Janikowski's Natural Hat Trick and Ekblad's Goaltending Gives Essex 2-1 Series Lead
By: Kevin E. Neels
Phil Janikowski took care of the offense and Darien Ekblad took care of stopping the puck as the Essex 73's took a 2-1 series lead Saturday evening by downing the Belle River Canadiens 3-0.
Ekblad stopped all 40 shots he faced to earn the shutout.
"Without Ekblad in period two we don't win this game," said Janikowski, "We were not working hard enough in that second period and we played their game, not ours."
The first two periods were scoreless, but it was the Canadiens who were the better team for the most part as they were in the 73's faces at every turn, and created a number of quality scoring chances by forcing turnovers and hustling to loose pucks. Unfortunately for Belle River Darien Ekblad was on his game and shut the door giving his team mates a chance to win this game.
In period three Essex capitalized on their one and only power play opportunity of the game to give them the boost they needed. Janikowski was in the right spot at the right time and slid the puck past Canadiens goaltender Mitch Topliffe at the 8:18 mark.
Hard work by Dylan Solecki by knocking a Canadiens defenseman off the puck behind their own net created a turnover which gave Janikowski the chance to slide out to the side of the net and rip a wrist shot over the glove of Topliffe to add some much needed cushion.
Janikowski completed his "hat trick" into an empty Belle River net in the final minute of play.
Assistant Coach Steve Caldwell said, "For two periods we couldn't put two passes together, and during second
intermission we said to the guys that they had to find a way to win this game. We feel that our goaltender Ekblad was the difference tonight in that second period. This series has been stiff competition for us and we think that will help us as that should build some character, and it shouldn't allow us to get complacent."
Game four goes Monday evening in Belle River at 7:30 pm.
Penalties Prove Costly for 73's in Game 2 of GLJHL finals Versus Belle River
Essex' Consecutive Playoff Win Streak Snapped
By: Kevin E. Neels
After 21 straight playoff wins in league play over the past two seasons the 73's streak is now over after the Belle River Canadiens scored a power play goal with just 1.6 ticks left on the clock to beat the 3's, 4-3.
This game was a tale of two different hockey games as the Canadiens dominated the opening twenty minutes of play while the 73's turned the tables in period two to return the favour before the home team ended it as the clock expired.
Belle River played a solid first as they were winning all the small battles and beating Essex to the puck from start to finish. Another big reason for the Belle River success was the fact that the 73's had trouble staying out of the penalty box. The Canadiens did a good job of making Essex pay for their sins as well scoring a pair of goals in building up a 3-0 lead.
A pep talk during the intermission sparked the visitors early in period two as the 73's cut the lead to a single goal before the first minute of play had elapsed. Colin DeLaet took a pass and ripped a high wrist shot to get things started. Fifteen seconds later defenseman Aaron Thibert blasted a point shot that hit the far side of the twine. Essex continued to press and at 8:05 we had a tie hockey game as Jordan Ryan picked up his own rebound and slipped it past Canadiens goaltender Mitch Topliffe.
The score remained this way heading into period three. Neither team had many quality chances over the final twenty minutes of play until Canadiens defenseman Logan Percy found the back of the net with a couple of seconds left on the clock to even this series at a game apiece heading back to Essex Saturday evening.
Darien Ekblad said, "We had a bad start but turned it around in period two. Belle River had their cycle game
working well in the opening period, but that was just as much our fault for not being prepared. Some people think we should win every series four straight but the reality is that is not likely to happen."
Eric Shaw said, "We got off to a slow start and maybe got a few bad calls go against us, but we should not put ourselves in a position to take those bad penalties. There is no panic in the dressing room as we are a veteran team. This loss is a wake up call and hopefully will bring us down to earth. Tomorrow is a new day."
Game three is Saturday in Essex at 7:15 pm.
Offensive Outburst by 73's Big Line Buries Canadiens in Series Opener
By: Kevin E. Neels
In the opening game in this year's league final between the Belle River Canadiens and the Essex 73's the score was close after forty minutes of play with each team bulging the twine once apiece. Any hopes the Canadiens had of possibly stealing the first game were quickly dashed in the final twenty minutes of play as the 73's scored five unanswered goals on the way to a 6-1 rout.
Belle River held their own in period two but were badly outplayed in the first and third periods.
Canadiens defenseman Brenden Crundwell was the only player to beat Essex goaltender Darien Ekblad during a late second period power play.
Essex' top line of Corey Beaulieu, Danile Slipchuk and Colin DeLaet notched twelve points between them in pacing the Essex offense with Beaulieu recording his second "hat trick" of the season.
