Blades Carry an Eight-Game Winning Streak into the Playoffs

OAKVILLE, ONT - MARCH 1: The Oakville Blades celebrate the goal during the second period at the Sixteen Mile Sports Complex on March 1, 2024 (Photo by Cameron Ernst / OJHL Images)

By Ty Brooks

 

Crazy ending to the year!

The Blades had a wild ending to the year, including a crazy winning streak and lots of goals! If you haven’t already noticed, your Oakville Blades are locked into the playoffs and will compete for the Buckland Cup starting this Friday against the Buffalo Jr. Sabres! Detailed below are the last four games of the season and how they significantly impacted the Blades first-round playoff series. Go Blades Go!

 

Feb. 28th @ Milton Menace 

Blades Top Players:

Junkyard Dog – Crisp (1G)

Fire Extinguisher – Johnston (1G)

McCarthy 31/34 SVS .912 SV%

Donohoe 1G, 1A

 

The first game of these four was in Milton, and the Blades were able to show some absolutely fantastic resilience right before the playoffs started. After going scoreless in the first and second periods, the team exploded for offence in the final frame.

 

Already having won four in a row coming into this game, it looked like the streak was going to be snapped by conference rivals in the Milton Menace. Going into the final 20 minutes, the teams lined up for a score of 1-0 in favour of Milton. It took Oakville just 25 seconds into the period to tie this one up! It was scored on a penalty that had carried over periods, and it was a beautiful passing play.

 

After dumping the puck in and getting it back at the blueline, the puck was slid cross-ice at the blueline to Sean Clarke. Clarke spotted Akimov down low and fed him the puck where he had some space to work with. Without hesitation without even looking, Gleb Akimov made a beautiful behind-the-back pass that landed perfectly on the tape of Max Donohoe before it easily found its way to the back of the net. Just incredible!

 

Milton had a response ready and made it 2-1 shortly, but that’s about where the fun would end for them. At 5:30 of the third period, thanks to some cycle work, Luke Johnston found himself with time alone in the slot (not a good defence strategy for other teams) and easily ripped one home for his 17th of the season. Assist credit goes to… Clarke and Akimov again, who seem to have found a really nice groove together in this game.

 

The Blades would then score again only 4 minutes later, when Max Donohoe really went to work below the goal line and forced the opposing defenders to cough up the puck in front of their own net. It then found the stick of Noah Tyrrell, who also found himself alone in front of the net (even worse defence strategy), and you already knew that puck was headed for the twine. Tyrrell picks up his 27th goal of the season and pulls the Blades into the lead for the first time in the game.

 

In comes the night’s Junkyard Dog to seal the deal at the Milton Memorial Arena. Crisp blocked a shot at the blueline, and let’s just say he was quite a bit faster to get possession than the defender was. He flew down the ice alone, tried to go low, and got blocked. However, the rebound was right to him, and he brought the team up to a two-goal lead. This goal would prove to be the game-winning goal, as Milton scored once but not twice, and Oakville won the game by a score of 4-3!

 

The team had now reached an impressive five-game winning streak, with back-to-back wins against teams above them in the standings.

 

Mar. 1st vs. Toronto Jr. Canadiens

Blades Top Players:

Junkyard Dog –  Donohoe (1G)

Fire Extinguisher – Belanger (1G)

McCarthy 29/31 SVS .935 SV%

Tyrrell 2A

 

Luke Johnston found the net first in the only regular-season game between the Blades and the JRC this year. The Blades recognized their eight graduating players prior to this one and thanked their four billet families with a special ceremony. It was a solid crowd, with just over 500 fans in attendance for this matchup, and the team did not disappoint.

 

After Oakville regained possession in their own end, they quickly began transitioning the other way. Akimov took a couple of solid strides with the puck but then smartly opted to dish the puck off Johnston, who was powering through centre ice. Johnston got the puck and was quickly met with a defender. This defender, however, tried to lay a body check on our #71 and completely missed due to a slick move from Johnston, which left him all alone for the second game in a row. He went low blocker last time; this time it was low glove, and it proved to be the right choice as he would tally his 18th of the season. Maybe opposing teams will learn to stop doing that.

