Photo courtesy Figure Four Productions
After losing an unheard of six straight, the Brantford Blast had won two in a row heading into the matchup Friday night against Whitby. Could they make it three?
As the puck dropped, you wouldn’t have guessed that Brantford was hot though. Inside a frigid Civic Centre, the Blast too were cold… and as fans were getting seated, it was actually Whitby who was hot. Very quickly, it was 1-0 Whitby. Then just as fast, it was 2-0.
Eight minutes in, Brantford had quality chance via Rob Hisey but then Whitby came down and showed the Blast how to do it, making it 3-0. Brantford was getting Dunlopped, to say the least.
Six minutes into the second, Brantford got some life restored. An impressive rush from Andrew Radjenovic resulted in a shot and the loose change was deposited by Jordan Owens.
And just a minute later, Brantford was back at it. Jordan Owens did the hard work while Jared Konkle converted the goal that had the Blast within one with momentum on their side.
Even as the Blast were shorthanded, these two were at it again, this time with Owens scoring off an impressive solo rush. And just like that, we had a brand new game! The score was tied 3-3. However, now momentum was on Brantford’s side.
With a minute remaining in the second, we had a new leader! Nick Tuzzolino had the marker off another rush. The goalie found himself too far back in his net to get across the crease from the pass via Chris Lawrence. If we said Brantford got Dunlopped in the first period, Whitby got Blasted in the second.
This lead was very shortlived though as Whitby got one with just eight seconds to play in the frame.
So entering the third, we were all even at four. The third started out very chippy and we even had a scrap.
But with seven left, Konkle was the beneficiary off another rush. When the puck found him, he made no mistake to give Brantford the lead.
With three and a half to play in the defensive zone, Brantford captain Lon Blanchard switched from man in the slot to shooter. In that brief nick of time, the Dunlop player used Blanchard as a partial screen and threw it on goal, surprising the Blast goalie, Ryan DeMelo. And it was tied again.
In a wild game that seemed to deserve overtime, two pipes were hit– one aside– to make overtime a reality.
Three-on-three was quickly ruined by a Whitby trip and Brantford saw a powerplay to potentially end the game. Alas, Whitby killed it off. It now seemed like the game that wouldn’t end.
Ergo, shootout time! DeMelo: save. Konkle: crossbar. Whitby: goal. Owens needed to score… and although when watching a highlight pack, they never do when they say “needing to score,” Owens did!
Owens then had a shot for the win… and he beat the goalie… but in a strange play, the goalie knew he was beat when he missed the pokecheck, so in desperation, it appeared he tried to throw his stick at the puck before Owens could guide it across the line. Amazingly, it was stricken away from Owens!
This of course is not allowed, but the refs gathered at centre-ice and to Brantford’s dismay and surprise, they deemed the goaltender lost the stick, so they weren’t awarding Owens the goal. Therefore, keep shooting!
Then a goalie battle ensued! Shot after shot was turned away! DeMelo was great. Amazingly, eight shooters total had went through and could not end the game (I did say this was the game that never ends, right? And that was before this marathon shootout).
Finally, Blast coach Bryan Hamm summoned a new shooter: Tuzzolino, perhaps as an award for his goal earlier in the contest (which felt like forever ago). Tuzzolino came in and… unleashed a slapper!? Seriously? Who would’ve thought? And who would’ve thought this tactic, which some would see as “bush league” would work?
But wouldn’t you just know? It did! This tactic found the back of the net!