It took a 3-1 loss Friday night to get the Valley Maple Leafs refocused on their playoff goal. By Saturday night, they were back in form, handing their rivals, the St. Margaret's Bay Ducks a 4-2 loss.
Assistant coach Rob Lindsay said the “boys were firing on all cylinders” at the Jan. 5 away game in Tantallon.
“We got some good output from our top two lines — they put the puck in the back of the net, which is always needed,” said Lindsay in an interview on Jan. 6. “And we couldn't have asked for anything better of our fourth line. They're the checking line and that's what they did.”
The first period was tied 1-1, with goals by the Ducks' Bryce Hirtle and the Leafs' defenceman Jeff Longaphy. The Leafs held a 15-4 shot advantage heading into the dressing room.
The second period opened with Nick MacKenzie, from Luke Short, scoring on the power-play to put the Leafs up 2-1. The Ducks' Payton Tench, from JJ Allison and Chris Riguse, answered to knot the score 2-2. In the dying seconds of the middle frame, David Hayes scored his 11th goal of the year, putting the Leafs in front 3-2.
In the final period, Short bested Tom Nicholson to salt the game away 4-2.
Longaphy, Colin Gillis, Austin Himmelman, Joe MacDougall and Brandon Parker all provided assists in the Leafs victory. Mitch Culley picked up his eighth win of the year.
In the first game back from the holidays, on Jan. 4, the Leafs and Ducks were scoreless after the first period. Tench, from Riguse and Jonathan Biron, put the Ducks ahead with 6:47 remaining in the second period. The Leafs couldn't find the equalizer as the middle frame came to a close.
The Ducks struck early in the third period, with Connor Hirtle, assisted by Chris Clark, putting them up 2-0. With 2:42 showing on the clock, Himmelman, from Mark Swain and Jake Galbraith, tallied one to bring the Valley squad within reach of tying the game. But, as the clock ticked down and the Leafs pulled their goalie, the Ducks struck again. The empty net goal, with just 22 seconds remaining in the game, came from the stick of Joe Murphy, who was assisted by Clark.
Following the first loss of the new year, Head Coach Josh Dill said the team played well but spent too much time in the penalty box.
“I thought we played a real good game,” said Dill, noting the Ducks had several power-play chances while the Leafs didn't.
“I think we outplayed them most of the game. They got a few lucky bounces. The puck went in for them and it didn't for us. It's hard to win when you get no power-plays,” said Dill.
In the first period, the Leafs were called for interference twice, while the Ducks' Bryce Hirtle was called for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The second period was a busy one. Connor Hirtle received two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct 35 seconds into the middle frame. The Leafs' Kyle Kavanagh then went off for two minutes. Alex Seyforth and Joey Morrison tangoed less than five minutes into the period, both receiving five minutes for fighting and a 10-minute game misconduct. Then, Adriano Digioacchino received two minutes for roughing and two minutes for interference, while Bryce Hirtle received a two-minute roughing call.
With 4:27 remaining in the second period, team captain Nathan Little, back from a pre-Christmas injury, was called for tripping and received two minutes in the penalty box. The last penalty of the period — two minutes for high sticking — was handed to Longaphy.
The third period was a quiet one, with the Ducks' Mitchell Smith receiving two minutes for tripping and Little receiving two minutes for interference.
Olafr Schmidt was tagged with the loss for the Leafs while Nicholson earned the win.
The Leafs will be back in action at Acadia Arena Friday, Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. to take on the Brookfield Elks.