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Recap of Games 1-3 of Round Two

COLLINGWOOD, ON - MARCH 22: Jeriah Shantz #48 of the Oakville Blades and Marcus Lougheed #9 of the Collingwood Blues at the face off during the first period at the Eddie Bush Memorial Arena on March 22, 2024 in Ontario, Canada (Photo by Jamie Green / OJHL Images)

By Ty Brooks

 

Game 1 in Collingwood was an exciting matchup between two teams we knew would play a close game, and that’s what happened. Despite the snowstorm, the Collingwood faithful came out to make it a vibrant atmosphere, with over 1,000 fans in attendance. That’s certainly a difficult building to go to and find success in, but the Blades did nonetheless. While they were able to find success, it wasn’t to the extent that they needed to seal off a victory against such a strong team, and they would finish 60 minutes of play with a 3-2 loss.

 

March 22nd @ Collingwood Blues

Blades Top Players:

McCarthy 36/39 SVS .923 SV%

Clarke 1G

Shantz 1G

 

This was certainly a playoff atmosphere in the arena, and the rough, gritty game played by both teams further exemplified that it was the postseason. While the number of penalties was nothing crazy, it was the reason for the penalties themselves that indicated a heightened level of aggression for playoff time. Cross-checking (x3), slashing (x2), boarding, roughing, holding, and unsportsmanlike conduct are just some of the penalties that have led us to believe that these two teams aren’t going to have a friendly series.

 

What added even more chaos to this game was the scoring starting within the first minute of play. It was a rather strange play, but it was a goal and an early lead for Oakville. It happened at 0:54 of the 1st period when Shantz was pressuring the opposing defenceman and while trying to clear the puck out of his own zone, the defenceman instead hit Shantz, and the puck ricocheted into the net off his leg. It was not a pretty goal, but maybe the hockey gods rewarded Shantz for the hard work he’s been doing all season and into the playoffs.

 

Collingwood looked super determined to get back into the game and even had a couple of power plays, but didn’t manage to tie it up until the very last second of the period. That’s right, a goal no team likes to give up, at the very last second of the first period. It was unfortunate, and it really brought back life to the Blues fans.

 

The second period started, and while it may seem like it was a decent period as they did score, it was their worst of the game for sure. McCarthy was forced to face 22 shots (including a penalty shot he turned away) in just 20 minutes and turned away 21 of them. The Blades were also the only team penalized in that period, getting four calls against them in a row and really just derailing the period for themselves as they couldn’t generate any momentum after constantly being on the penalty kill. Luckily, before this string of penalties, the former Collingwood Blues player and Blades current co-captain Sean Clarke scored against his former team. It was a great shot from the circle as he came off the boards and noticed the goaltender screened. He ripped it high blocker and put the Blades back into the lead at the time. Unfortunately, the Blades weren’t able to kill off all of their penalties, and we ended 40 minutes with a 2-2 score.

 

The 3rd period was a big improvement on the 2nd, but it wasn’t perfect. The team took another two penalties at 00:49 and 2:58, which once again took away any momentum they had early and made it six penalties in a row. An exhausted penalty killing squad could not hold back the power play forever, and Collingwood took their first lead of the game at 2:34 of the 3rd. With a few minutes left, the Blades pulled their goaltender. In the final minutes, both teams had Grade A scoring chances, and Collingwood even took a penalty, making it a 6-on-4. Despite all the bodies and shots all over the ice, neither team scored, and we finished the game 3-2 in favour of Collingwood.

 

March 23rd vs. Collingwood Blues

Blades Top Players:

McCarthy 31/34 SVS .912 SV%

Clarke 1G

Crisp 1G

 

After a close first game, the two teams came back right away and played each other the very next night for game 2 in Oakville. It was another tight contest between the two teams for the 750+ fans in attendance. It was significantly less penalized than the first game, and 5 out of the 6 goals were scored at even strength.

 

Clarke opened the scoring for the home crowd at 3:49 of the first with a great redirection goal in front of the net off a deceptive pass from Gleb Akimov. It was a smart play that utilized the Blues netminder’s lateral movement against him to score and take the lead. Credit also goes to Cole McKenna for the secondary assist. Despite the offensive success in the first, which included outshooting the opposition 11-9, Collingwood scored a goal of their own. As a result, we finished the opening 20 minutes tied at 1-1.

 

It was at 6:03 of the 2nd period when Crisp would add to the Blades total and make the game 2-1. A faceoff in the left circle saw Belanger win it clean back to Crisp, who did a quick catch-and-release shot that would beat Noah Pak up high over the blocker. The total shots in this period had gone up dramatically compared to the first, and the Blues scored once on their 18 second period shots. About 3 minutes after the Blades goal, it was 2-2, and that’s the way it would stay for the rest of the period.

 

The third period was remarkably similar in both games. The shots became much more limited as both teams became more risk-averse and focused on not giving up opportunities over generating their own. Unfortunately, what was also similar was the goal scoring. Throughout the first two games, the Blades only trailed in the third period but were never able to finish off the Collingwood Blues. Consequently, both times, the Blades dropped a super-close game by a close score. The Blues win this one 4-2 (including an empty net goal).

 

March 25th @ Collingwood Blues

Blades Top Players:

Yovetich 1G

 

The Blades are a strong team, so to say games with results like this one are rare would be completely accurate. Not one time in the regular season did the Blades lose with such a big goal difference. In fact, with the exception of one game with nine goals against, no other team scored more than six, which also only happened once. To allow 10 goals against in a 10-1 loss is not even remotely close to what the Blades were looking for in Game 3.

 

It was the result of a disastrous first period, where the Blades normally start strong. A failed start of epic proportions saw 29 shots against (only 3 for) and 7 goals against in the first 20 minutes. Once that happens, there isn’t much to look forward to for the rest of the game. You’d have a hard time putting the blame on any one individual, as the whole team effort was just nowhere near where it needed to be.

 

Although it’s small, there is one positive that came out of this game. The Blades scored their first power play goal of the series, and it was a special one. Logan Yovetich scored his first ever Jr. A playoff goal! It was a really impressive deflection goal that completely fooled the goaltender. The shot, which came from Luke Allison, also marks a first for him, that first being his first Jr. A playoff point! While these were small victories, it’s encouraging to know that the sophomore forward and rookie defenceman are working hard no matter the situation.

 

If anyone knows what happened best out there, it’s the players. They don’t need exterior noise telling them what happened; they lived it firsthand. They know what they did wrong, what they need to fix, and especially how badly they need to avoid starting slow again. Remember, this team looked competitive for two games against the Blues; they can do it again. Their focus is now fully on staving off elimination, and I don’t imagine this team is going to go out easily.

 

Back in Oakville

Circle March 27th on your calendars, as that is the next Oakville Blades hockey game. It will be played at the Sixteen Mile Sports Complex, and one would have to imagine that it will be an extremely scrappy game, especially with 16 penalties in Collingwood on Monday. This will be a 7:30 PM start, meaning it will be 30 minutes later than the usual start time at home. As mentioned, this is an elimination game for Oakville; if they lose, you won’t see them again until the Centennial Cup. So come out, support the team, make lots of noise, and let’s get a big win at home!