Beaulieu recorded the only Essex score in the first two periods of play as he jumped on a huge rebound and fired the puck into a wide open Belle River cage.
A scrum at the buzzer in period two gave Essex a power play to begin the final period and they made no mistake as DeLaet jumped on another rebound to fire the puck past Canadiens net minder Mitch Topliffe at the :45 second mark.
The 73's continued coming at the visitors and as well as Topliffe played throughout this game he had no answers in period three. Beaulieu scored the next two goals before Brett Clarke and Eric Shaw completed the scoring.
Beaulieu said, "We had an emotional second intermission as we felt a bit down after playing so well in period one and then letting them hang around to even the score in period two. We got away from our game plan in period two and it cost us, but we had a good talk in the intermission and knew what we had to do in the final twenty minutes. We started this way against Wheatley as well, but we need to come out each and every game and play hard. The
team that plays the hardnosed hockey will come out victorious in this series."
Colin DeLaet said, "We had a great opening period, but we did not stick to our game plan in the second period. In the intermission we talked about getting back to playing simple hockey. Another advantage tonight was that we stayed out of the penalty box, and that will be key for us if we continue to play that way."
Game two goes Friday in Belle River at 7:30 pm.
73's Advance to Third Consecutive Great Lakes Championship With Sweep Over Sharks
By: Kevin E. Neels
Rookie Phil Janikowski led the offense with a pair of goals in game four to eliminate the stingy Wheatley Sharks in a four game sweep. Essex will now have a week off as they prepare to face either the Belle River Canadiens or the Blenheim Blades in the league final.
This victory did not come easily as the 73's struggled at times to get the puck past their own blue line and it cost them on a couple of occasions. But having said that the good teams seem to always find ways to win and tonight was no exception as the 73's played a much better third period and eked out a 4-3 win.
The teams swapped first period goals with Janikowski opening the scoring for Essex before the Sharks tied it up in the second half of the period.
Wheatley jumped on an Essex giveaway early in the middle frame to grab a 2-1 lead. Five minutes later Dylan Solecki batted in a rebound that Shark goaltender Connor MacKinnon could not hold on to. As in the first period the home team scored in the latter half of the period to take a 3-2 lead into the final period.
Janikowski pulled the 73's back to even terms early in period three as the Sharks defense opened up for him and he took the opportunity to streak in all alone and beat MacKinnon high to the glove side.
"I think their defense thought that I was going to head to the outside, but when they opened up for me I had a good burst of speed going and took advantage of it, and luckily my shot found the net, "said Janikowski.
The winning Essex goal came at 9:39 of the period when Daniel McIntyre was chasing down an errant pass headed towards Wheatley goaltender MacKinnon. MacKinnon made the choice of trying to beat McIntyre to the puck when the two players collided and the puck bounced over the top of the goaltender and slid into the empty cage.
The Essex fore checking game took over at this point and shut down the Sharks the rest of the way.
Janikowski also said, "The intensity in these playoff games is much more so than I anticipated, but I am having a lot of fun out there. Getting the sweep is sweet as well as it gives us some time to heal some injuries and get prepared for the next round."
Veteran Dylan Solecki said, "The bounces didn't seem to be going our way in the early going and we struggled at times to clear the puck up, but that was just as much the forwards fault as it was the defense as we were not giving them enough support. Heading into period three we decided that it was time to pull up our socks, bring our lunch pails and get to work, as that was the only way we were going to win this game."
The league final will begin sometime next week. Keep checking local newspapers and the Essex 73's website for updates.
Notes: This marks the third consecutive year the 73’s have made it to the Great Lakes Junior C Final. In fact, with the win tonight, Essex is undefeated in Great Lakes playoff play for 25 consecutive games going back to the league final in 2012 against the Belle River Canadians.
Jordan Ryan Does It Again; Scores Winning Goal in Overtime
By: Kevin E. Neels
Jordan Ryan scored the game winner for the second consecutive game Saturday evening togive the Essex 73's a 3-0 stranglehold in this best of seven series with the Wheatley Sharks.
With the game deadlocked at 3-3 in overtime Ryan picked up a loose puck inside his own blue line, circled once with the puck and raced up the ice towards the Shark net. Ryan skated just inside the Wheatley zone and using a Shark defenseman as a screen, let go a hard, low wrist shot which beat Wheatley goaltender Connor MacKinnon clean on the stick side.
"I had made up my mind that once I skated the circle back in our own end and picked up speed that I was going to go for it, " said Ryan, "Thankfully it worked out."
