After sweeping all three Midwestern Jr. C series the Cens have run into some stiff competition in the form of the Grimsby Peach Kings.
Grimsby won the toss (actually home ice was decided by an odd / even Raptors score) but the series opened in Ayr last Thursday March 19th in front of the largest crowd yet to see a game at the NDCC.
As it turns out these are two very evenly matched teams. Grimsby got on the board with a point shot through a crowd midway through the first for the only goal in the opening frame.
Quinn Diamond evened it up 2:54 into the second. After taking a pass at the half boards from Schaefer he curled along the top of the circle a sniped one top corner on the far side for the only goal of the second. The 50/50 was also the largest of the year with Al Owen taking home $816.
Just 1:39 into the third Coleton Madge won a race to a loose puck at the top of the right circle and unleashed a howitzer that ended up on the top shelf. Grimsby once again capitalized on a crowd in front as another point shot found its way in midway through the period and with 1:37 left in the third the Peach Kings took the lead. With Rawski out for the extra attacker the Cens had chances but were unable to force the O.T. and lost their first game of the post season.
Ayr looked a bit rusty in the first and played half the second short handed and still stayed within one of the Niagara Champions.
Game two went the next night (Friday March 20th) in Grimsby. A tight checking first period ended scoreless. Andre Keire kept it that way stopping a clear cut Grimsby break away 6:58 in but the Peach Kings executed a three on one to open the scoring 9:44 into the second. Following the goal Ayr had a couple of glorious short handed scoring chances but came away empty. Grimsby made it 2-0 with 5:00 left in the second when great pressure from the Cens was interrupted by a pass to a floater that had crept outside the line to take the break away pass. But this Centennials team did not get to where they are now by giving up and with 1:45 left in the frame Mac Kemp sent a slap pass from the left point right onto the tape of Riley Clipper’s stick as he was parked alone at the back door to redirect it in.
In the third period the Centennials turned up the compete level and controlled the game. The tying goal came at the 11:24 mark of the third and was a direct result of an aggressive fore check and the winning of some intense battles along the wall. The conclusion of the play saw Hackborn take a pass from Howlett and circle the left dot before bouncing the water bottle with a shot from the slot.
That goal forced the over time. Right from the opening face off the Cens brought the puck into Grimsby’s zone for a chance but the Grimsby rush the other way ended the game 26 seconds into the fourth period.
The Cens looked more like the Cens we have watched all season for the first time in the series and hoped to carry that momentum into Grimsby Sunday night.
And that’s just what they did. Keire got them off on the right foot stoning a Peach King that was parked off to the side early in the first. Ayr’s Jake Whibbs got the Cens on the board 11:28 in. Clipper tried a jamb play on the short side and when the puck and the Peach King keeper went to the icing line Clip tapped the puck back to Whibbsy who was waiting in the crease to drive it home. Diamond got the second assist. Hackborn made it 2-0 with 4:09 remaining right off a draw in the right circle. Andrew Richard won the draw cleanly right back to Hacker and the one timer was in the net before the keeper knew it was coming. But the Peach Kings didn’t win the Niagara Championship by giving up and got on the board with 1:36 left in the first.
On a sad note the Centennials would like to offer their condolences to the family and friends of Mark Hatt who passed away this afternoon. Hatter was a friend to many and one in particular paid his respects by putting the Cens up 3-1. Jackson White says he scored that one for Hatter. That one came on the power play (the first power play goal of the series} 5:31 into the second. Whitey took a pass from Pullia at the top of the crease and went fore hand to back hand to send it up stairs. But the Peach Kings responded 8 seconds later to again draw to within one. The Cens found themselves down two men for a full two minutes 4:13 into the third and by 4:29 they found themselves tied as Grimsby scored their first power play goal in 23 times the Cens have been short handed. Grimsby has been short handed 9 times. For the remainder of the third there were chances at both ends but none better than one with 30 seconds left on the clock when Grimsby sent a pass across the top of the crease, headed for a Peach King at the back door. Andre Keire redirected the puck away and the teams were one again headed for O.T.
No assists were given on the goal that ended it but it was once again the Cens aggressive fore check that cause the turn over that Jeff Howlett turned into the game winning goal. And by doing so made history as the Centennials won their first Schmalz cup play off game. The intensity of this game was off the charts and it’s just what you can expect next Wednesday March 25th when the Peach Kings come to town for game four at the NDCC 7:30 start. Last Thursday was a record breaking crowd but I doubt if that record will last past Wednesday. You gotta see this.