By Alex Gallacher
It is the time that Haliburton County hockey fans have been waiting for; the return of hockey season!
With a new look Huskies roster taking on the OJHL this season, fans eagerly awaited the opening weekend double header. One of the biggest changes with behind the bench, while Ryan Ramsay returned for his third season as head coach and general managers, his assistant coaches saw a massive shake up. Gone are Brian Mackenzie and Jordan Bailey, and in are Matt Comand and Owen Flood.
Flood is no stranger to the Huskies team, serving as the team’s athletic trainer since the inaugural season in 2021. While Comand joins the Huskies from the OJHL championship winning Collingwood Blues, where he also served as head of player development.
Fighting the Fish
The first game of the 2023 campaign saw the Huskies take on their Highway 35 rivals down in Lindsay. On a Friday night at the Lindsay Recreation Complex, the Huskies found themselves in a sticky situation.
Brandon Nye would make it 3-0 Muskies before the period was up, and heading into the third the Huskies were at the bottom of Mount Everest with a lot to do. After Jack Staniland was sent to the box for interference, Cole Patey would tally his first of the season to send the Huskies into a 4-0 hole at 9:32.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Huskies, as a late goal from Declan Bowmaster launched what seemed to be an improbable comeback. The Huskies pelted Lindsay goalie Ethan Fraser with everything they had, and with seconds left Staniland cut the lead in half with his first of the season.
In the end, Lindsay claimed game one in the battle of Highway 35, 4-2. Huskies goalie Vlad Visan went 18 for 22, while Fraser stopped 38 of 40.
Punch out with the Panthers
Despite the minor setback on Friday, the Huskies came into Saturday’s home opener against the Pickering Panthers with a clear mindset and one goal: Win.
Head coach Ramsay opted to stay rookie goalie Logan Kennedy against the 2021-22 OJHL Champs, in place of Friday’s starter Visan. A packed house roared with applause as after nearly six months, Huskies hockey returned to the SG Nesbitt Memorial Arena.
Finding themselves trailing 1-0 after period one, the Huskies got to work in the second. Brand new team Captain Patrick Saini would find the back of the net to tie the game at one a piece, bringing the Nesbitt to its feet for the first time this season. The Panthers answered back two minutes later as a tip in from Kieran Litterick beat Kennedy to restore the lead.
Before the period was up, Cameron Dial took a Roughing call which put the Huskies on the powerplay for third time. This time, the Huskies made Pickering pay. Lucas Stevenson buried a wicked shot past Aiden Feddema to tied it up heading into the third.
The Huskies needed a push if they wanted to send the hometown fans home happy, and the Captain answered their calls.
Saini found the back of the twine for the second time at 7:43, giving the Huskies their first lead and notching Saini’s third point of the game.
With less than two minutes to go, the Panthers came out and hit the Huskies hard. They applied the pressure and in the dying minutes, it would be former Husky Nick Athanasakos tipping another one in at 18:53 and sending this game to OT.
Last season, OT games were something the Huskies improved on from their inaugural season. At 2:23 Johnathon Mead sent the Nesbitt into a frenzy as he buried the game winner to give the Huskies the 4-3 OT win against the Panthers.
The Huskies are back at the SG Nesbitt Memorial Arena this Saturday September 16 when they take on Former Assistant Coach Bailey and the Toronto JRC, before heading on the road to the Herb Carnegie Community Centre to face the North York Rangers to end the weekend double header.