Blades Winning Streak Continues into the Playoffs

OAKVILLE, ONT - MARCH 8: The Oakville Blades celebrate the goal during the third period at the Sixteen Mile Sports Complex on March 8, 2024 (Photo by Cameron Ernst / OJHL Images)

By Ty Brooks

March 8th vs. Buffalo Jr. Sabres

Blades Top Players:

Fire Extinguisher: McCarthy 39/41 SVS .951 SV%

Junkyard Dog: Donohoe 1G, 3A

Tyrrell 1G, 2A

Smallegange 1G, 1A

Wow! The Blades came out swinging in their first game of the playoffs since the 2021–2022 season; it’s hard to ask for a much better start than that. The team had an all-around great performance and were able to cruise to a 6-2 win over the Jr. Sabres. There were plenty of contributions from up and down the lineup, with the star performance being in net. McCarthy made several big saves, including a diving glove save in the final minutes of the second period, to keep the Blades ahead. The expectation was that McCarthy would provide high-quality goaltending for this playoff series, but he far outdid himself in this first game.

As mentioned, all lines and pairings were involved in this one, and 11 players walked away with points. There were also 5 players—Donohoe, Tyrrell, Bonsteel, McKenna, and Smallegange—who collected multi-point performances, which is an outstanding statistic.

The Blades also showcased their ability to score at both even strength and on the power play. In total, the team scored 2 power play goals, 3 even strength goals, and 1 empty net goal, which is great to see. Any team that wants to win lots of hockey games needs to have a variety of ways that they can score in order to sustain their scoring, and that’s exactly what happened. Additionally, and just as importantly, teams need to be sound defensively to win hockey games and limit the offensive output from other teams. While they did allow 40 shots in this game, only two went in, and the penalty kill held strong, staving off all power play attempts from Buffalo.

Here’s a breakdown of the goal scoring for the Blades:

1st period

G: Donohoe A: Bonsteel, Tyrrell (PP) (2:22)

G: Churchill A: McKenna, Crisp (15:36)

2nd period

G: Taylor A: McKenna, Smallegange (3:49)

3rd period

G: Clarke A: Donohoe, Tyrrell (PP) (4:15)

G: Smallegange A: Belanger, Donohoe (11:54)

G: Tyrrell A: Donohoe, Bonsteel (EN) (18:13)

The goals all came through different means: one-timers, breakaways, rebounds, point shots, and more, which further emphasized the Blades ability to score in many different ways.

While there were an abundance of great plays both offensively, defensively, and in net, one play stood out as the Play of the Night for me. It was the lone goal in the 2nd period and showed how dangerous the Blades speed in transition is and how the whole lineup is participating in shutting down plays as well as finishing them.

It was a neutral zone push for the Jr. Sabres, and rushing to backcheck was your co-captain Sean Clarke, who bumped the opposing player and forced a neutral zone turnover. Cormick Smallegange ended up with the puck and quickly moved it to his defensive partner, Cole McKenna. The defenseman took a couple lateral strides and noticed streaking Aidan Taylor. What followed was a beautiful three-zone pass perfectly on Taylor’s tape, springing him for a breakaway. While many would have thought Taylor might deke using his slick hands, he instead opted to shoot and roofed it glove side!

This goal was what gave the Blades the two-goal lead and would prove to be the game-winning goal after 60 minutes. A whole team effort with fantastic playmaking and sharp finishing resulting in a strong momentum-generating goal is well worthy of Play of the Night honours in my books.

While, yes, the first game was an absolute success, this series is far from over. The Blades are happy to take the 1-0 lead in a decisive victory, but they will need to follow it up with another strong game in Buffalo. The Buffalo Jr. Sabres are awaiting the arrival of the Blades at the LECOM Harborcenter in the heart of Buffalo and are not the type of team to take a loss like this lightly. The second game of the best-of-seven series will be played tonight, Sunday, March 10th, at 7:00 PM in the United States, so make sure you don’t forget your passport. We’ll see you there.