(DORCHESTER, ON) – Essex’s Trevor Wheaton has been watching from the sidelines since Game 3 of the Great Lakes Junior C final, but no more. Wheaton made his return to the pipes on Friday night and backstopped his club to a 28-save shutout.
With the 4-0 victory, the 73s lead the Dorchester Dolphins in their OHA Schmalz Cup quarter-final, 2 games to none.
In what was a chippy affair, the match was interspersed with multiple game misconducts. Essex’s Matthew Rosati only lasted a minute and a half into the game before he was given the gate for hitting from behind.
Matthew Hebert opened the scoring for the 73s at 7:22 into the opening frame on the power play. Less than a minute later, Dorchester’s Brett Van Dusen was sent packing for an interference major. Essex inundated Dolphins’ goalie Riley Brown with 23 shots before the buzzer.
Minutes into the middle stanza, Dorchester lost another player. Derek Todosichuk was cited for abuse of the officials and ejected.
Soon after, Cody Schneider found the back of the Dolphins’ net to give the 73s a 2-0 lead. With 5:48 remaining in the period, Dorchester’s Alex Weaver took a costly checking from behind penalty and, with Weaver out of the game, Brett Vorshuk extended the lead to 3.
In the final frame, the Dolphins switched to back-up goalie Matt Waller, retiring Brown for the night.
Essex did not hold back, peppering Waller with 18 shots before the game was through. The fresh goalie stonewalled much of the onslaught, allowing only one goal.
Griffin McCarty scored with just under 7 minutes remaining, near the end of a 4-minute spearing power play, to seal the deal.
The Dolphins’ goalies kept the game in check after being slammed with 58 shots; Brown facing 40 of them during his tenure.
The Dolphins then walked into the Essex Memorial Arena on Sunday night while missing two of their most essential personnel. With playoff leading scorer Todosichuk out with a suspension from Game 2 and starting goalie Brown being rested, the Dolphins lacked their usual assertiveness.
In the previous two games, despite being badly out shot, Dorchester has kept the scores respectable. In Game 3, however, the hometown 73s extended their shutout streak to 131-plus minutes and earned their second straight goose egg, blanking the Dolphins 10-0.
The first period seemed innocuous enough. Despite being outshot 16-6 in the period, the frame was largely par-for-the-course for the series thus far; a big shot total for Essex, little result on the scoreboard.
With 2:33 remaining in the period, Luke Gecse cracked the twine for the 73s, snapping a shot from the high slot past Dolphins’ tender Waller.
At the end of the opening stanza, Dorchester’s Jay Ritchie took a penalty for head contact. As the game returned for the second, Matt Gecse went to work, cashing in on the power play only 47 seconds in. Tyler Scott walked in close to Waller, minutes later, and found room to extend the lead.
Halfway through the game the score was only 3-0, but that is when floor gave out under the Dolphins.
At 9:55 into the second, Dorchester’s Mark Brisson crosschecked Essex’s Cody Leeming in the face and in plain view of the referee. Brisson was ejected from the game with a crosschecking major, and the game went south for his club.
Over the course of the next seven minutes, the 73s would pump Dorchester for six power play goals. Less than a minute into the man advantage, Anthony Cristofaro tapped the puck in from the side of the net, on a dish from William Stadder.
After the goal, the Dolphins’ head coach Mark Van Vliet received an unsportsmanlike conduct infraction, putting his team down two men. Eric Shaw punished them for it only 24 seconds later on the 5-on-3.
Still on the advantage, Rosati dumped the puck in on the Dorchester net from the blue line, but Waller lost sight of the rebound. Max Viselli swept in to tap the puck behind the net minder to make the score 6-0. Just 28 seconds later, Adam Gaiarin added to the pileup, blasting a puck five-hole from the point.
Josh King capped the 5-minute advantage with one more, tapping in a rebound with just under seven minutes remaining. The Dolphins would kill off the rest of the major, but the damage was done; a 5-goal power play for the 73s.
To add insult to injury, the Dolphins found themselves a man short again only a minute and a half after the conclusion of the major. Essex would make them pay this time as well, as McCarty tapped in the seventh power play goal and eighth scoring marker of the period for the home side.
Waller was pelted with 22 shots in the period.
The final frame began with a goalie change for the 73s as they elected to rest a rather untested Trevor Wheaton in favour of Matt Badour. Essex, not in fear of losing, elected to trap most of the period.
Other than a breakaway goal for Stadder, minutes into the third, the period was uneventful.
Wheaton and Badour shared the shutout victory for the 73s, stopping all 23 shots they faced. Meanwhile, Waller was peppered with a total of 53 shots for the Dolphins.
Essex has a chance to end the series tonight in Dorchester. If needed, Game 5 will be in Essex on Friday at 7:30pm.
In other OHA quarter-final action, the Ayr Centennials lead the Grimsby Peach Kings 2-games-to-1. The Alliston Hornets are up 3-0 on the Kincardine Bulldogs, and the Port Hope Panthers are ahead of the Port Perry Mojacks 3-1.
If Alliston defeats Kincardine and the 73s close out the Dolphins, Essex will play the victor of Ayr and Grimsby in the semi-finals.