Oakville Blades held on for a 4-3 victory over the Brantford 99ers in Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL) action on Thursday, September 28.
Special teams were key to the game as Brantford went an impressive 6 for 7 on the penalty kill but were awful on the powerplay, going 0 for 7 with the man advantage.
Both teams came out tentatively to start the opening period, spending the opening two minutes battling in the neutral zone. Brantford then had a chance to take the early lead with a powerplay 2:30 into the game. The 99ers couldn’t muster any offence with the man advantage but had three quality scoring chances right after the powerplay expired.
The teams continued to battle in the neutral zone through the middle stages of the period but the Blades opening the scoring with eight minutes left when a point shot beat 99ers goalie Justin Wu to take a 1-0 lead. Oakville would add to their lead less than two minutes later with a powerplay marker to open up a two-goal lead with six minutes left in the opening frame. Brantford responded after a nice solo effort by forward Kurt Watson to cut the Blades lead to one. With just under four minutes left, the 99ers ran into penalty trouble, giving the Blades a 5-on-3 powerplay for 1:43. Brantford was excellent on the penalty kill, erasing the two-man advantage with ease as they kept the game close, 2-1, after 20 minutes.
Brantford came out flying to start the second stanza, spending the first 90 seconds on the attack in the Blades zone, leading to their second powerplay of the game. The 99ers had solid pressure in the offensive zone but didn’t record any shots on goal with the man advantage. Oakville responded 30 seconds after the 99ers powerplay expired, creating a turnover and going on an odd-man rush. Blades forward Yanni Kaidonis broke down the far wing and fired a cross-crease pass to linemate Matthew Wang, who made a great play to deflect it past an outstretched Wu, giving the Blades a 3-1 lead.
Brantford responded, showing signs of life after going down by two, picking up their physicality and aggression on the forecheck, but couldn’t beat Blades goalie Maxim Shurking. The teams continued battling in the neutral zone and trading chances off the rush but the score remained at 3-1.
With just under six minutes to go in the second stanza, Brantford got back into the game when Watson scored his second of the game to get back within one, 3-2. The 99ers kept on the attack and it paid off as defenceman Zac Betts scored 18 seconds later to knot things up at three. Shortly after tying the game, the 99ers were awarded their third powerplay but couldn’t get anything going. Oakville took advantage of a 99ers mistake, getting a short-handed, ood-man rush, leading to the go-ahead goal when a Brantford defender knocked the puck into his own net, giving the Blades a 4-3 lead after 40 minutes.
The Blades and 99ers came out of the gate quickly to start the third period, tradin quick chances 35 seconds into the final frame. Both teams slowed down after the frenetic pace to start the third, battling in the open ice then the Blades used their speed to keep Brantford on their heels for the next six minutes.
In the back half of the third, the Blades ran into penalty trouble, getting called for three minor penalties in the last 8:30 of the game. The 99ers battled hard, throwing everything they had at the Blades but couldn’t beat Shurking, who stood strong in his crease. With 3:34 remaining, the 99ers were given their sixth powerplay of the game and Brantford’s coaching staff called a timeout to prepare for the man advantage. Sixteen seconds into the man advantage, 99ers defenceman Jack Robertson was called for hooking, negating the powerplay, forcing both teams to play four-on-four hockey for 1:44. Brantford was given a glorious chance to tie the game with 2:20 left when Shurking was given a minor penalty for delay of game after pushing the net off its moorings.
Brantford battled hard and buzzed around in the offensive zone but couldn’t tie things at four as the Blades held on for the 4-3 victory. Brantford had strong performances from Justin Wu, who made 44 saves in the loss, and Kurt Watson, who recorded two goals for the 99ers.