Special to The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Completing a thrilling comeback, against the North Kawartha Knights in their Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) Orr Division quarterfinal series, has earned the Uxbridge Bruins a date with the regular season champion Lakefield Chiefs in the semifinals.
The Bruins capped a thrilling back-and-forth series with the Knights, by posting a 3-2 overtime win, at the Bear Den on Friday night, followed by a dramatic 7-5 victory in Game 7, less than 24 hours later in Apsley.
Earlier in the week, the Knights were able to take a pair of 4-3 wins, in overtime in Uxbridge on Monday as well as the next night in Apsley, and push themselves to a three-games-to-two advantage in the series.
With their backs against the wall, the Bruins stormed out of the gates, at the Bear Den on Friday night, spurred on by the largest crowd of the season to date. Uxbridge controlled the pace early on, with Coby Gardner and Aiden Reilly buzzing all over the ice, creating several excellent opportunities for the home side.
With just over six minutes to play in the opening stanza, Adam Bartholomew slammed in a shot from the point, assisted by Gardner and Wes Cowie, to give the Bruins a 1-0 advantage through 20 minutes of play.
The second period saw sensational saves, from Jake Joosten and North Kawartha’s Spencer Green as they duelled to keep the score steady at 1-0. With just over four minutes remaining in the second, Gardner made a spectacular play, dusting himself off from a devastating hit behind the net, to bat the puck out of midair behind Joosten, robbing the Knights of a certain goal.
Less than a minute later, the momentum swung back to Uxbridge, as Nick Sribny fought through traffic in front of the net to score on a rebound and push the Bruins’ lead to 2-0. However, the Knights would break up Joosten’s shutout bid, with a power play goal late in the second, to close the gap to a single score.
With both sides desperate to score in the third period, the Knights made the most of a late 5-on-3 situation scoring another power play goal, with just over six minutes remaining, to force another overtime encounter.
Just over two minutes into the extra frame, Damien Heinle would prove the hero for the delirious Uxbridge crowd, when he corralled a loose puck from Reilly and flipped the puck just out of Green’s grasp to force a do-or-die Game 7, the following night in Apsley.
In Game 7, the Bruins rolled through the first 41 minutes of action, taking a commanding 7-1 lead. Reilly and Heinle scored in the first and second periods, with Cowie and Simon Feig adding to the scoresheet in the second. A powerplay goal by Robert Freckelton less than a minute into the third period pushed the Bruins’ lead to six goals.
However, the tide would turn shortly afterwards, with the Knights lighting the lamp four times, in a disastrous nine-minute stretch in the third period. But, the Bruins found their footing and were able to claw their way back into the game, keeping the North Kawartha attack at bay down the stretch, to emerge victorious and secure their place in the Orr Division semifinals.
- The Bruins’ series with Lakefield began on the road on Tuesday night, after The Standard’s press deadline, and will shift back to Uxbridge on Friday night at 7:45 p.m. The action continues in Lakefield, on Sunday, Feb. 26th at 8:30 p.m., returning to Uxbridge, on Monday, Feb. 27th for Game 4 at 8:30 p.m. If necessary, Game 5 is slated for Tuesday night in Lakefield, Game 6 will be back in Uxbridge on Friday, March 3rd, and Game 7 goes at 1:30 p.m. in Lakefield on Sunday, March 5th.
- Following their Game 6 win, Uxbridge revealed they will be without defenceman Adam Bartholomew for the remainder of the playoffs, due to medical reasons. The veteran blueliner was a physical force against the Knights, as well as contributing four goals and an assist through six games. The Standard wishes him a speedy recovery.