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Recap of Game One and Preview of Game Two

OAKVILLE, ON - MAY 10:Kenneth Belanger #77 of the Oakville Blades knocks down Cole Foston #12 of the Miramichi Timberwolves in the crease during the third period at the Sixteen Mile Sports Complex on May 10, 2024 in Ontario, Canada (Photo by Ray MacAloney / OJHL Images)

By Ty Brooks

Game Recap:

The Blades have played their first game of the tournament, and it looks like there will be some catching up that they need to do. Despite a wild third period push that saw them score three goals in six minutes, the team dropped their first game of the Centennial Cup round robin to the Miramichi Timberwolves of the Maritime Hockey League. A defeat like this is hard to take in, but Miramichi’s defence simply played a better game that night.

 

The Blades started off by scoring the first goal of the game, a deflection off Eric Bonsteel’s shot that landed Luke Johnston the honours of the first Blades goal of the tournament. Despite the early lead, it was really Miramichi that was playing better hockey for most of the period, and they were rewarded for it in the dying seconds of the first period when they tied the game up.

 

After giving up momentum to end the first, it only went downhill from there, as at 5:35, 5:50, and 10:34, the Timberwolves scored three in a row to quickly make this game seem out of reach for Oakville. The Timberwolves were capitalizing on the poor neutral zone play that Oakville had in the second period, and it really paid off for them.

 

When the third period started, not many people were expecting what was about to happen. Channelled with newfound energy in their game, the Blades began to claw their way back. Two net front goals and a little bit of puck luck on a mid-range shot saw the Blades record not one, not two, but three goals only six minutes into the period. The star of the period and the game was Sault Ste. Marie native Kenny Belanger, who is appearing in his second Centennial Cup tournament notched two goals and an assist in that six-minute span as the driving factor behind the Blades comeback.

 

After all of those shots, hits, and goals that led to a tie game, Miramichi gathered themselves nicely and ended up scoring three more times at 9:50, 13:06, and 19:30 to get their first win of the Centennial Cup and leave Oakville wanting more from their performance. 7-4 is your final score.

 

All hope is not lost, as there were some great individual performances, notably from the following players:

  • Belanger 2G, 1A
  • Luke Johnston 2G
  • Smallegange 2A
  • Bonsteel 1A

 

If you watched the game on Friday, you would have also noticed two new players were inserted into the Blades lineup. Matthew Downie (#24) and Evan Headrick (#23), a left-shot defenseman and a right shot centre, played big parts in this game and were among the players that played notably well despite not recording any points.

 

After not playing competitive Jr. A hockey since March, it was no surprise that the team would be rusty, but this was beyond what we were all expecting. There’s no time to dwell, though, as the team goes right back into action this Saturday at 7:30 PM, where they’ll face the SIJHL champions in the Sioux Lookout Bombers.

 

Game Preview:

Game 2 of the Blades Centennial Cup run takes place on May 11th against the Sioux Lookout Bombers, champions of the Superior International Junior Hockey League. Although the league is a little smaller than most other Jr. A leagues in the country, the talent of the players should not be discounted. The Bombers went 35-10 in the regular season and then an impressive 12-1 in the postseason to clinch the league title.

 

They have a lot of productive forwards and defensemen, but where they stood well above the rest of the league was in the goaltending department. Their goaltenders posted .939 and .938 save percentages through 27 and 16 games, respectively. On top of that, their starter Jack Osmond was lights out in the SIJHL playoffs, recording a .944 save percentage through their 13 games. That will likely be the biggest obstacle the Blades face in this game.

 

Sioux Lookout has already played a game in this tournament, a 4-2 loss to the MJHL champion Winkler Flyers, whom the Blades will be playing after Sioux Lookout. This is a smaller, but very fast team (just like Miramichi), and they’ll definitely have watched the previous Blades game as they get ready to hit the ice again with a day’s worth of rest, something the Oakville Blades don’t have the luxury of right now.