Valley Maple Leafs, Sackville tied 1-1 in series
Valley Maple Leafs goaltender Alex Mader looks behind him, but he made the save during game two of their NSJBL divisions semifinal against Sackville Blazers Feb. 21 in Berwick. Sackville won 3-2 to square the best-of-seven series at a game apiece. – John DeCoste, www.kingscountynews.ca
By John DeCoste
The Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League division semifinal between the Sackville Blazers and Valley Maple Leafs was even at a game apiece after Sackville scored a 3-2 win in game two Feb. 20 in Berwick.
The Maple Leafs won game one 4-2 Feb. 18 on the road in Sackville.
On Feb. 20, Zachary Thomas opened the scoring for Sackville with a power play goal with 10 seconds left in the first period. That was all the scoring there was until Ryan Davis made it 2-0 for the Blazers with an even-strength goal at 2:53 of the third.
Davis’s goal was the first of four in the period, two by each team. Jory Uhlman’s power play marker at 6:27 got Valley on the board, and the score remained 2-1 until Brett Arthur scored for Sackville at 15:20.
The Maple Leafs got one goal back when Joe MacDougall scored at 16:26, a little over a minute after Arthur’s goal. Valley, though, was unable to net the equalizer.
Valley drew first blood in the series with a 4-2 victory in game one Feb. 18 in Sackville. While the result qualified as somewhat of an upset, in reality, the regular season standings in the Fred Fox Division were so close that only three points separated the first-place Blazers from the fourth-place Leafs.
Valley opened the scoring midway through the first period, when Luke Short stole the puck in the Blazers’ zone and slipped it past goalie Brennan Laite.
The lead held up for only four minutes, until Sackville’s Matt Arthur scored on the power play. With three minutes left in the period and Valley on the power play, Nathan Little’s shot from the point was deflected by Jake Galbraith past Laite for a 2-1 Valley lead after one period.
The Maple Leafs, who outshot Sackville 15-10 in the first period, upped their lead to 3-1 when Colin Gillis scored with 1:22 left in the second period. Valley had a 9-7 edge in shots in the middle frame for a 22-19 advantage after 40 minutes.
In the third period, Andrew Squires scored the prettiest goal of the night, putting an accurate shot from the left side over Laite’s shoulder for a 4-1 Valley lead. Brady Fisher drew the only assist on the goal, which was scored at 2:20.
The game’s final goal, at 9:06 of the third, came off the stick of Sackville’s Shane Boudreau to reduce the lead to 4-2. Trailing by two, the Blazers pulled their goalie in the final minute but were unable to close the gap any further.
Alex Mader stopped 33 of the 35 shots aimed his way, including 15 of 16 in the third period, to earn his first playoff win at the Junior B level. The Maple Leafs ended up with 29 shots on Laite. Sackville had a 30-24 edge in shots in game two.
Speaking prior to game two, Leafs’ head coach Josh Dill was asked if he was surprised his team was ahead in the series.
“Our whole division was very tight this season,” he said. “On any given day, anyone was capable of beating anyone. As long as we’re here, our goal should be to win every game. We fought hard just to be here, so we may as well win if we can.”
Dill felt the Leafs played well this season for the team’s first year.
“The guys worked hard, and ended up being rewarded by making the playoffs,” he said.
He stressed that team discipline would be the key to the series.
“We took a lot of penalties in game one, luckily they didn’t end up hurting us. If we play disciplined and keep working hard, hopefully it will work in our favour.”
Game three of the series was set for Feb. 25 in Sackville, with game four scheduled for 8:20 p.m. on Feb. 28 back in Berwick.