(ESSEX, ON) – It took extra time, but the Essex 73’s opened their Provincial Junior Hockey League West Conference final with a 3-2 victory over the Dorchester Dolphins on Tuesday. In a game riddled with high-sticking and retaliation penalties, the power play was key as all four regulation goals were scored on the man-up and the two teams combined for 94 minutes in penalties.
Eric Shaw struck first for Essex, late in the opening act, while Dorchester’s Jackson Seeley was in the box for cross-checking. In the middle frame the two opponents traded goals. Alex Weaver popped one six minutes in for the Dolphins, while midway through William Stadder answered for the 73’s with his first of the series.
With just under 11 minutes left in regulation, Dalton Langlois was caught with his elbow up on an opponent and the 73’s paid the price. A minute into the advantage, Braedon Dorion got the puck behind Essex goalie Tyler Ryan to knot the game at two.
The 73’s poured on some late shots, but were unable to close the game before the end of the third stanza. Six minutes into overtime, Stadder played hero as he blasted a rocket over Dolphins goalie Riley Brown’s shoulder to close the game.
Ryan turned aside 31 shots in the win, while Brown stopped 38 for the visitors.
With the victory, the 73’s jump into a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven series. They travel to Dorchester tonight for Game 2, and return to the Essex Arena on Sunday for a 7:00pm start.
Around the league, the Ayr Centennials lead the Grimsby Peach Kings 1-0 after opening their South Conference final last night with a 3-2 overtime triumph. The Mount Forest Patriots trail the Alliston Hornets 1-0 in the North, and the Port Hope Panthers are up in their East Conference series against the Lakefield Chiefs after one game.
The winner of the Essex/Dorchester series will most likely play the winner of the South Conference in the next round.