(ESSEX, ON) – With just a couple of weeks left in the regular season schedule, the race to see who will finish first in the Provincial Junior (C) Hockey League’s West Stobbs Division continued Tuesday night as the host Essex 73’s came from behind to nip their biggest rivals, the Lakeshore Canadiens 3-2, in front of a crowd of over 700 at the Essex Centre Sports Complex.
With the win, the 73’s pull to within a point of the front running Dresden Kings, who have 54 points, one up on the locals. Both have a pair of games remaining in the 40-game schedule.
Despite the loss, the Canadiens seem to be in a good spot as they have four games in hand on the Kings, the 73’s, and the Amherstburg Admirals, who are all in the hunt to finish first.
“We’ve got two weeks before the playoffs so we have to tighten up a little bit,” said Lakeshore head coach Anthony Iaquinta, a former 73’s player and assistant coach.
- Video courtesy of Ryan Groves.
Essex had the best opportunity in the scoreless 1st period when newcomer Dawson Winchester took a nice pass, used his great speed to cut across the middle, but shot wide. Defensively, Essex blueliner Evan Prince made a huge play as he slid across the ice on his stomach and swiped the puck away from a Canadiens attempt.
Luke Gecse put the 73’s up in the 2nd period before Connor Rosaasen tied it up. The Canadiens had a good chance to take the lead early in the second as Essex took a couple of penalties, but waited until Dylan Bradley made ti 2-1 in the 3rd.
Lakeshore hung onto the one-goal margin for several minutes before the hosts took control.
“I don’t think you ever want to let up, but we worked to take care of our own end defensively,” said Iaquinta.
It took centre Riley Meyerink just 15 seconds into a powerplay to tie it for Essex before Michael Vieira notched the winner on his 15th of the year.
Essex coach Cam Crowder was visibly upset on the bench as the final seconds of the game ticked off. There was an issue with the clock not starting which, even though they had the lead and the Canadiens had pulled goalie Mitch Topliffe, an empty net goal could have proven important in the final standings.
And as far as returning to Essex to coach against his former team, Iaquinta said, “It’s not something I think about. I have some great memories over there for sure both coaching and playing.”
- Essex goalie Jax DHondt made 15 saves for his 15th win of the season
- The 50/50 draw for the night was over $700
- The 73’s have two games next week. Tuesday they host Mooretown and the next night travel to Wallaceburg.