Admirals take 73’s to the limit, but unable to capture Jr. C title

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Integrity Amherstburg Admirals came one win short of capturing the franchise’s first Great Lakes Jr. C Hockey League championship.

The Admirals and Essex 73’s faced off in Game 7 Sunday afternoon in front of over 1,500 fans at the Essex Centre Sports Complex with the 73’s capturing the title with a 5-4 victory. It was the second straight year the Admirals advanced to the finals.

A dejected group of Admirals accept the Great Lakes Jr. C runner-up trophy from Jeff Beattie of the OHA following Sunday's loss in Essex. From left: Kasey Basile, Curtis Prymack, Chad Copeland, Beattie, Blaine Bechard, Jordan Luciw.

A dejected group of Admirals accept the Great Lakes Jr. C runner-up trophy from Jeff Beattie of the OHA following Sunday’s loss in Essex. From left: Kasey Basile, Curtis Prymack, Chad Copeland, Beattie, Blaine Bechard, Jordan Luciw.

Things started well for Amherstburg as they led 1-0 after the first period on a Caleb Paquette powerplay goal. The 73’s scored four times in the second period and that proved to be the difference. Griffin McCarty scored for Essex to tie the game just over a minute into the middle frame with James Brooks putting the Admirals back up by one four minutes later.

Matthew Rosati tied the game at two with a goal for Essex with Matthew Hebert making it a 3-2 73’s advantage moments later. Paquette would tie the game at three less than a minute after Hebert scored.

Hebert scored his second of the game on a powerplay with under a minute left in the second to give Essex a 4-3 lead after 40 minutes.

Eric Shaw wired home a shot early in the third period to give Essex a 5-3 lead. Brooks’ second of the game put Amherstburg within one with about 13 minutes to play but the Admirals could get no closer.

Admirals head coach Paul Bortignon paid tribute to the 73’s after the hard fought game and series.

“You want to be frustrated but you’ve to tip your hat to (Essex),” said Bortignon.

Bortignon said losing was hard but expressed pride in his team. He noted the work of goalie Connor Meyerink, who they will likely lose to a Jr. B team next season.

“He was the playoff MVP,” said Bortignon.

The team was a seventh place squad a few years ago but now have back-to-back finals appearances. Bortignon added they have two of the youngest owners in junior hockey in Wes Ewer and Matt Fox but noted the team has risen through the ranks and came one win shy of a league title.

“I’m proud of the guys,” he said.

James Brooks (left) is mobbed by teammate Dylan Muzzatti after scoring a second period goal Sunday afternoon in Essex. Brooks and Caleb Paquette each scored a pair of goals in the seventh and deciding game of the Great Lakes Jr. C Hockey League final.

James Brooks (left) is mobbed by teammate Dylan Muzzatti after scoring a second period goal Sunday afternoon in Essex. Brooks and Caleb Paquette each scored a pair of goals in the seventh and deciding game of the Great Lakes Jr. C Hockey League final.

The Admirals could be one of the older teams in the league next season, he added, as they will have four overage players but the likelihood of replacing Meyerink is “the biggest piece of the puzzle.”

Meyerink, whose brother Riley plays for the 73’s, admitted it was a tough end to the season.

“There’s no real way of describing in words how much it hurts,” he said. “To come up short hurts a lot.”

Meyerink said that it was nice to be part of a team that is putting itself on “the right path” and said he will eventually look back on this season with pride.

“I haven’t performed this well ever,” he said. “It feels really good to have the year I had.”

The Meyerink brothers hugged on the ice after the game and the Amherstburg half of the brothers said their parents actually vacationed during much of the series as it was tough to watch the boys play on opposing teams.

“We have a strong bond with each other,” he said. “We’re best friends.”

Meyerink hopes to play for either the Leamington Flyers or LaSalle Vipers next season.

Brooks’ powerplay goal 17:44 into overtime gave theAdmirals a 3-2 victory in Game 6 over the 73’s Friday night at the Libro Centre. Fans from both teams packed the rink for the thriller, a game which saw Essex outshoot Amherstburg 45-27 but saw Meyerink make 43 saves.

After a scoreless first period, the Admirals scored twice in a five-minute span in the first half of the second period. Dean Patterson scored on the powerplay to make it 1-0 and Travis Campbell made it 2-0   later in the period.

McCarty scored for Essex late in the period with Max Viselli tying it for the 73’s early in the third period. Amherstburg had a great chance to go up with 6:53 remaining in regulation but Broden Meloche was unable to score on a penalty shot attempt.

“It’s the biggest win in franchise history,” said Bortignon after Friday night’s contest. “There’s not even a close second at this point.”

Bortignon praised the work of his goalie but said the rest of the team showed heart in bouncing back after giving up a two-goal lead.

“Our guys battled,” said Bortignon.

Sunday’s win gave the 73’s their fifth straight league title and 12th in the last 15 years.

Comments are closed.