Admirals eliminate Blenheim, advance to play Essex in Great Lakes Jr. C final

 

By Ron Giofu

The Integrity Amherstburg Admirals have ousted the Blenheim Blades from the Great Lakes Jr. C final and now face the defending champion Essex 73’s for the league title.

Members of the Integrity Amherstburg Admirals salute the crowd at the Libro Centre following their 4-1 win over Blenheim March 3. The Admirals won the series 4-2.

Members of the Integrity Amherstburg Admirals salute the crowd at the Libro Centre following their 4-1 win over Blenheim March 3. The Admirals won the series 4-2.

Game 6 of the semi-final series was played Thursday night at the Libro Centre and, for the first time since the franchise moved to Amherstburg, the Admirals clinched a playoff series on home ice. Amherstburg took a 4-1 decision to win the series four games to two.

Luke Gangnon opened the scoring for the Admirals with a shorthanded goal late in the first period but Blenheim tied the game with a Brendan Ritchie powerplay goal during the same penalty 26 seconds later.

Gangnon’s second of the game came on the powerplay in the second period to put the Admirals up for good with Caleb Paquette scoring twice in the third period, the second being an empty net goal.

The Admirals gave themselves a chance to clinch the series on home ice last Tuesday night thanks to a 5-0 win in Blenheim. Connor Meyerink picked up the shutout in that game and made several key saves in Game 6, particularly when the latter game was 2-1.

Dylan Muzzatti scored twice in the fifth game with Travis Campbell, Paquette and Spencer McConville also scoring for the Admirals.

Meyerink and his teammates were happy about advancing to the finals.

“It feels good,” he said after Thursday night’s game. “We’ve come a long way.”

Meyerink said it was satisfying to win and they were happy to win the series in front of the home crowd at the Libro Centre. He was modest about his big saves in the sixth game, but said he felt great about making them.

“Sometimes I just do it. I can’t explain how I make saves. It feels good to make saves,” said Meyerink. “It feels awesome.”

Admirals forward Luke Gangnon (left) scores the first of his two goals during the March 3 semi-final game with Blenheim. He scored both against Blades' goalie Eric Stewardson.

Admirals forward Luke Gangnon (left) scores the first of his two goals during the March 3 semi-final game with Blenheim. He scored both against Blades’ goalie Eric Stewardson.

To beat the 73’s, who went 34-3-1-2 in the regular season and have won all eight playoff games they’ve played thus far, Meyerink said they have to keep doing what they are doing. He said it is no longer a contest of skill, but a matter of which team will outwork the other.

“We can definitely outwork those guys over there,” he said.

Head coach Paul Bortignon was thrilled for the organization about making it to the Great Lakes Jr. C finals for the second straight year.

“You can’t say it’s not special because it is,” said Bortignon.

Bortignon said it was special last year because of the four overage players they had but this year it’s special because they have no overage players and a young team. He added they learned last year what it means to the community and the organization.

“I can’t say enough on how proud I am of this group and what they’ve accomplished this year,” said Bortignon.

If Essex goalie Trevor Wheaton is considered the best goalie in the league, Bortignon said Meyerink is “right on his heels” and praised Meyerink for his big stops in the sixth and deciding game.

“Our forward group ground it out and used their speed,” Bortignon added after Game 6. “Our defense did a great job.”

The Admirals got a powerplay goal in the game and Bortignon believed if the powerplay is working well, they will be tough to beat.

Noting they were “one shot from being down three games to one,” the head coach added how important Kasey Basile’s overtime goal was in Game 4.

“We got a break and we knew it,” said Bortignon. “For our guys to tie the series and then win three straight, it shows the spirit of this team.”

Last year’s experience will be “huge” for the players, he added, and said the goal is the same as the Blenheim series – to take one game on the road and take care of business on home ice. The Admirals are looking to make history, Bortignon added, as Essex coach Gil Langlois has never lost a playoff game on home ice.

“The town’s support has been unbelievable,” he added. “It’s great for us.”
Bortignon also added the Admirals are wishing the midget major and bantam major stars luck in their respective OMHA playoff series this weekend.

UPDATE: The schedule for the Great Lakes Jr. C final was officially released Sunday. It is as follows:

Game 1 – Tuesday, March 8 – at Essex, 7 p.m.
Game 2 – Thursday, March 10 – at Amherstburg,  7 p.m.
Game 3 – Saturday, March 12 – at Essex, 7 p.m.
Game 4 – Sunday, March 13 – at Amherstburg, 7 p.m.
Game 5 – Tuesday, March 15 – at Essex, 7 p.m.
Game 6 – Friday March 18 – at Amherstburg, 7:30 p.m.
Game 7 – Sunday March 20 – at Essex, 2:30 p.m.

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