St. Marys down 2-0 after first two games on weekend
By Pat Payton
MIDLAND – It’s now one game at a time for the Golf and Country Club ‘BB’ Atoms.
Two close losses to the Midland Centennials this past weekend leaves the Rock facing elimination in their best-of-five OMHA final series. One advantage for St. Marys is that two of the next three games are on home ice.
Game 3 is this Saturday at the PRC, again at 1:45 p.m. If necessary, Game 4 is Sunday back in Midland at 2 p.m.
The G&CC Atoms must get off to quicker starts, veteran coach Ken Schiedel told the Independent.
“We’ve had slow starts the last three games,” Schiedel noted. “Midland has taken it to us from the drop of the puck, so we have to be ready to match that.
“We know what they’re going to do and they’re going to come hard. They’re probably the fastest team we’ve faced and they’re pretty balanced.”
Midland 3 – St. Marys 2
Here last Sunday afternoon, a goal with just 1:58 remaining snapped a 2-2 tie and lifted Centennials to a 3-2 victory.
Midland stunned the G&CC Atoms with two early goals in Game 2. The home team scored 41 seconds into the contest, and again before the two-minute mark of the first period.
The Rock narrowed the margin to 2-1 midway through the period when Nate Schiedel connected from Evan Ballantyne. Winger Hayden Brintnell then tied it early in the middle frame, with Griffin McGregor assisting.
The score stayed deadlocked until the Centennials’ Curtis Warren scored the winner late in the third.
Midland 3 – St. Marys 1
After the series opener Saturday afternoon at the PRC, both head coaches agreed that the series would likely be decided by breaks.
The provincial final features two evenly-matched and well-coached teams. Both are good skating and puck-moving squads, and the winner will likely be the team that simply wants it more and/or gets more favourable bounces of the puck.
“I think it’s going to be a very close series,” Midland coach Jim McLaren said after Centennials skated to a hard-fought 3-1 victory in front of a big crowd. “That being said, I don’t think we played our best hockey today and we hope to show that tomorrow (Sunday) in Midland.
“Bounces and ugly goals will likely determine this one,” he added with a laugh.
Coach Dan Schiedel echoed the same sentiments down the hallway.
“I think it’s going to come down to chances and who makes the most of their opportunities,” he said. “It’s going to be the team that makes the most number of plays and capitalizes on them.”
Both goalies, the Rock’s Cyler Pickering and Midland’s Mason Downs, played well in Game 1.
The teams came out tentatively, neither wanting to mistake in a tight-checking and cautiously-played first period.
Drew Robson gave Centennials a 1-0 lead at 5:19 of the opening frame when his knuckleball of a shot found the top corner of the net.
St. Marys winger Hayden Brintnell tied it on a powerplay at 1:16 of the second period. Colton Henderson took the initial shot, and Brintnell flipped home the rebound after Downs had juggled the puck.
With the momentum, the Rock pushed for the go-ahead goal and Downs made a huge goal-mouth pad save on Callum McIntosh shortly after.
Owen Fuller regained the lead for Midland at the 6:09 mark after a turnover in the Rock zone. Pickering shone late in the middle frame, making three huge stops–including back-to-back saves from point-blank range–to keep his team within striking distance.
The G&CC squad tried to generate scoring chances in the third, but found it tough penetrating a solid Midland defence as Centennials seemed to be content protecting their one-goal lead.
With 1:32 remaining, coach Schiedel pulled his goalie for a sixth attacker and Midland’s Cole Warren scored into an empty St. Marys net with 42 seconds left on the clock.
“I thought our guys battled hard today,” Schiedel said. “We got off to a little slower start than we wanted to. Maybe it was nerves today and getting a little feel for Midland.
“We had a couple of good chances to tie it up late in the third, and their goalie made some nice saves. He’s solid in net and we’re going to have to find a way to get a couple more past him.”
Good transition game
Schiedel said he learned a couple of things from the Midland team.
“Midland transitions well,” he noted. “When the puck is turned over in the neutral zone, they head the other way pretty quickly. We just have to be ready for that.
“They have four pretlty good defencemen who move the puck well and they’re also deep down the middle.”
Schiedel added that his team has to play a “simple” game.
“We have to get pucks deep,” he said. “We tried to carry the puck in a couple of times, and we were getting checked at the blue line. We just have to make the game a little simpler and go from there.”
The G&CC Atoms have played well on the road this season, and the St. Marys coach was confident looking ahead to Game 2 Sunday in Midland. “I don’t expect anything different tomorrow, and I know our guys will be ready to go,” Schiedel said.
–Niko Taylor, a Grade 5 student at Little Falls school, sang the national anthem prior to Saturday’s series opener at the PRC.
–Midland has five players back from last year’s team that defeated St. Marys in five games in the OMHA final.
–The two teams met in the final of the Huntsville Otters’ tournament in November, and Centennials won 3-1.