ANAF Bantams get big point at home Saturday against Cougars
By Pat Payton
PETROLIA – The Royal Canadian Legion A-E Midgets made it four OMHA playoff wins in a row here last Wednesday night.
Aaron Vernooy fired a hat trick to pace Bob Davis’s squad to a 6-3 victory over the home-town Oilers in the first game of a best-of-five, second-round series. “That line just seemed to click,” said coach Davis, pointing to the trio of Vernooy, Jake Pfaff and Loghan Hodkinson.
After the teams were tied 2-2 at the end of the first period, the Rock out-scored the Oilers 3-1 in the middle frame and then tacked on another insurance marker in the third.
“We came out strong,” Davis continued. “We’ve been working on a few things in practices.
“The guys are working really hard in practice, and they’re learning the things that we’ve been working on in practice. And the guys are working well together, which is nice to see. We’re all on the same page.”
Nic Kiestra posted the net win for the Legion. “Nic was good; he played exceptionally well in the third period,” coach Davis added.
Game 2 was Monday night at the PRC. Game 3 is back in Petrolia this Wednesday, Feb. 5 at 7 o’clock. If necessary, Game 4 is Thursday in St. Marys at 8 p.m.
ANAF Bantams down 3-1 to Cougars
The ANAF ‘BB’ Bantams opened their second-round OMHA playoff series at Mt. Brydges last Wednesday, losing 4-1 to the Cougars.
After going the full five games with Strathroy, coach Dale Switzer admits that his team has to switch gears and adjust to a new playoff opponent.
“Mt. Brydges plays very physical; they’re a big, strong team,” Switzer said. “I think we’re a better skating team than them, but they were more aggressive on the puck and on the body. It’s a smaller rink in Mt. Brydges and they know how to take advantage of it. We were also down a couple of bodies and that didn’t help, either.
“You come off an emotional Game 5 and then go right into the next series, sometimes you don’t have the same jump in that first game. We were hoping for a little more, but we didn’t get it.”
Cougars built a 4-0 lead before winger Finn Stewart scored St. Marys’ lone goal with about three and a half minutes remaining to play.
“We weren’t putting the puck in the net on our powerplays. That was the biggest difference,” coach Switzer noted.
Big point at home Saturday
On Saturday at the PRC, Dale Switzer admitted that it was a big point for his team. A goal by Peyton Lobb with just 23.5 seconds remaining in the third gave the ANAF Bantams a 3-3 tie. Ten minutes of overtime went scoreless.
The outcome left Cougars with a 3-1 lead in points in the six-point series. After the game, coach Switzer said he didn’t want to go back to Mt. Brydges Monday down four points to none.
“We were very happy to get the tie, but at the same time if we would have shown that energy early, we wouldn’t have been in the situation where we had to scramble for a tie.
“But we were also down some bodies today with kids sick and kids hurt. The affiliate players (Lucas McCurdy and Jake Grant) came up and did a real good job for us.” Goalie Josh Ballantyne also dressed as back-up.
Goalie Kiefer MacNeil had an outstanding game for St. Marys.
Cougars led 2-1 at the end of two periods, with Owen Boyd scoring for the ANAF squad. Ian Boyd tied it 2-2 with 5:23 left in the third. After killing off a late penalty, Mt. Brydges took a 3-2 lead with just 52 seconds to play.
Lobb’s tying goal late in the game–his third point of the contest–came with MacNeil on the bench for a sixth attacker. Defenceman Lucan Vernooy assisted.
“We always knew we could play with them, it’s just a matter if we decide to,” Switzer added. “It depends if we show up and work hard. Both teams have some quality players, and if you don’t work hard you’re going to get beat.”
The Rock played Saturday’s game without two key defencemen–captain Ethan Brine and RJ Martin. “We hope to have some bodies back by Monday,” the coach said. “Regardless, we’ll play with what we have.”
Game 4 is Wednesday in St. Marys at 8:30 p.m. If necessary, Game 5 is back in Mt. Brydges Saturday at 4:20 p.m.