 

Just like the last game, though, the response was swift, and before you knew it, the game was tied. This time, it wasn’t just a one-goal response, but two. The Blades now found themselves midway through the game, trailing just like they were against Milton. This issue was neatly solved at 15:52 of the second period, though.

 

One big theme that’s been noticeable about the team is that they’ve been much better at using their speed to their advantage. This was on full display during this goal when Crisp was soaring through the neutral zone, pushing the defence way back onto their heels. He slipped a little outlet pass to Tyrrell once he’d gotten the zone, and almost without having to think, Tyrrell played a gorgeous pass onto the stick of Donohoe. In stride, Donohoe went forehand-backhand-forehand and rang that puck off the post and in!

 

The two teams played even hockey to finish the period but didn’t get any more goals.

 

Oakville managed to find a nice rhythm in the third, outshooting their opponents 13-7 in that period. Even with the offence, nobody scored for the longest time. It wouldn’t be until 19:53 that we would get another goal. Kussmann won a draw in the offensive end, went hard to the net, and clawed his way into position. Tyrrell gave him a nice pass, and Kussmann whacked it into the net from inches in front of the goaltender for the game-winning goal with 7 seconds left in the game! There was nothing pretty about this one, but it was the most important goal of the game either way! The Blades win another game towards their playoff seeding push and make it six wins in a row!

 

Mar. 2nd @ Toronto Patriots

Blades Top Players:

Junkyard Dog – Yovetich

Fire Extinguisher – Crisp (1G)

Tyrrell 1G, 2A

McCarthy 39/42 SVS .929 SV%

 

The Toronto Patriots were the team that posed Oakville the biggest scare to snapping the win streak, and it was an extremely even game. The Patriots even scored first on one of their 11 shots in the first frame.

 

Even with Toronto scoring first, this team has never failed to put in a strong effort to surge back after trailing. Of the 16 shots the Blades registered in the first period, one went in at 12:30 off a hard-working play from three veteran players. On the forecheck, Donohoe and Tyrrell went to work, and Tyrrell managed to simultaneously knock over two Patriots players. He played a little give-and-go with Max Donohoe before wiring a pass to streaking Kenny Belanger, who only needed to tap it in from there, and the Blades were tied.

 

To find the next goal, we have to skip ahead to the next period, at 5:47, when Oakville took the lead for the first time in this game. It was on a power play they just got, when Bonsteel and Tyrrell were playing the puck back-and-forth to each other from the point to the right circle and back. Eventually, Tyrrell decided it was time to shoot and fired a one-timer shortside for the power play goal! Although Akimov didn’t get an assist, he did a brilliant job of screening the goaltender, which resulted in tracking issues for the Patriots goaltender.

 

From this point, the Patriots would score back-to-back goals to end the second and start the third period, taking back their lead by a score of 3-2. At this point, the Blades had about 15 minutes to try to tie this game up or face having their winning streak snapped with just one game to go after this in the regular season.

 

With just over six minutes to go, Cormick Smallegange forced the puck out of his own end in a great effort past a couple forecheckers to centre ice. Gleb Akimov was right there to pick up the puck and had forwards on either side to give the puck to. He opted to skate a little farther over the blue line and lay a drop pass to Matthew Indovina, who cut in from the wing to pick up the puck. Once he got the puck, he took just a few steps and rifled the puck low blocker to tie up the game! This goal resulted in Indovina’s 17th of the season, which put him 4th on the team in that category and 10th in the OJHL among rookies, a testament to his great shot.

 

That was it for 3rd period scoring for either team. We were headed to overtime.

 

While seven shots did happen in the first overtime period, it wasn’t enough for either team to beat the opposing goaltender. Instead, we would search for a result in double overtime.

 

As a result, we found that, right off the faceoff, the Patriots won the puck. Then, off what seemed like a routine play, the Patriots defenceman made an errant pass that was scooped up by Jacob Crisp, and he immediately found himself in a 2-on-1 situation with red-hot Noah Tyrrell. Crisp passed the puck over to Tyrrell, who paused as the defender fell down to try and block the pass before sliding a backdoor pass to Crisp, who sealed off the win! That makes two game-winning goals in his last three!

 

Win streak at 7!

