Rock team wins three times in Strathroy, claims league ‘A’ playoff title
By Pat Payton
STRATHROY – You could say the ANAF ‘BB’ Bantams earned the moniker ‘road warriors’ in the Shamrock League ‘A’ playoff final.
Brandon Boyd’s charges won all three games at Strathroy’s Gemini Arena in the series. A 4-1 victory over the Jr. Rockets here last Friday night gave St. Marys the six-point SHL championship final seven points to three.
It was also a little payback for the ANAF squad, who lost to Strathroy on home ice in the sixth and deciding game of an OMHA playoff series earlier this season.
In Friday’s Game 5, the Rock got off to a quick start–scoring twice before the contest was five minutes old. Carter Reid made it 1-0 at 1:27, from Aaron Vernooy and Porter Aitken, and Ben Richardson fired what proved to be the winner at 4:36 from Keegan Nethercott and Kirk Boreham.
It stayed 2-0 St. Marys until late in the middle frame when Ryan Sanders pulled Jr. Rockets to within a goal.
Winger Kaleb Schalk restored a two-goal advantage for the visitors with 6:30 remaining in the third. Assists went to defenceman R.J. Martin and goalie Nic Kiestra. Captain Ethan Froggett completed the scoring into an empty Strathroy net with just three seconds left on the clock. Defenceman Mason Boonstra assisted.
Friday’s game was the 11th playoff contest this year between the two teams, who combined for 32 minutes in penalties.
Rockets extend series
In Game 4 Thursday night at the PRC, the Jr. Rockets stayed alive with a nail-biting 1-0 victory.
“They were playing like their season was on the line, and we frankly weren’t,” coach Boyd said afterwards. “It was a good back-and-forth game, but Strathroy had a little extra jump. And you don’t win too many games when you don’t score any goals. We either score in bunches on this goalie (Luke Winegarden) or we don’t score at all. It’s a funny thing.”
The teams came out and set a fast pace, and traded first-period scoring chances. Just under six minutes into the middle frame, defenceman Mason Boonstra’s shot beat Winegarden, but not the post. In the dying seconds of the period, St. Marys goalie Nic Kiestra made a couple of huge point-blank stops to keep the game scoreless.
The only goal of the night came at 1:54 of the third when Rockets’ captain Logan Parker capitalized on a turnover in the ANAF zone. The Rock had a great opportunity to pull even with a four-minute powerplay midway through the period, but couldn’t get a puck past Winegarden. “It would have been nice to bury a couple of our chances, especially on that four-minute powerplay,” Boyd noted.
Coach Boyd pulled Kiestra for a sixth attacker with 1:09 remaining, but the visitors held on to play another night.
The two teams, who clearly grew to dislike each other during the series, combined for 42 penalty minutes in the hard-hitting affair.
Looking ahead, Boyd said his team has to capitalize on rebounds around the Strathroy net.
“Tonight, our puck possession wasn’t necessarily there. (Friday) night we get Keegan Nethercott back in the line-up, and he should really boost our offence. We just need some creativity and more offensive zone time, and I think we can win,” he added.
Take commanding lead
In Game 3 last Tuesday night in Strathroy, the ANAF Bantams took a commanding 5-1 series lead in points with a 5-0 victory over the Rockets. “We took it to them,” Brandon Boyd reported.
Affiliate skater Jake Littlejohn fired a pair of goals for St. Marys, with the singles going to Ben Richardson, Aaron Vernooy and Mason Boonstra. Nic Kiestra recorded the shutout.
The Rock built period leads of 1-0 and 2-0, and then sealed the deal with three more goals in the first eight minutes of the third.
Tale of the tape: The ANAF Bantams out-scored the Jr. Rockets 12-2 in the three games in Strathroy. In the two games in St. Marys, Rockets out-scored the Rock 3-2.