The 73's struggled to play their usual style of game for a good part of this contest, but I lot of that had to do with the fact that Wheatley was fighting for their playoff lives and came out hard and determined to get this series closer. The Sharks grabbed a 2-0 lead before the ten minute mark of the first period and looked good doing it. Before the period ended however the 73's Matthew Hebert cut the lead in half as his screen shot found the back of the net.
The visitors controlled a large portion of period two largely in part to the number of power play opportunities the 73's handed them. What could very well had been the turning point in this hockey game was the fact that the Sharks could not bury the puck while holding the man advantage including two back to back five on three chances. The 73's penalty kill units and goaltender Darien Ekblad did a remarkable job in these situations.
Late in the period defenseman Scott Bromley snuck in from the blue line and took a pass from behind the net to
bury a wrist shot past MacKinnon to even this game heading into period three.
The visitors regained the lead in period three as sniper Jon Woelk snapped a wrist shot from the wing to beat Ekblad low on the glove side with less than eight minutes remaining. Unfortunately for the Sharks the lead would not last long. Less than two minutes later after a big pad save by MacKinnon, Essex Captain Cory Beaulieu jumped on the rebound and found the open top of the net. Beaulieu's goal would send this game to overtime.
Wheatley came out hard in the first minute or so of extra time but it would be the 73's which stormed back to get the better opportunities and Ryan ended it with his end to end outburst at 8:15.
"A 3-0 lead in a series is huge, " said Ryan, "I am not counting them out just yet, but we sure hope to end this thing Monday in Wheatley. The difference tonight was Wheatley's failure to capitalize on their chances."
Matthew Hebert said, "We didn't play our best tonight, but we kept plugging away and in the end it paid off. We ran into some bad penalties which gave us some trouble, but we didn't panic and we got the job done."
Game four goes Monday evening in Wheatley at 7:30 pm.
Ryan's Two Goals Pace 73's to 3-2 Win In Wheatley; Take Two-game Series Lead
By: Kevin E. Neels
Sharp shooter Jordan Ryan scored a pair of goals Wednesday evening to give the Essex 73's a 2-0 lead in their best of seven series with the Wheatley Sharks.
Ryan seen his offensive numbers drop off in the latter part of the regular season, but has once again found his scoring touch which should spell trouble for the opposition goaltenders.
The turning point in this hockey game came early as the Sharks had a 5 on 3 man advantage mid first period for over a minute. The 73's penalty kill remained flawless in this series as they shut the door on this opportunity as well.
A couple of minutes later Daniel McIntyre gave Essex the lead as he was left unattended in front of the Wheatley cage and his back hander found its way past goaltender Connor MacKinnon.
Wheatley did manage to get back on even terms with just over a minute remaining in the opening period as a lack of back checking gave the home team a 3 on 1 and they made no mistake in beating Darien Ekblad.
The Sharks grabbed their first lead of the series just :29 seconds into period two as Cale Phibbs stepped around the 73's defense and his back hander beat Ekblad five hole.
Ryan scored his first of the night to even the score at 8:52 as he stepped over the Shark blue line and let go a bullet of a wrist shot that beat MacKinnon high to the glove side.
Essex applied a stifling fore check in period three and it paid off handsomely at 6:29. The forecheck forced a huge defensive giveaway and Tyler Scott slid a soft pass over to an open Ryan and he buried it for what proved to be the winning goal.
Scott said, "Wewere fired up tonight to take a two game lead heading back home for game three. We expect everything out of them and we will be ready if they step it up a notch."
Scott Bromley said, " We expected harder from them in their own barn, but now that they are down two we will expect them to come out even harder Saturday in Essex as they are fighting for their lives now. This game wasn't exactly pretty but we will take it. This rink is a fun rink to play in but also a weird rink to play in. I have never seen so many crazy bounces coming off the glass and boards. You really have to play attention when you are in this rink."
Game three goes Saturday in Essex at 7:00 pm.
Sharks Lack Bite in Opening Game as 73's Win 5-1
By: Kevin E. Neels
The Wheatley Sharks could not muster up much in the way of any offense in game one of their series against the defending league champion Essex 73's as the home team had their way from start to finish.
Essex played a very solid defensive game in allowing the visitors a mere 16 shots on goal and in the process capitalized on a number of Wheatley breakdowns to grab game one in this series.
"We came out hard and took Wheatley a bit by surprise I think," said, Jordan Ryan, "Knowing that we were off for a week I don't think Wheatley expected that type of start from us."
