The Port Perry MoJacks have their backs up against the wall in their opening-round COJHL playoff match-up against the Little Britain Merchants, trailing two-games-to-one in the best-of-five series heading into a do-or-die Game 4 on Tuesday, Feb. 17, in Little Britain.
After skating to a 4-3 win in Game 1, at Scugog Arena on Wednesday, Feb. 11, the MoJacks dropped both weekend games. The Merchants bested Port Perry 1-0 in a goaltender’s duel on Saturday, Feb. 12, before rolling to a 5-2 win on Sunday afternoon in Port Perry.
“We’ve got to figure out what it takes to score in those dirty areas of the ice. And, we have to capitalize when the opportunity presents itself,” MoJacks Head Coach Clair Cornish said after Sunday’s setback.
The MoJacks were able to establish an early lead in the series when they defeated the Merchants in Game 1, the first playoff win for the club since Feb. 15, 2012.
“It was important for these guys to win a playoff game, since it hasn’t happened in three years,” Cornish said following Game 1, noting that the team has seen added pressure in the weeks leading up to the postseason.
“We’ve been playing playoff-style hockey games for the past three weeks, and tonight we played 58 minutes out of 60, which was a step in the right direction.”
First period goals from Jeff St. Pierre and Kyle Powell gave the MoJacks a 2-0 lead after twenty minutes in Game 1. COJHL Rookie of the Year Blake Shaw returned between the pipes for the MoJacks after being sidelined with an upper body injury, and made several acrobatic saves in the opening stanza.
COJHL MVP Terry Snoddon scored just past the mid-point of the second to cut the MoJacks’ lead, which was restored to two goals before the end of the middle frame behind a powerplay goal from Kyle Schweda.
A wraparound from Graham Lamers found the back of the net just over six minutes into the third period, opening a three-goal advantage for Port Perry. However, the Merchants would make things interesting down the stretch. A powerplay goal from Hayden Long with just over two minutes left cut the MoJacks’ lead to two goals, and with netminder Garrett Haden on the bench in favour of an extra attacker, Snoddon scored his second of the night to set up a frantic finish. The scoring stopped there however, as the MoJacks’ defence withstood an onslaught from the Merchants, with Shaw submitting several sensational saves to preserve the victory.
On Saturday night (Feb. 14), a powerplay goal in the first period from Brad Ward was all the scoring either side could muster, as the Merchants tied the series 1-1.
However, questionable officiating, dubbed by some observers as a ‘Valentine’s Day Massacre’ would overshadow an outstanding game from Shaw and Haden, as MoJacks captain Lucas Berkers and Merchants forward Mackenzie Smith were both issued match penalties for checking from behind, with the rare call resulting in a four-game suspension for each player.
“We’ve been facing adversity all season, and maybe that’s helping us now. We’ve had guys stepping up into different roles all season,” Merchants Head Coach Rob Louttit told The Standard.
Both sides were looking to take a decisive advantage in the series as they renewed hostilities for Game 3, at Scugog Arena on Sunday, Feb. 15.
Special teams provided the Merchants with a boost as they took a 2-0 lead early in the second period, behind a powerplay goal from Jesse Craig and a shorthanded marker from Snoddon.
Mason Patterson and Aiden Renouf would also light the lamp for Little Britain, before Powell broke up Haden’s shutout bid with just over five minutes remaining in the second period.
Just over three minutes into the third period with the MoJacks on the powerplay, Jeff St. Pierre drew the MoJacks to within two goals when he slammed in a rebound. But, it was short lived, as Renouf netted his second of the afternoon just 10 seconds later to round out the scoring.
“We’re learning what it takes to play playoff hockey,” Louttit said after the game. “Second chance efforts were the difference today, and our goalie has been standing on his head these past two games.”
However, the Merchant’s bench boss is expecting a tremendous response from the MoJacks, heading into Game 4, and possibly Game 5.
“This series isn’t over by a long shot. Port Perry doesn’t quit, and in our opinion, they might be the hardest working team in this league. We expect a real challenge before either team can move on to face Uxbridge.”
- The COJHL semi-final series between the winner of Port Perry and Little Britain, will get underway with Game 1 in Uxbridge, at 7:45 p.m., on Friday, Feb. 20. If Port Perry wins, Game 2 will be at Scugog Arena on Sunday, Feb. 22, at 2:25 p.m. Should Little Britain win, they’ll host Game 2 at 7:30 p.m., on Saturday, Feb. 21.