A’burg & Welland split weekend games; series tied at two points each

 

By Joel Charron

 

It’s not exactly what the Amherstburg Midget Major Stars hoped for, but they will take it.

The Stars kicked off the OMHA quarterfinal this past weekend against the talented Welland Tigers with the two teams splitting Games One and Two at the United Communities Credit Union Complex.

Amherstburg dominated Game One cruising to a 8-1 win over the top ranked Tigers, but dropped Game Two in a thrilling 4-3 overtime loss.

 

Stars’ forward Ryan Holzel is taken down as he crashes the Welland netminder.

Stars’ forward Ryan Holzel is taken down as he crashes the Welland netminder.

On Friday, Mike Popel gave the Stars an early first period lead, scoring his first goal of the series on the power play.

In the second period, Amherstburg offensive shifted into high gear, finding the back of the net four time with Greg Fera, Eric Shaw, Colin Leardi and Popel all finding the back of the net.

Welland finally got on the board in the opening minute of the third period, however Josh Laframboise, Shaw and Leardi each popped in the biscuit.

“I think we came out strong and caught them by surprise,” said Shaw. “I think they thought they could walk all over us. I doubt they think that now.”

Amherstburg went three for five on the powerplay and killed off all four of their penalties.

“When our team plays our game nothing really surprises me,” said head coach Matt Fox.

Less than 24 hours later the Stars and Tigers were back on the ice for Game Two.

Welland took the lead going into the second period, scoring a power play goal with under three minutes to play in the opening frame.

The Tigers put their second power play goal of the game past goaltender Chris Wallace in the opening minutes of the second period, followed by Welland’s third goal just 30 second later.

In an effort to settle his team down, Fox pulled Wallace in favor of Mitch Topliffe.

The move seemed to work as Leardi broke the seal for the Stars at the nine minute mark of the second and Shaw scored a quick third period goal as Welland hung on to a 3-2 lead.

In the dying minute of the third Alex Popel’s hard work was rewarded with the tying goal after the puck trickled past the goal line before the sprawling Welland goalie could retrieve it.

Game Two was sent into overtime where the Tigers ended it with a goal in 2:28 minutes into the extra period.

Colin Leardi’s second period goal got the Stars back on track and into the game.

Colin Leardi’s second period goal got the Stars back on track and into the game.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow right now,” said Shaw. “We didn’t play our best in the first two periods but fought back hard to bring it to overtime.

Penalties became a factor for the Stars, racking up 18 minutes in the sin bin, including 10 minutes in the first period.

“We’re taking too many penalties,” said Shaw. “We can’t do that against a team like Welland. If we don’t take those penalties then the game has a different outcome.”

Fox said he didn’t think his team was focused coming into Game Two.

“Maybe we took them lightly, which is a clear mistake,” said Fox.

He mentioned the Stars showed “heart” by battling back down three goals and forcing overtime.

“We fought hard all game and had a couple opportunities where we could have cashed out but the puck didn’t bounce our way,” he said.

The Stars travel to Welland his weekend for Games Three and Four.  Fox said winning both games in Welland would be great, however if the Stars can steal one in their rink, he likes their chances heading back to Amherstburg for Game Five.

“We’re not going to worry about playing mistake free hockey,” said Fox. “We are going to take some chances but they are going to be calculated chances.”

Games Three and Four are Friday and Saturday. Check the River town Times Facebook page for scores.

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