By Ty Brooks
Holiday Season in Oakville:
The holiday break has come along, and with it, a pause in most OJHL hockey. Before the break, the Blades played games on the 19th, 21st and 22nd of December and the results could surely be described as an early Christmas gift to the fans. All 3 games were played at Sixteen Mile, featuring a school day game full of local students on Tuesday and a make-up game that turned out to be a huge nail biter on Thursday.
Dec. 19th vs Mississauga Chargers
Blades Top Players:
McCarthy 48/49 SVS .979 SV%
Clarke 1G, 1A
With a recent 4-0 win over Mississauga just 3 games before this one, the Blades had a strong sense of confidence coming into this one.
But it goes to show that no team should be underestimated. While Oakville played strong offensively, there are two sides to this game. The team let past 49 shots onto goaltender Gavin McCarthy who had to be extra sharp to keep this one close. In comparison to just 22 shots the last time around between these two teams, it was a complete 180 in terms of defensive effectiveness. Nonetheless, #74 was sharp all afternoon.
The Blades managed to put up 4 goals in front of the very excited crowd of school kids from nearby Oodenawi Public School in Oakville! Luke Johnston would open it up just 35 seconds into the 2nd period after Jack Churchill made a great pass from behind the opposing net before Johnston tucked it in the top corner. That’s goal number 15 on the season for Johnston and assist number 15 on the season for Churchill.
Exactly 6 minutes later on the power play, that top unit that has been so deadly struck again. Although he’s normally the setup man, this time it was Sean Clarke who beamed one home from the right circle with Donohoe and Bonsteel playing the setup roles. At the end of the period, Dawson Lukey would push the lead back to 2 goals off of a fantastic solo effort straight after the draw in the offensive end.
One goal occurred in the 3rd period, and it was Gleb Akimov who sealed the deal as the Blades took this one by a score of 4-1. McCarthy had to stand on his head in order to finish the game with 48 saves, but nonetheless, registered his 12th win of the season.
Dec. 21st vs Collingwood Blues
Blades Top Players:
McCarthy 42/43 SVS .976 SV%
This game wasn’t even supposed to happen, but are the Blades ever happy it did.
Due to some rescheduling that happened because of the fact that the Blades were unable to play in their home facility, this game wasn’t even supposed to happen on this day. Hence, the 2:30 PM start on a Thursday in Oakville.
For those of you that are unaware, the Collingwood Blues team sits firmly at the top of the OJHL standings. They also feature at an extremely impressive 3rd in the CJHL Rankings in its final instalment of 2023. The Collingwood Blues are also the reigning OJHL Champions and have only lost in regulation 4 times through 34 games played this year. From top to bottom, the Blues are a very solid team. But, Oakville has already beaten them this year.
This game was an extremely penalised one which saw 18 penalties dished out and that managed to work out in favour of the Blades. After having to kill off a couple of their own penalties, the Blades got to work on that strong power play of theirs. At 8:14 of the 1st period, just the 2nd Blades power play of the game, they clicked for the first goal of the game. The usual suspects, Clarke and Johnston, grabbed assists while the goal was credited to Gleb Akimov after a big scrum in the front of the net, leading to an in-tight goal. Blades would head back to the dressing room after the period with a 1 goal lead.
After matching shot totals (16 a side) in the first period, Oakville would only register 5 while Collingwood would remain strong and get 12 shots on net. One of those 12 shots would go in, as the first goal to slide by McCarthy and it took until halfway through the game to beat him.
The anticipation was building and as we entered the 3rd period, you could feel that everybody wanted to score the next goal. In such a close game, it would be difficult, but that’s what you get when you put the two goalies who sit atop the league in SV% at opposite ends of the rink.
While everybody was expecting a tight battle, a close finish and maybe even some overtime, that’s not exactly what we got. Once again, Collingwood dominated in the shots and possession department, but an early boarding penalty led to a powerplay for the Blades. Then, just 2:36, a goal scored by the Blades, also by Gleb Akimov from the exact same spot as the first goal. While the two goals were nearly identical and were scored by digging away around the net, it didn’t matter Oakville was up 2-1. The Blues tried their absolute best to send out the firepower, but they couldn’t solve McCarthy twice. The Blades handed Collingwood their 5th regulation loss of the season and their first back-to-back loss of the year.
Dec. 22 vs Caledon Admirals
Blades Top Players:
Christensen 29/29 SVS 1.000 SV%
The Blades came in ready for this one after two strong wins, as they looked to top off the Christmas game with one final win before the break.
It was quite the unusual game against Caledon. A rather un-penalized affair, as well, the shots being around what you’d expect (41-29 OAK). Even with all these chances, only one goal was scored, between either team that is.
In the back half of the first period, Luca Rosati had plenty of time and space to work with, which he took advantage of. Using his quick feet to cross over the opposing blue line and sauced a simply beautiful pass over to Akimov. Gleb cut straight past the defenders who got caught flat footed and froze the goalie before sliding the puck into a wide open net. That makes it his 4th goal in his last 3 games, as he is absolutely on fire. Akimov’s recent hot streak has propelled him into the team lead in goals, and he now sits tied for first in the league for game winning goals.
Also, in net Mikkel Christensen was very, very solid and grabbed his 4th win and 3rd shutout of the season in just 8 games played so far. He is certainly beginning to put together a strong season as the backup goaltender.
Oakville takes the game over Caledon by a score of 1-0.
This game was followed by a public skate with the Blades where many local children and families enjoyed skating with all of the players and some of the staff as holiday music filled the rink. Thank you to everyone that came out to this event and made our night!
See you in January:
After a long week of the Akimov and McCarthy/Christensen combo grabbing 6 points for this team, the whole squad gets a break. With the holiday season upon all of us, there is a break in most OJHL hockey. Your Oakville Blades will put on a show for you next in January, on the 6th, when Leamington circles back to Oakville for a matchup between two of the stronger teams in the conference. The very next day, the Blades will hurry over to the Duncan Memorial Gardens in Trenton to play against the Golden Hawks in a matinée game. These will be two tough but important games.
Remember to get your Centennial Cup Ticket Packages, now! There is a special discount for the holidays and all tickets are transferable. The 20 game family package for 2 adults and 2 children, includes all the games minus the 5 games that will occur during school/work hours. The 25 games single packages include all the games.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year Blades fans!