(ESSEX, ON) – After an almost effortless walk through of the Dorchester Dolphins, it might be fair to say that many people would think that the Essex 73s would have no problem against the Ayr Centennials. Ayr, another former Junior D club, was barely a threat last year during the 73s successful Schmalz Cup run.
Tuesday night, the Centennials set the tone and were driven to prove their worth. If it was not enough to crush the famed Grimsby Peach Kings last round, Ayr has set their sights on the 73s as well, defeating them 5-2 in Game 1 of their best-of-seven OHA Junior C semi-final.
The Centennials opened the scoring 5:39 into the opening act, an unassisted marker from Jackson White. Midway through the frame, Zachary Masterson picked up a slashing minor and Essex made Ayr pay for it.
Brett Vorshuk picked up the power play marker for the 73s, late in the man advantage. Essex outshot the Centennials 12-9 in the period.
The 73s got the go ahead tally, again on the power play, 4:27 into the middle stanza, scored by Anthony Cristofaro. Cole Cummings, of the Centennials, answered back four minutes later, however.
Tyler Boughner of Essex and Quinn Diamond of Ayr traded misconduct penalties for head contact, just minutes apart, about mid-frame, and the Centennials then retook the lead, with about a minute and a half to go, with a snipe by Cash Seraphim.
Essex again led in shots again, this time 12-10.
Early in the third, Dalton Langlois of the 73s was assessed a pair of minors on one play; hooking and cross-checking. The Centennials took their sweet time on the man advantage, taking until the final second of 4-minute power play to extend their lead. Mackenzie Kemp picked up the power play tally for Ayr.
From here on in, the Cents clogged the neutral zone, stymieing all of the 73s offense.
Ayr’s tender, Mitch Figueirdo, put on a puck playing seminar. Essex had taken to dumping the puck in around the boards, hoping to cross up the Centennials deep in their zone, but Figueirdo proved to be a formidable third defenseman, in addition to his usual task of guarding the pipes.
Late in the game, Ayr’s Jake Whibbs added an empty-netter to seal the deal.
Figueirdo stood tall for the Cents, stopping 29 of 31 shots, while 73s net minder Trevor Wheaton allowed 4 goals on 25.
The series now moves to the North Dumphries Community Centre for Games 2 and 3, taking place this Thursday and Friday. The series returns to the Essex Memorial Arena for Game 4 on Sunday night at 7:00pm.