GRAVENHURST - The South Muskoka Shield’s fortunes have reversed in the last week, spinning their 2-4 won-loss record into a winning 5-4 and moving up the standings to a three-way tie for sixth overall in the Greater Metro Hockey League.
Facing the Bradford Bulls on the road Oct. 17, it was a bit of déjà vu as the Shield found themselves down quickly and fighting back from a 2-0 deficit headed into the second period.
Shield forward Mackenzie Crews notched his team’s first goal of the game and grasped some of the momentum as the club exploded for four second-period markers, including two consecutive power-play markers by the hot-handed Andrey Novikov. Bradford kept pace with two of their own and a tie 4-4 game heading into the third period.
The Bulls opened the final frame for a 5-4 lead, and once more the lead swung the Shield’s way as Cody Cesarz added his first of the game and Crews his second.
With time ticking short the Bulls wrangled a late-period tie at 6-6, but with a mere 20 seconds on the clock, Joey Verreijen held the late heroics and put his club up by the winning 7-6 score.
On Oct. 19, playing host to the Rama Aces at the centennial centre, the Shield suffered their first overtime loss of the season, falling 6-5 in a fast-paced, high-scoring affair.
The first frame was for the defences, as only Shield forward Wade Weisgerber found twine for a 1-0 advantage headed into the second. Rama knotted it at one all early in the second, only to see the Shield remount the lead with two straight for a 3-1 game.
But Rama didn’t play the good guest and responded with two more in the final minutes of the second for a three-all match heading into the final stanza.
The Aces wasted no time in capturing their first lead, going up 4-3 before the first minute had ticked away. Newly acquired Larry McShane, playing only his third game as a member of the Shield, hit on two straight goals only seconds apart for a one-point lead. Again, Rama did the host team no favours and with the Shield up a man on the power play, the Aces potted a short-handed marker to force an overtime period. It took about five minutes, but the Aces did muster the game winner for a 6-5 final.
Head coach and general manager Dal Telford said his club learned some valuable lessons from the overtime loss and said since, he’s been pleased with how the team has melded.
“It was a tough loss to take, but we fought through it and I think the guys learned a lot about what it takes to win and how we win,” Telford said.
The Toronto Moose became the victim of that learning curve the following night, as one of the league’s newest teams welcomed the hungry Shield in Oct. 20 for the first time this year.
The Shield scored early and often, taking a solid 4-1 lead into the second period where they nailed two more and stayed stingy on defence by not allowing any more goals. In the end, the Shield skated off with the 6-1 drubbing of the Moose and a little more confidence under their belts.
“We played a solid game against the Moose and hopefully it will be the start of a bit of a roll for us,” Telford said.
“I think for that first five or six games the guys were still learning each other and now it’s all finally starting to click.”
The Shield were 2-4 through their first six games, but now sit at 5-4 in 10 games with one overtime loss. The team is now tied for sixth with two other teams. They next play in Gravenhurst Oct. 26 at 8 p.m. against Mattawa, followed by a road game Oct. 28 in Rama against the Aces.