By Alex Gallacher
After being downed by the Golden Hawks in Game One of the series 5-2, the Haliburton County Huskies stormed back to take the remaining two games in dramatic fashion, taking their first playoff series win, as well as locking up a home ice advantage against their second-round opponent the Cobourg Cougars.
On Wednesday [April 13], a packed house of more than 500 fans played witness to an absolute classic at the S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena. The dogs fell to a 2-0 deficit after the first, coming from a Dalton Bancroft deflection and Justin Mauro breakaway. However, not wanting to let the home crowd down, the Huskies got to work in the second.
Simon Rose kicked things off at 3:08 in the second period, scoring on a brilliant shot in front of the net. Scoring the team’s first powerplay goal of the season, the lead was cut in half. Just before the period ended absolute calamity occurred in front of Hawks netminder William Nguyen.
A scramble in front led to Lucas Stevenson knocking the puck in off of a Golden Hawk glove.
With less than 30 seconds left in the period, the Huskies faithful sprang to life. The building erupted in cheers, while the visiting Trenton fans were left stunned at the other end.
Trenton had penalty trouble the whole game. After the second, they combined for a total of five penalties and one misconduct. However, the stellar Trenton penalty killing unit kept the team at only one power-play goal allowed.
The third kicked off with aggressive play and overall high intensity, but Stevenson would again find the back of the net for the most important goal of the game. Another scramble in front of Nguyen, caused the goalie to lose sight of the puck. Before Nguyen could react, the puck was past him, which gave the Huskies a 3-2 lead and all the momentum.
The Hawks pulled the goalie and mounted an all-out assault, but goalie Christian Cicigoi stood tall and stopped everything. Not letting the two early goals phase him, the goalie from Thunder Bay stood on his head to help the Huskies stay alive and force a deciding game three in Trenton on Thursday [April 14].
Heading into Thursday, the tensions were high and more than 100 Huskies fans made the journey down the highway to the Duncan McDonald Memorial Gardens. With both teams’ seasons on the line and in enemy territory, the Huskies got to work quickly.
Christian Stevens lit the lamp only five minutes into the game, burying a Patrick Saini rebound to put the dogs up by one after the first. The Hawks and Huskies battled like true rivals in the second period, with ample chances going both ways. Both Cicigoi and Nguyen stood tall – with all the marbles on the line for the Hawks, who needed a big third period to keep their Buckland Cup dreams alive.
Seven minutes in and Noah Van Vliet made the shot heard around the county. Taking a screen from Saini, Van Vliet scored an important insurance marker, with a top shelf goal against Nguyen, putting the Huskies up 2-0. A few minutes later the Hawks finally got one of their own, Tanner McEachern added a powerplay marker on the screen of Cicigoi and with 10 minutes the Hawks tossed everything they had at the Huskies.
Shot after shot, play after play, Cicigoi kept it all out. With the sound of the final buzzer the Huskies took the win and the series 2-1. The Huskies crowd was elated, but the Trenton fans were left stunned with disappointment once again.
The Huskies will face the Cobourg Cougars on Sunday, April 17 at 2 p.m. at the S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena. The Huskies will have home ice advantage and had the edge this regular season, with the better head-to-head record against the Cougars. The winner of the series will claim the East Division and play the winner of the North Division series.