Essex built up a 3-0 lead by the 13:33 mark of the opening period causing the Sharks to call a time out. All of the Essex goals were good goals which Sharks net minder Connor MacKinnon had no chance of stopping. Phil Janikowski got the crowd into this game early as he split the defense at the :53 second mark and fired a low wrist shot to beat MacKinnon.
Captain Corey Beaulieu scored a high light reel goal at the 12:00 minute mark as he picked up a loose puck at centre ice dip see doodled around a couple of Wheatley defenders before pulling MacKinnon out of position and back handing the puck high.
Jordan Ryan took a nice pass from line mate Daniel McIntyre and ripped the puck past MacKinnon before he could even move for goal number three.
Things settled down in period number two until late in the period when the leading playoff scorer Colin DeLaet found the twine on a pretty feed from Eric Shaw to boost the 73's into a 4-0 edge heading into period three.
Alex Garon scored on the power play early in the final frame to pretty much seal the deal for this game at 5-0 but the Sharks broke the shutout bid of Darien Ekblad with 1:19 left on the clock as Ekblad was stripped of the puck behind his net.
"I like to think that this was a statement game," said Ryan, "Wheatley wants to beat us real bad, but we showed tonight that this is our title and we want it."
Darien Ekblad said, "I thought we played a real good game tonight, but I expect that they will come out harder tomorrow as there barn is always tough to play in. The one thing Wheatley has over Dresden is that they have some guys with playoff experience , but having said that I would say that we are a confident group, but certainly not cocky."
Game two goes Wednesday in Wheatley at 7:30 pm.
73's Captain Wins Second Great Leakes Junior C Scoring Title
The defending Great Lakes Junior C Most Valuable Player may have sealed the vote again this year after capturing his second scoring title in as many years.
Corey Beaulieu recorded four assists February 1st in Essex' last game against the Wallaceburg Lakers, giving him 31 goals, 35 assists and 66 points on the year, 10 more than second place point-getter, Cam Aiken, of Blenheim.
Beaulieu, who graduates from junior hockey after this season, was consistant all year, but really picked up the pace in the last stretch of the regular season, registering 15 points in his final five games.
The 21-year old Amherstburg, ON native, who had 63 points last year, is on a 10-game point streak (8-13-21).
In 36 games this year, Beaulieu had a point in at least 30 of them. More impressive is his ability to play a rugged two-way game while only accumulating 18 minutes in penalties all year.
The line of Beaulieu, play-making centre Daniel Slipchuk (13-33-46) and speedy winger Alex Garon (18-26-44 in just 32 games), is the best line in the Great Lakes circuit, and accounted for 29.2% of Essex' 212 goals this season.
Corey Beaulieu's Career Statistics click here
2014 Essex 73's Annual Raffle Winners
Draw date Tues., Feb. 14th at Essex Centre Sports Complex. Tickets drawn between 2nd and 3rd period of hockey game by referee Alan Provost.
1st Prize - Gord Renaud, Essex
7-day Caribbean Cruise for 2 people including air and all taxes, or $3,000 Cash
2nd Prize - Steve Dinkwater, Sault Ste. Marie
$1,500 Gas Card, or $1,500 Cash
3rd Prize - Beata Janikowski, LaSalle
$500 Legends Night VIP table including 8 tickets, 2 bottles of wine and VIP service
4th Prize - Karel Murray, Amherstburg
1 large pizza & 2 large pop/month for 1 year courtesy of Chochi's Pizza
5th Prize - Eric Gravel, Windsor
2 Detroit Red Wings tickets courtesy of Ives Insurance
6th Prize - Steve Bacon, Essex
2 Essex 73's 2014-15 regular season tickets
7th Prize - Rick Marentette, Belle River
Official Essex 73's team jersey and ball cap
The Essex 73's would like to thank all participants and sponsors.
ESSEX 73's TRIVIA QUESTION will return next season.
Deadline: Sunday 11:59pm Sunday before next Essex 73's home game.
This week's winner receives two (2) tickets to the next Essex 73's home game.
1) Select your choice
2) If your choice is correct, and you are the only person to answer the question correctly, you are the winner
3) Tie breaker determined by draw. Example two or more correct answers, all will be entered into a draw and first person's name pulled is the winner
4) Winning prize will be available for pickup at Essex 73's box office the night of next home game
5) You can enter as many times as you want providing you use a unique and valid email address
6) You can only win once in a given month
7) Valid ID required to claim prize
8) Prize has no cash value and can not be exchnaged or refunded
9) Executive members and volunteers of the Essex 73's are ineligible