The Avon River Rats battled hard Nov. 25 before a small hometown crowd, keeping fans of the Jr. C team guessing as to who would win the game.
It was a seesaw affair as the Shannon Huskies, of Dartmouth, and the River Rats were evenly paced. It looked like the game would go to overtime as the third period came to a close, but the Huskies finished on top with a score of 7-6.
As the first period came to a close, the Huskies led 2-1 — with all goals being scored on power plays. Sam Ross opened the scoring for the River Rats after being fed the puck from his brother, Ben Ross. Lee Gaetz, of the Huskies, tied it up on a pass from Brennen Hartling. As the period wound down, the Huskies' forward David Schmidt scored unassisted.
Schmidt then put the Huskies up 3-1 to start off the middle frame with assistance from Jonathan Sisokin and Connor MacKinnon, but the River Rats fought back and dominated the scoring in the second period. Nicholas Mazany-Wright scored on the power play midway through the second period with an assist from Matthew Lyttle. Within about three minutes, the Rats struck again, this time tying the game 3-3 with a goal from Curtis Lang. Lyttle and Justin Cooke assisted.
As the clocked ticked down, the Rats pushed into the lead, with Lyttle scoring on the power play. Assists went to the Ross brothers.
Sisokin, of the Huskies, tied the game up within the first few minutes of the final frame. Assists went to Jack Mallett and Andrew Robinson. The River Rats went ahead about two minutes later, with 15:28 left in the period. Charles McNeil was the goal scorer, and the Ross brothers assisted.
Within a minute, the Huskies responded, tying the game 5-5. The goal came from Hartling, from Matt Calder and Adam Hendrie.
The Huskies took over the lead with 9:29 left in the period. Schmidt's power play marker made the score 6-5. Assists went to MacKinnon and Evan Broussard.
Tom Malone and Cooke fed Zach Patterson, of the River Rats, the puck and he tied the game 6-6 on the power play with just 6:05 left in the period.
The final goal of the afternoon match came from Hartling, from Mallett, with 4:47 showing on the clock. The Rats couldn't tie it to force overtime.
Jacob Greenough was between the pipes for the River Rats and faced a total of 38 shots.
Adam Sweeney faced 28 shots on goal, allowing five, while Tyler Boudreau, who played for 14:28 minutes, faced five shots and allowed one.
“Our team plays well. (But) we can't expect to win games when we have seven goals scored against us,” said River Rats Head Coach Rick Purcell.
“No matter how hard our guys try, how hard they work, if we get that many goals scored against us it's an uphill battle.”
The game was riddled with penalties, which Purcell said hurt the River Rats' chances.
“The penalties did hurt us even later in the game because we had some key players in the box for 10 minutes. It affects the whole momentum of the game.”
The Huskies racked up about 40 penalty minutes plus two 10-minute game misconducts during the afternoon bout. The River Rats accumulated nearly 70 penalty minutes, plus two 10-minute game misconducts.
Purcell said the team has a few areas in which they'll focus on strengthening before they take the ice again.
“Our power play has been coming along pretty good so we're going to still work on that some more because in this league, it seems, power play and penalty killing makes a huge, huge difference in the outcome of the game,” he said.
“Also, a little bit on discipline,” he said. “We've got to get some games where we have a good chance of playing a full team without being in the penalty box way too much.”
The River Rats will be hitting the road for three away games — Dec. 1 against the Fundy Phantoms, Dec. 8 against the Shannon Huskies and Dec. 15 against the Spryfield Silver and Black Attack —before returning Dec. 16 to take on the Amherst Colts. Game time is 1 p.m.