Having gradually come closer and closer to overcoming their Petrolia counterparts during match-ups earlier in the 2012-13 hockey season, the St. Marys Home Building Centre A-E Peewees finally broke through at a crucial time last Wednesday, Jan. 23.
Thanks to multiple-point games from linemates Julien Boyer and Madison Walsh, as well as defenceman Milton Ulch (and despite a Pyramid Centre score-clock malfunction that forced the teams and referees to rely on stopwatches for much of the third period), the Rock earned a 4-1 home-ice victory in the opening game of their three-team, preliminary round-robin OMHA playoff series.
Next up is the A-E Peewees’ first round-robin game against Strathroy tonight (Wednesday, Jan. 30) at home. They follow that up with road games Saturday against Petrolia, and next Tuesday, Feb. 5 in Strathroy.
Only one team advances
Only one team out of the three will advance to the next OMHA playoff round.
Early in the season, the Rock lost both of their Shamrock League regular-season games to Strathroy, as well as a nail-biting 4-3 home-ice loss to Petrolia that saw a late St. Marys goal called back due to the referee losing sight of the puck.
But late in 2012, Rock coaches Casey Boyer and Steph Audet saw their charges gain confidence, resulting in much better results against both of their OMHA preliminary round opponents.
In their Regional Silver Stick tournament match-ups, St. Marys goalie Devin Jackson shut down Strathroy in a convincing 4-0 Rock win — a victory that set the team up for a tournament semi-final tilt against Petrolia.
That semi-final ticked down to the last half-minute of play with the teams tied 2-2, but the Oilers capitalized on a St. Marys line change to win it before eventually moving on to capture the tournament crown.
Then on the final weekend of the Shamrock regular season, St. Marys travelled to Petrolia and led 2-1 late in the game, before allowing an other late-game tally and settling for a hard-fought 2-2 tie.
Rock battles back in opener
Last Wednesday at the Pyramid Centre, St. Marys gave up the first goal of the game against Petrolia, and relied on Jackson to help them escape unscathed from a series of late-game penalties. But they eventually prevailed 4-1, in a game that featured the largest margin of difference between the two teams so far this season.
Oilers’ Braedon Nickles intercepted a Rock pass and broke in alone on Jackson with just over two minutes gone in the first period, scoring an unassisted goal to put his team up 1-0. But the lead was short-lived; by the time the period was half-gone, the home team had scored two powerplay goals to make it 2-1 St. Marys.
Walsh got the first one, spinning on her skates to back-hand home the puck after Boyer had worked it in front of the Petrolia net. Lakin Hillman also assisted.
Then Nick Edgar banged in a loose puck, after linemates Mason Vernooy and Brecken Glousher had earlier chances.
In the second period, Petrolia continued to pay for its infractions, finding themselves down five skaters to three due to undisciplined play. From a face-off, Rock forwards Aaron Lane and Sean Slater worked the puck back and forth along the side boards, before sending it to the centre of the offensive zone where Ulch was waiting to fire a low wrist shot through legs and into the Oilers’ net.
Then with 6:23 to play in the period, Boyer and Walsh combined once again — this time with Boyer pulling the trigger. Ulch also assisted.
In the third period, Oilers settled into some strong pressure in a bid to erase the St. Marys lead, and the Rock was forced to take three successive minor penalties.
But the penalty-killers — including Lane, who took a hard shot off the ankle and hobbled to the bench late in the game — and especially goaltender Jackson were equal to the task, holding off the charge and keeping the score at 4-1.