By Pat Payton
“It stings for sure,” coach Brandon Boyd said Monday night at the PRC.
It summed up the way the ANAF ‘BB’ Bantams were feeling after losing the sixth and deciding game 2-1 in overtime to Strathroy Jr. Rockets. The win gave Strathroy the six-point OMHA playoff series seven points to five, and a berth in the provincial quarter-finals.
“It was the definition of a playoff game right there,” coach Boyd said. “There were no penalties; the refs let the teams decide it. It came down to whoever got the bounce.
“Strathroy is a good team. They have some studs up front and they know how to protect the front of their net. Tonight, they came to play.”
In a fast-paced game, St. Marys winger Keegan Nethercott opened the scoring early in the second period from Ethan Brine. Rock goalie Nic Kiestra made a handful of big stops in the period to keep his team in front.
The Rockets’ Dante Brock tied it at 2:38 of the third, and teammate Cameron MacKey won it at 8:10 of the first 10-minute overtime period. After losing 5-0 and 3-0 in the first two games in St. Marys, they were the only two goals that Strathroy scored at the PRC in the series.
“Kiestra stood on his head; they could have easily had two or three more,” Boyd said.
Rockets tie series on home ice
In Game 5 Saturday in Strathroy, the ANAF Bantams were hoping to end the series with a win or a tie. However, the Jr. Rockets had other ideas and tied the series at five points apiece with a 3-0 victory.
A first-period powerplay goal stood up as the game winner, and then the home team tacked on two insurance markers in the final five minutes of the third. The second Strathroy goal was also with the man advantage, and the third into an empty St. Marys net.
It set the stage for Monday’s sixth and deciding game.
Schalk fires pair in Game 4
In Game 4 last Thursday night at the PRC, a pair of goals by winger Kaleb Schalk and shutout goaltending by Nic Kiestra helped spark the ANAF Bantams to a 3-0 win. The win gave St. Marys a five points to three lead in the series.
Schalk fired what proved to be the winner at 5:52 of the first period after he picked off an errant pass in the Strathroy zone.
Keegan Nethercott–who had a strong series–made it 2-0 on a powerplay at 1:45 of the middle frame, stuffing it home from behind the Jr. Rockets’ net. Assists went to captain Ethan Froggett and Ben Turner. Schalk added his second of the night at 12:48 from Nethercott and Froggett.
Kiestra earned his shutout with big stops on Strathroy powerplays–late in the second period and again in a scoreless third.
Coach Boyd gave special praise to his defensive core, in particular Ben Turner and Mason Boonstra, and to goaltender Kiestra who posted his second shutout of the series. And he also gave high marks to “penalty-killing specialist” Aaron Vernooy.
“Tonight, our defence really came to play,” Boyd said. “Strathroy has a shifting powerplay arrangement, and our defence did a good job of keeping them to the outside. And Kiestra bails us out time and time again. He gives us a chance to win every game.”
Boyd said he’d love to finish the series Saturday in Strathroy.
“We seem to have our legs when we play in St. Marys, moreso than when we play on the road,” he said. “All year long, we’ve never played well in that barn (in Strathroy). I can’t explain it. We’re going to try and take that home-ice mentality in there and step out onto the ice with that same mindset.”
ANAF Bantams get late tie
In Game 3 last Tuesday in Strathroy, Kaleb Schalk’s goal with just 25 seconds left in regulation time gave the ANAF Bantams a 1-1 tie. The goal came with Nic Kiestra on the bench for an extra attacker. Ethan Froggett and Mason Boonstra drew assists.
Ten minutes of sudden-death overtime went scoreless, leaving the teams with three points apiece in the series.
After two scoreless periods, the Jr. Rockets opened the scoring on a powerplay with 6:42 remaining in the third.
“We don’t have the same jump down there as we do at home. But we stayed with them, fought some adversity and came back,” coach Boyd reported.
Frayne Bantams facing Mt. Brydges
The Frayne Custom Cabinets A-E Bantams will meet Mt. Brydges Cougars in the second round of OMHA playoffs.
The best-of-five series begins Wednesday, Feb. 13 in St. Marys at 8:30 p.m.
Game 2 is Saturday, Feb. 16 in Mt. Brydges at 3:05 p.m. Game 3 is also in Mt. Brydges on Monday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. If necessary, Game 4 is in St. Marys on Tuesday, Feb. 19 at 8:30 p.m.