Stars advance to Bluewater finals in playdowns

 

By Joel Charron

The road to advance out of Essex County goes through Amherstburg.

The Amherstburg Midget Majors Stars walked away from the weekend a lot happier than they started it.

On Friday night the Stars handed the St. Thomas Stars an opening round 2-1 playdown loss in the double elimination tournament.

“It’s a really good team that we beat and you have to tip your hat to them, they didn’t give up and battled us to the last second,” said head coach Matt Fox after Friday’s matchup.

Roughly 24 hours later, the Stars propelled themselves into this weekend’s final as they defeated the Riverside Rangers 3-2.

 

Stars goalie Mitch Topliffe uses his pad to shut the door on a St. Thomas shooter in the dying minutes of Friday night’s game.

Stars goalie Mitch Topliffe was outstanding in both games and even impressed the coach with his performance.

“Being a 15-year-old he stood on his head and our defense did a good job limiting their (St. Thomas) opportunities,” said Fox.

The opportunities were few and far between Friday night as both teams dug in their heels and delivered an excellent defensive performance.

The score remained tied after the first period.

St. Thomas and Amherstburg exchanged penalties, however neither team was able to capitalize on the man advantage.

Shortly after killing off a penalty, Greg Fera scored to give Amherstburg a 1-0 lead. Eric Shaw and Blaine Bechard picked up the helper.

Frank Desjardins lit the lamp in the third for a 2-0 lead with Fera picking up his second point of the night and Tyler Morand grabbing the second assist.

St. Thomas would break Topliffe’s bid for a shutout with five minute left to play. Topliffe would make up for the goal, shutting the door on a St. Thomas scrabble in the final 90 seconds.

“We wanted to let everyone know that we are here to play and that starts with me,” said Topliffe.

Topliffe said the win over St. Thomas gives the Stars plenty of confidence.

 

Shortly after the final buzzer, Amherstburg Stars players gather to celebrate their win.

That confidence carried over to Saturday as the Stars took out tournament favorite Riverside 3-2.

Mike Popel scored twice and Ryan Holzel knocked in one as the Stars find themselves in finals.

Popel admits that Riverside had the Stars number during the regular season, having lost all the matchups, however that means nothing in playdowns.

“This gives us tons of confidence,” said Popel. “We know we can beat them. We came to play today and it showed.”

Popel said it was their defense that won them the game, stating they were able to get the puck out of their zone when they needed to and stuck to their game plan.

The Stars will have to face Riverside again in the final as the Rangers defeated St. Thomas Sunday afternoon. The Rangers will have to beat Amherstburg twice while the Stars only have to win once because of the double elimination rule.

“I look forward to playing Riverside again,” said Popel. “It’s a good rivalry and beating them again would give us even more confidence.”

 

 

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