Popel nets hat trick as Stars advance to semis



By Joel Charron

It wasn’t exactly how the Amherstburg Midget Major Stars envisioned advancing, but they will take it.

Michael Popel came alive, knocking in his first hat trick of the season and Eric Shaw propelled the Stars into the OMHA semi-finals, scoring the go ahead goal with 23.5 second left to eliminate the Welland Tigers 7-6 in thrilling fashion Friday evening in Welland.

Welland opened the scoring in the first period on the powerplay for a 1-0 lead, however the early deficit seemed to awake the Stars. Tyler Morand lit the lamp with a blast from the point tying the game at 1-1 after Popel picked the pocket of a Welland defender, Popel deposited the puck top shelf for a 2-1 lead after the first period.

Amherstburg added to their lead in the second with Matt Ward-Tryumblak knocking in his first of the playoffs, followed by Popel lighting up the Welland goalie for two more goals to complete the hat trick.


Michael Popel tugs on his jersey after scoring his first goal of three goals Friday night in Welland. The Stars advance to the OMHA semi-finals for the third straight year.

Facing elimination, the Tigers refused to go quietly, knocking in two goal of their own before the end of the second and trailing 5-3 after 30 minutes of play.

Just 90 seconds into the final frame Welland scored to cut their deficit to one and then tied the game at 5-5 with just fewer than 10 minutes to play.

The Tigers took a 6-5 lead, finding the back of the net on the powerplay at the 7:14 mark, however the Stars tied the game at 6-6 after Frank Desjardins took advantage of an untimely Welland turnover to slip in his first of the game.

With time winding down Eric Shaw wired a shot into the top right corner for the game winner with 23.5 seconds left.

“I knew there wasn’t much time left so I just wanted to get in to the net,” said Shaw. “It was a great feeling finishing off a great series late in the third.”

Although the Stars walked away with the victory, head coach Matt Fox was not pleased to see his squad give up five unanswered goals. Fox said the goal was to get on the Tigers early and keep them down.

“We get up 5-1 by sticking to the game plan then we got pretty selfish and undisciplined. We were playing as individuals and not as a team,” said Fox.  “You can’t let someone off the mat. It almost cost us today.”

Fox noted that the Stars would learn from this experience and move on.

Popel agreed with his coach’s assessment.

“We can’t let teams back into games if we want to be successful. We have to play a whole 45 minutes and bury them into the ground when we have the chance,” said Popel.

Popel mentioned it “feels great” to advance into the third straight OMHA semi-finals but admits they could have done so with a better performance.

“It wasn’t the way we wanted to play, we’re a better team than that,” he said. “But we did move one and in the long run that’s what we wanted.”

Being held off the score sheet for the last two games, Popel added it was nice to “get the monkey off his back” and produce for the team.

“Everything went right for me today,” he said.

Amherstburg’s next opponent will be Owen Sound, who finished off their series against Brampton Saturday afternoon. The Stars will travel to Owen Sound for Games One and Two, Friday and Saturday.

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