(BELLE RIVER, ON) – Get rid of the Lambeth Lancers goalies, Brock MacDonald and Zack Weir, and this is a different series. After Weir almost stole a win in Game 1 last week, against the Lakeshore Canadiens in the Provincial Junior Hockey League West Conference final, the Lancers turned to their so-called back-up goalie, MacDonald.
Having just set new PJHL-wide records for season goals-against average (1.49), save percentage (.956), and shutouts (7), MacDonald sat on the bench in Game 1, behind Strathroy Rockets Junior B veteran Weir, though he is by no means a backup goalie.
In Lambeth on Friday, the Canadiens came out flying, blasting MacDonald with 15 shots in the opening frame, but only managing a 1-0 lead going into the break. Jarrett Tazzman scored the lone goal.
The second period saw scoring open up as Liam Hogan added to Lakeshore’s lead early. But, penalty trouble led to the Lancers tying the game before the third period with power-play markers from Andrew Fletcher and Ray Robbins.
In the third, Matt Smith regained the lead for the Habs eight minutes in while on the man-up. He was answered five minutes later by Lambeth’s Mitchell Jenner. Regulation time solved nothing, but overtime did not last long.
Forty-seven seconds into the extra frame Carson Esipu ripped a goal behind Lakeshore’s Erik Morneau to tie the series at 1-1.
MacDonald improved his playoff record to 7-1 with 27 saves for the win. Morneau took the loss after facing 31 shots.
Two nights later, the series returned to Belle River for Game 3. For the 898 local fans in attendance, it was not a sight to behold.
The Lancers returned to Weir in net and he made the Canadiens pay for their Game 1 win. Despite peppering Weir and outshooting Lambeth 49-29, Lakeshore was crushed by an 8-2 score.
The problems started early as the Lancers built up a 3-0 lead before the Canadiens knew what hit them. Scoring were Billy Finney and Jonah Goodman with two for Lambeth. Hogan popped a goal for the Habs before the period was out to breathe some life into the home team.
Connor Rosaasen cut the lead to 3-2 just under three minutes into the middle stanza, but Fletcher responded twice for Lambeth to put the score back out of reach. Leading 5-2 into the final frame, Andrew Chambers, Jenner, and Deon Truong cushioned the Lancers lead with three more tallies.
Weir was near-perfect in net, stopping 47-of-49 chances to improve his playoff record to 7-2. Morneau again took the loss for Lakeshore after stopping 20-of-26 chances. Habs backup Colin Tetreault played the final 16 minutes.
Game 4 takes place tonight at Lambeth Arena at 8:30pm. The Habs next home game will be Saturday at 7:30pm at Atlas Tube Arena.
The West Conference champions will face the victors from the South in the Schmalz Cup semi-final. In the South final, the Glanbrook Rangers are up 3-0 on the Tavistock Braves in the best-of-seven series.