 

Mar. 3rd vs. Buffalo Jr. Sabres

Blades Top Players:

Junkyard Dog – Kussmann (1G)

Fire Extinguisher – Christensen 33/35 SVS .943 SV%

Clarke 1G

The Blades held a special pregame presentation for their season sponsors and community partners, with many of them in attendance.

The game against the Buffalo Jr. Sabres was the last of the regular season and probably the most interesting for a couple of reasons. What the Blades fans in the stands didn’t realize was that they were actually about to watch a preview of the upcoming first-round playoff series. The Milton Menace happened to be playing the Burlington Cougars at the time, and Milton won that game, meaning that Buffalo and Oakville were guaranteed the 4th and 5th seeds in the playoffs. On top of that, due to how close the teams were in the standings, this game would ultimately decide who gets home ice advantage! So not only were the teams playing a playoff preview, they were also fighting for home ice advantage in the first round. If the playoff games are going to look like these, we’re going to be in for a tough but fun series against the Jr. Sabres.

 

Oakville came out hot, registering 13 shots in the first, in comparison to only 8 from the Jr. Sabres, who had been struggling a little recently. Even with Oakville managing to control the play, they still couldn’t register a goal. Luckily, neither did Buffalo.

 

The script flipped completely in the second, with Buffalo coming out and showing off what they’re capable of. They almost exactly reversed the shots in that period, shooting on the Blades netminder 14 times while Oakville managed just 9. The difference in this period, though, is that there were goals in the second frame. Up first was Oakville, at 8:38.

 

It was just a simple breakout play—nothing special—but Akimov managed to slip the coverage of the first defender and get a 1-on-1 situation. Akimov tried to power around the defenceman, but it didn’t work, and he was forced wide. In a last-ditch effort, he turned his body towards the net and fired a rocket top corner blocker side to kick off scoring in the game!

 

Buffalo tied it shortly after with a good comeback effort, and that would wrap up second-period scoring.

 

After each team really dominated a period, it was surprising just to see how even the third period ended up being. Shots were even at 13–13, which resulted in the final shots being 35–35. Talk about even. Due to this even play and strong goaltending, there was no goal scoring for the first little while. Finally, at 11:53, the Blades struck on that magical powerplay of theirs. Bonsteel, Donohoe, and Clarke combined for a nice power play goal, as the trio of veterans often does. Bonsteel at the point sent it down to Donohoe along the wall, who hit Clarke in the bumper spot, and Clarke took a quick shoulder check before using his backhand to absolutely roof the puck. Even better, it sent the goalie’s water bottle flying for extra effect, making it just that much better.

 

After taking the lead, the Blades decided that they would add another one on top of that. Something that’s become a bit of a theme as of late is the Blades scoring after working hard on the forecheck. The Blades are a fast team, and speed kills, so seeing the Blades find success in this area has been great for the fans and great for goalscoring. They did it once again here, as the team worked hard for the whole shift, tight checking, battling hard in the corners, and applying pressure to the point that the opposing defence whiffed on a pass and turned the puck right over to Kyle Kussmann, who walked it and lasered it high glove side to extend the Blades lead.

 

It was now down to the final stretch: could the team hold onto the two-goal lead as the clock wound down? Would they get home ice advantage?

 

Buffalo pulled their goalie early because they had to get two goals if they wanted to get back into this one. Buffalo isn’t a team to be underestimated, and they cashed in with the goalie pulled to make it 3-2 by making the Blades scramble in front. They then pulled their goalie once again to try and get the last goal, but it wasn’t meant to be. Blades win! Home ice advantage secured!

 

Playoff bound!

What an incredible way to finish off a season on an 8-game winning streak! Throughout the course of the last couple of weeks, the Blades bumped up their playoff seeding from 7th in the conference to 4th and secured home ice advantage in the first round! There’s no better time in the regular season to get hot, and the team will certainly be going into the playoffs oozing the confidence they’ve carried over their last few weeks of play down the stretch. The OJHL released the playoff schedules for the first round, and you can officially attend the Blades playoff games starting this Friday, March 8th, at 7:00 PM. Since the team secured home ice advantage, the first game will take place at the Sixteen Mile Sports Complex!

 

If you want to see the rest of the schedule, you can go to our social media or read the OJHL official announcement here: Oakville vs. Buffalo Playoff Schedule.