It may have been a warm, summer night in the hub, but the Essex 73’s remained calm, cool and collective with a convincing 6–3 victory over the visiting Wheatley Sharks to begin play in the newly formed Provincial Junior Hockey League.
In front of a home town crowd of 589 supporters, the game was preceded with the special ceremonial face-off that in some ways symbolized the handing over of the baton, as formed Head Coach Gil Langlois who now serves as a special assistant to the team, was joined by New Head Coach Cam Crowder for the dropping of the puck. They were also joined by Mr.73’s Frank Matthys who shared in the ceremony.
The first period saw chippy and sometimes sloppy play by both teams until the Sharks, still drained from a contest just 24 hours earlier at home against Blenheim, lit the first lamp mid way through the first on a goal by Cole Butler at 11:50 of the period.
The Sharks would take the 1-0 lead into the dressing following the first period
The 73’s, who have not been able to gain much ice team since breaking training camp just a little more than a week ago, were at times trying find their stride, as the effect of the time off was very apparent in the first period.
“We definitely came out flat at the beginning” admitted Crowder on his teams first period performance. “We found our legs quickly after getting that first period out of the way and I was impressed how we improved and bounced back as the game progressed.”
Like a new team arriving just in time to meet the call of the second period bell, the 73’s, looking fresh and ready to play, rolled out the tunnel to hit the second frame hard when William Stadder put Essex on the board at 6:37 of the period on a nice breakaway goal.
Just 1:05 minutes later, Tyler Scott deflected a Cody Leeming slap shot from the blue line putting the Orange and Black up quickly, 2-1.
With play opening up quite considerable from the conservatively played first period, the Sharks Alixe Saliba found the net at 11:50 to even the score at 2 a piece.
The 73’s then found second life again and roared back with three unanswered goals to take a commanding 5-2 advantage lead by tallies from Tyler Boughner’s first of two in the period followed by a power play goal by William Stadder, his second of the tilt and Boughner replying later in the frame at 18:31 to close out the second period.
For Stadder, netting two on opening night was especially exciting giving the weak start of the game.
“We came out a little flat but the we just turned it around in the second, I was lucky to be in the right place tonight to be able to contribute “ says Stadder.
Wheatley answered the third period call with a quick goal by Mitch Lantin, but that’s where the Sharks offense would end as the 73’s Eric Shaw added to the lopsided victory added a single, unassisted, at 10.11 of the period.
73’s Kade McKibbin, who didn’t figure in on any scoring, gave an outstanding effort and took away Player of the Game.
“It’s nice to be recognized of course, but I thought it was a great effort from all our guys tonight”, says McKibbin. “Everyone had a hand in the win.”
Essex clearly outshot the Sharks 42- 21. 73’s goaltender, Matthew Badour was called upon tonight to open the season in net, and admited to being a little nervous at game time.
“I think being off for that period of time was a little tough. I fsaidadmits Badour. “But all in all we found a way to win it tonight, our guys seemed to just get better and made it a little easier for me and I felt a more confident as the game went on.”
The 73’s travel to Amherstburg this coming Sunday where they’ll face off against the Admirals at 7:00pm before returning home next Tuesday, September 27th, when they will host the Mooretown Flags.