With a sudden last-minute surge of momentum, the Bracebridge Phantoms have swept aside their second-round playoff rivals.
Just one shorthanded goal made the difference in the Bracebridge team’s showdown against the South Muskoka Shield in the third game of the Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League second round playoffs on Saturday, March 2 at Bracebridge Memorial Arena. Despite leading the series with two decisive victories (6-1 and 7-3), the Phantoms had entered the game playing catch-up until midway through the third period, when two quick goals by forwards Charles Williams and Kyle Cecchetto brought the Bracebridge team to a 6-5 win.
“The Shield played a great game; they had us on the ropes,” said Phantoms owner Tim Dickieson. “Tonight was a test for sure.”
The Shield wrapped up the first period with a narrow 2-1 lead, which they further expanded to a 4-1 lead midway into the second period. The Shield’s fourth goal flared tempers between Shield forward Brodie MacDonald and Phantoms defenceman Matt Dickieson, whose ensuing punch-up left Bracebridge shorthanded for five minutes.
Then, with five minutes remaining in the second period, the Phantoms mounted their comeback. Buoyed by a goal from forward Lester Brown at the 5:47 mark, Nemania Vucuveric followed suit with another quick goal during a mad scramble in front of the Shield net.
Gravenhurst’s Andrey Novikov, however, bounced back with yet another goal just mere seconds afterwards, bringing the score to 5-3 for the Shield. Brown then retorted with a backhand goal just 31 seconds later, bringing the final score to 5-4 at the end of the second period.
“When he’s going, he’s pretty unstoppable,” Tim Dickieson said of Brown.
Staring down the barrel of a possible Game 4, the Phantoms came back in the third period with renewed energy.
With his fellow Phantoms picking up the pace of their game, Williams brought the score to a nail-biting 5-5 at the 11-minute mark.
About 30 seconds later, Brown tipped the scales for the Phantoms with the final, shorthanded goal.
But the Phantoms were far from home free. With 10 minutes to go in the game, they netted two penalties – one for interference and another for taunting. Unable to capitalize on their power plays, the Shield pulled their goaltender in the closing seconds of the game. In the end, their attempts to force the Phantoms into overtime proved fruitless. The stands erupted into cheers as Shield forward Brandon Luksa’s last shot on the Phantoms net failed to register.
“We didn’t want to go back there Monday night,” said Dickieson. “And I think boys, we look forward for them to have a little bit of rest before the next series.”
In the aftermath of the game, Dickieson said many of the team’s more experienced players were a decisive factor in the victory.
“We have a lot of veteran experience in the room that have played junior hockey for three to four seasons,” he said. “The 21-year-olds kept their cool, and when they were out there they dominated. It was only a matter time before we were back in.”
Shield general manager Dallyn Telford said his players knew the Phantoms would press hard to win the game on home turf, though the narrow defeat was still a tough pill to swallow.
“They’re disappointed. There are a lot of teary eyes. We didn’t expect this short of a series in Bracebridge,” he said, outside of the Shield dressing room. ”We thought we played well enough to still be playing. But sometimes you don’t get the bounces, and sometimes the hockey gods frown on you, and they frowned on us tonight. That’s the way hockey goes. It’s a funny game.”
Though the Phantoms have yet to find out who they will be playing next, Dickieson said there is a chance they will be taking on the Temiscaming Titans.
“I think we’re looked upon as a couple of the better teams, so it’ll definitely be a good series for sure,” he said.