faceoff win just 38 seconds later! The score was now 3-3, and the rest of regulation saw it that way too.

 

It was a quiet first overtime period, with two good saves on either side, but the real show would happen when the teams were forced to go to three skaters each for double overtime.

 

Three skaters each always prove to be a fun time. While there was plenty of back-and-forth as well as good chances for both teams, it looked as though we might get another tie between these two teams as time wound down. Both goaltenders looked solid until 2:51 into 2OT. Former Leamington Flyer Kyle Kussmann was out and skated quickly up the ice after a pass from Bonsteel. He went from the blue line to the red line to the blue line with speed and enough of it to create just enough of an angle for a high shot on the Leamington netminder. It was a big stop, but an even bigger rebound as it went trickling along the ice past any coverage, and the trailing Jack Churchill ripped it home for the double overtime winner! That’s 3 wins in 3 days for the Oakville Blades! Six extremely crucial points! The Blades were able to make the leap over Georgetown for the 6th spot in the conference and are one point behind Burlington for 5th place. Check out the league standings to see how close things are, here.

4 games left:

If you thought 3-in-3 was crazy, get ready for 4-in-5. The Blades will close out the regular season in just four games, to be played this Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The games will be split evenly as home and away games, but they will all be tough matchups as three of the teams are above Oakville in the standings. All of the start times are different, so check out the score tracker at the top of our website for those times.

Note that Friday at home will be our graduating players night and billet appreciation. Sunday night will be sponsor appreciation night. Be sure to get there early so you do not miss the pregame presentations.

These last four games will be crucial to the Blades securing their place in the OJHL playoffs; so come and cheer them on so you can watch more Blades hockey! Go Blades, go!