(KINGSVILLE, ON) – The game was not half over and the defending South Division champions of the Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League were already trailing 3-0 on Sunday. The Kingsville Kings, among the top ranked teams in the GMHL, went head-to-head with another big time contender, the St George Ravens, and fell 5-3.
The Wednesday before, the Kings absolutely peppered the Tillsonburg Hurricanes and somehow only eked out a 5-4 victory. The common denominator?
High shot totals for Kingsville, but a low percentage of completion.
Over the course of the past two games, the Kings blasted enemy nets with 132 shots, but yet only put together eight goals. Meanwhile, their opponents were able to malign the Kingsville defense with nine goals on 55 shots.
Standing in the way of the Kingsville onslaught were a pair of veteran 1995-born tenders: St George’s Ryan Purcell and Tillsonburg’s Tyler Jansen.
Purcell backstopped the Midwestern Junior C’s New Hamburg Firebirds the past three seasons, while Jansen is with his second GMHL team of the year and previously had spent time with junior clubs in Ohio, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Montana.
“I think [Purcell and Jansen] played really [well],” said Kings coach Mike Guzzo. “We need to do a better job of taking the goalies’ eyes away as well [as] getting traffic in front.”
On Sunday it did not take long for the Ravens to reach the score sheet. Only 51 seconds in, Aaron Smith threaded the puck behind Kingsville starter Chase Stanford. The goal would stand as the lone marker of the frame, despite the two teams combining for 30 shots.
The Kings started to pull away in the shot department but,despite this, St George was able to grow their lead to three with a pair of blasts from Scott Dorion and Chris Martin.
To help stymie the bleeding, Kingsville’s Dan Leach potted a breakaway goal, breaking Purcell’s goose egg. The 2nd period ended 3-1 in the Ravens’ favour.
Less than 30 seconds into the third, the Kings pulled within one on a power-play snipe from Jakub Mecir. St George answered back soon after when Smith scored his second of the game.
Adam Kusior brought Kingsville within reach with just under 12 minutes to go but, despite inundating Purcell with rubber, the Kings could not add one more to force overtime.
Chris Martin netted an empty-netter late to finish off the hometown Kings.
Purcell was solid, turning aside 57 shots for the win. Stanford made 31 of 35 saves at the home end of the rink.
“We started off slow,” explained Guzzo. “St George came out strong and they played more physical than we did. We were able to make it close in the third, but it wasn’t enough. We have to get back to work and be ready for our next game.”
Wednesday’s game, in Tillsonburg, ended in triumph but proved to be a real nail-biter.
Outshooting the Hurricanes each period, 17-5, 30-6, and 25-8, respectively, one would have expected a score similar to one of last year’s blowout victories. This was not the case.
Kingsville was able to get the leg up early with a snipe two minutes in from Marek Gharibyar, but the Hurricanes answered six minutes later when Logan Kerner popped in an unassisted marker.
In the second, Tillsonburg may have only managed six shots, but they made them count.
Before the six-minute mark, the Hurricanes led 3-1, with goals from Chandler Knibb and Julius Olssen. Blake Naida responded for the Kings before the period ran out, putting his team within a goal. His goal was the only one managed by his team on 30 attempts.
The first half of the third was scoreless but, luckily for the Kings, a sense of urgency kicked in.
Gharibyar knotted the game at three with less than eight minutes remaining, then Naida scored again to give Kingsville their first lead of the match.
With just over four minutes to go, Tillsonburg’s Quinn Gaetz evened the game at four while shorthanded. But, before the Kings’ power play could end, Garcia scored the eventual winning goal.
Kingsville’s goalie, Stanford, was ejected from the game with 33 seconds remaining for a head contact major. He stopped 15 of 19 chances to take the victory. At the other end, Jansen stymied the Kings 63 times, allowing just the four goals.
Backup Kyle Rarick finished the game, stopping four of five.
“[Tyler Jansen] played a great game, he was making big saves and his team was feeding off it,” commented coach Guzzo. “We knew that if we kept shooting and crashing the net we would get our chances. I don’t want to take anything away from Tillsonburg because they played a hard game and never quit, but [we] as a whole need to be a lot better.”
Kingsville will be back in action tonight, as they head over for another crack at Tillsonburg. The Kings return home Sunday for an afternoon game, 3:00pm at the Kingsville Arena, hosting the London Lakers.