A’burg Midget Stars send series back to Stouffville

By Joel Charron

Before the start of the weekend, the Amherstburg Midget Major Stars were down two games in the OMHA finals and faced elimination.

By the end of Sunday afternoon, the Stars evened the series with a pair of impressive wins over the Stouffville Clippers.

After playing games one and two with a depleted roster, Amherstburg earned a decisive game five, winning games three and four by the scores of 6-1 and 3-2.

“We are a force to be reckoned with,” said head coach Matt Fox, after game three. “We are in the finals for a reason.”

Amherstburg received good news earlier in the week when Daniel Slipchuk was cleared to play after missing the first two games with an ankle injury.

Amherstburg Stars Daniel Slipchuk is on hot pursuit of Stouffville's captain during game four.

In game three, in front of a packed United Communities Credit Union Complex (UCCUC), the Stars wasted no time grabbing the lead.

While on the power play, Zoran Popel blasted a rocket from the point that sailed past Stouffville’s goalie, Sal Rabito.

With 1:19 left in the first period, Mike Popel found the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.

In the second period, Tyler Pope-Ferguson, Dan Bondy and Eric Shaw all lit the lamp within a five-minute span for a commanding 5-0 lead.

Stouffville’s Curtis Crago broke Stars goalie Mark Fenty’s bid for a shutout with 33.8 seconds left in the second frame.

Pope-Ferguson would restore their five-goal lead when he scored with 2:30 in the final period.

“It’s a big wake up call,” said Fox. “We wanted to hold serve at home and that’s what we did.”

Twenty-four hours later, the Stars and their fans returned to the UCCUC for game four.

“It’s a huge momentum swing,” said Fenty before Sunday’s game. “All the pressure is on them to protect that two game lead. We just have to keep going after them.”

The Stars took Fenty’s advice.

In the opening minutes, Stouffville was assessed two penalties, giving the Stars a 5-on-3 power play.

It only took 21 seconds into the two-man advantage for Popel to give the Stars and early 1-0 lead with a shot from the point. Amherstburg would double their lead just 16 seconds later when Popel recorded his second goal of the game with a shot from the same spot.

Stouffville would cut into the lead when Crago slipped the puck past Fenty for a 2-1 score.

With time winding down the first period, Stars captain Jordan Ryan put Amherstburg back up 3-1.

Stouffville’s power play was finally able to solve Amherstburg’s penalty kill when Conner Cadaret moved the Clippers back within one goal.

The intensity carried into the third period as both teams had opportunities for another goal, but were unable to capitalize and the Stars evened the series with a 3-2 win.

Fox said having a full roster in games three and four was a “huge difference.”

“Having that extra depth, I can add guys here and there, which really helps out,” said Fox. “We did our job by holding serve at home, now we have a full roster going up there (Stouffville) so we are looking to break hearts.”

“Everyone played their roles. We played as a team and won as a team,” said Fenty.

Fenty added that having a roster full of guys who won it all last year is key because they know how to handle the pressure.

“It’s a big deal,” he said. “The younger guys are looking up to us in the room, they haven’t been here before so they really don’t know what it means, and for us to be there and help them through it is important.”

The Stars travel to Stouffville for Game Five this Saturday. Check the River Town Times Facebook page for updates and scores on Game Five.

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