After a slow start to the action in Game 1, the Uxbridge Bruins skated to back-to-back victories against the Little Britain Merchants over the weekend, taking a two-games-to-none lead in their COJHL semi-final series.
Game 1 of the series was contested in Uxbridge, on Friday, Feb. 20, and the Bruins showed some sluggish signs at the outset after a 10-day break that followed the regular season. Meanwhile, the Merchants entered the game on a wave of momentum after winning three consecutive games to dispatch the Port Perry MoJacks in the preliminary round of the playoffs.
Just over eight minutes into the action, Little Britain had taken a 2-0 lead, before the Bruins came to life following a fantastic powerplay scoring chance by Marco Mastrangelo just past the mid-point of the first period, but were unable to beat Merchants netminder Garrett Haden through the opening 20 minutes.
With Uxbridge on the powerplay just over a minute into the second period, Todd Winder swooped in to bang in a rebound and cut Little Britain’s lead in half.
The energized Bruins would continue to overwhelm the Merchants just over a minute later, when ‘Magic’ Mike Spataro’s point shot was tipped in by Shane Smith to equalize the match.
However, goals from Kurtis Moore and Hayden Long would restore a two-goal advantage for Little Britain just before the mid-point of the second period. The Bruins would roar back shortly afterwards though, with goals from Alex Siblock and Shane Smith once again knotting the score as the middle stanza came to a close.
Just over a minute into the third period, Mastrangelo made more moves than a barrel of snakes as he twisted around Haden to tuck the puck into the net, bringing the crowd of more than 300 to its feet, and giving the Bruins their first advantage of the evening.
Shortly afterwards, the Merchants would emerge from a penalty kill with renewed enthusiasm. But, Bruins goalie Branden Francey was able to make a sensational save on Long to keep Uxbridge in the lead.
With just under six minutes to play, Tyson Eastgate gave the Bruins a two-goal lead when he blazed into the offensive zone, and beat Haden high with a laser beam, assisted by Connor Evans.
Just 35 seconds later, Shane Smith was levelled by a check from Mason Patterson, but had the presence of mind to pass the puck to Thomas Sheedy, who fired a shot on net that was redirected past Haden by Daryl Thomson to round out the scoring in a 7-4 Bruins victory.
Following the game, Bruins Head Coach Geoff Hodgkinson noted that his team had shown good resilience after a slow start in picking up the crucial win in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series, relying on depth, with goals coming from six different scorers.
“Coming in, we knew that we’d probably have to weather the storm a little bit, because Little Britain had been on such a roll after beating Port Perry,” Hodgkinson told The Standard. “But we bounced back and played a heck of a game. If we can get that kind of production from all four of our lines, we’ll probably be very tough to play against.”
On Saturday, Feb. 21, the teams renewed hostilities in Little Britain for Game 2.
The Bruins would never trail, winning by a final score of 5-3 to take a two-games-to-none lead heading into Game 3 on Tuesday, Feb. 24 (after The Standard’s press deadline).
Korey Brand, Eastgate, Winder, Evans and Dylan Locke scored for Uxbridge, with Francey turning aside 28 shots to earn the victory between the pipes.
Game 4 of the series is slated for 8 p.m., on Wednesday, Feb. 25 in Little Britain. Should Game 5 be necessary, it will be played in Uxbridge on Friday, Feb. 27, at 7:45 p.m. Game 6 is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night in Little Britain. If the series comes down to Game 7, it will be played in Uxbridge, at 7:45 p.m., on Monday, March 2.
- In the other COJHL semi-final series, the Clarington Eagles continued their recent hot streak, sweeping the defending All-Ontario champion Lakefield Chiefs in four straight games.
- For all of the latest playoff news from the bear den, visit www.uxbridgebruins.com.