‘Best game of the year’ in 4-1 win over Strathroy
By Pat Payton and Stewart Grant
For the second straight playoff series, the Cement ‘BB’ Midgets saved their best game for last.
In front of approximately 200 spectators on Monday night, the Cement men closed out their series against the Strathroy Jr. Rockets with a solid 4-1 victory. Similar to their recent six-game win against Dorchester, the series against Strathroy went the distance.
“It was our best game of the year probably,” said coach Brent Rae. “It was a quick paced game, and the boys did the little things that we’ve been preaching. Plus, tonight was the first time we’ve had a full lineup in some time. We’ve had a lot of games this year when we’ve only had 8, 9, or 10 skaters (due to injuries), but tonight we had 14 skaters.”
After a scoreless first period, Kaleb Schalk opened the scoring in the second, making a great play to break through the Strathroy defense and fire the puck past the Rockets’ goaltender. Ethan Froggett then capitalized on a Strathroy turnover and backhanded a shot into the net, for what would turn out to be the winning goal.
Rock goaltender Jake Bryans made a number of key saves in the game but none were more exciting than his daring poke-check dive in the second period to thwart an incoming Rocket player. The crowd oohed and awed as subsequent Strathroy attempts to score were denied.
Keegan Nethercott made it 3-0 for the Rock early in the third period, flying down the left side and firing a shot top corner.
The Rockets pressed late in the third period and broke the shutout on a screened shot from the point. However, Owen McIntosh put the game out of reach with an empty net goal to give the Rock the 4-1 win.
St. Marys now advances to the OMHA quarter-finals where they face the Caledonia Thunder.
Jr. Rockets force game six
In Game 5 Saturday in Strathroy, the Jr. Rockets won 3-1 to tie the six-point playoff series at five points apiece.
The Jr. Rockets opened the scoring on a powerplay midway through the first period, and then netted what proved to be the winner directly off a face-off with just 35 seconds remaining in the middle frame.
The Cement men scored their lone goal with about five minutes left in the third. Defenceman Mason Boonstra was the marksman after a nice pass from Keegan Nethercott. The Rock pulled goalie Aaron Waugh for a sixth attacker, “and we had one good chance before they scored into the empty net with eight seconds left,” Rae said.
Two each for Schalk, Reay
In Game 4 last Thursday night in St. Marys, forwards Kaleb Schalk and captain Nathan Reay fired two goals apiece in a 5-3 Cement Midgets’ victory. The win gave the Rock a five points to three series lead, and the game was another hard-hitting, penalty-filled contest between the two Shamrock League rivals.
Trailing 1-0 early, the Cement men struck for three goals in a span of just 1:44 late in the first period to grab the lead for good. Schalk had two of the St. Marys goals and Keegan Nethercott the other in the outburst.
“That’s what we’ve been preaching all series, get pucks on net and go to the net and bang them in,” coach Rae said. “Their goalie isn’t that great; we just have to get to him.”
Just 21 seconds into the middle frame, Reay put the Rock up 4-1 and the goal would stand up as the game winner. Shortly after, the home team killed off a 5-on-3 Strathroy powerplay, with goalie Jake Bryans making several big stops from point-blank range.
After the Jr. Rockets closed the gap to 4-2 at 6:37, the Cement men had a 5-on-3 powerplay for four minutes, but couldn’t add to their lead.
Reay, who had a strong game, gave the Rock breathing room again when he scored on a 4-on-3 powerplay 63 seconds into the third. The visitors completed the scoring at the 6:14 mark.
Centre Ethan Froggett chipped in a pair of assists for St. Marys.
Jr. Rockets even series
In Game 3 last Tuesday in Strathroy, the Jr. Rockets evened the series at three points apiece with a 2-0 win.
Both Strathroy goals came in the second period. Aaron Waugh faced 52 shots in the St. Marys net, finishing with 50 saves.
“They definitely out-played us,” coach Rae said. “It wasn’t our best game. I don’t think we’ve played our best game yet in the series.”
Bounce back on home ice
In Game 2 at the PRC last Monday, Feb. 3, the Cement Midgets bounced back from an early 1-0 deficit to earn a 3-1 victory over the Jr. Rockets in a feisty, physical affair.
After Strathroy opened the scoring with a powerplay goal at 5:23 of the first period, Nathan Reay tied it late in the middle frame from linemate Keegan Nethercott.
The Cement men dominated the final 15 minutes, scoring two unanswered goals to claim the win and a three points to one series lead. Jacob Boyd scored what proved to be the winner at the 7:20 mark, tapping in his own rebound. Assists went to Ethan Froggett and Mason Boonstra.
Froggett then fired a big insurance goal for the Rock with just 3:20 left to play. Reay and Nethercott drew assists on the powerplay tally.