By Jesse Ferguson
Game 2 for the Brantford Blast in the Allan Cup Hockey League Championship series was at home at Civic Centre; Brantford was down 1-0 to the Hamilton Steelhawks. The winner of the series claims a spot in the coveted Allan Cup.
Just over five minutes in, it was Brantford whom capitalized off the rush. Jordan Owens was the last to touch the puck as he pulled it to his left and shot it passed the Hamilton keeper for the all-important first goal. Rob Hisey and Chris Lawrence set him up.
Just a minute later, Brantford was again on the rush. Sean Blanchard started with the biscuit .At the blue line it actually appeared that it was offside… but you know what they say– appearances can be deceiving. Either that, or the Blast were benefiting off some home-cooking. Regardless, Cam Fergus found Martin Lee who found the back of the net. It was 2-0 Brantford already!
Perhaps feeling bad for the non-call, Hamilton was awarded soon thereafter with a questionable powerplay. Brantford killed the penalty– barely– after they couldn’t get the puck out of their zone despite chances to do so. But then, just after the penalty had expired, the levee finally broke and Hamilton one-timed it home. 2-1 Blast.
As if the referees realized Hamilton did not score on the powerplay, they were immediately granted with another tripping penalty against. This time though, Hisey stole the puck for Brantford and broke through unabated to the Hamilton net on a breakaway. He made no mistake as he recaptured Brantford’s two goal margin. 3-1 Blast.
Four minutes into the second Hamilton capitalized on some impressive zone time and converted on a one-timer, minimizing the Blast lead. 3-2 Blast. But Hamilton now had all the momentum…
Hamilton carried the play in the second and had many chances. Brantford’s goalie Ryan DeMelo made several key saves– including a few for the highlight reel. But only so much pressure, many of the post-to-post variety, could be handled before one beat him. And then one did, of the cross-ice-shot-type, into the five-hole via a one-timer. Hamilton had evened it up before the end of two, with the momentum remaining on their side….
Which continued into the third. The comeback was complete a few minutes into the third where the game had a new leader. And with Brantford still asleep from the intermission, Hamilton buried another one, extending their newfound lead to two. With 12 minutes left in the third, would Brantford respond now that their season was on the brink? Going down 0-2 without two home games following makes for very bleak outlook for their chance in the series.
(Beastie Boys- “Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun”)
With 9:11 left in the final period, finally Brantford regained some of the exited momentum! They got a goal back! Jordan Owens threw it in from Chris Lawrence and Deron Cousens midway through the frame.
Then the ice was tilted towards Hamilton’s net at last as if Brantford felt the adversity they should as the period was winding down and they were looking down the barrel of being down 2-0 in the series.
However, in the midst of the pressure, Brantford was called for a questionable offensive zone penalty. Then another. This stymied their comeback attempt.
The good news for Brantford is this final series appears to be of the seven game variety– as seven games are scheduled– so a best-of-seven series, unlike the five-gamer they just played against Dundas. So the down 2-0 in the series isn’t as certain death as it is in a five-game series.
So, what matters is the next game is Friday in Hamilton. Then, we’ll have another Sunday night game in Brantford. The start time is scheduled for 8PM but keep an eye on that. Speculation after the game from some of the players was that the reason games are so late on Sunday is to allow some players to make it in time, but those other commitments look to be completed.
Fans and (other) players alike have lamented the lateness of the Sunday starts. “Brantford would do so much better with a game at like 3 o’clock,” one player commented. With the workweek starting early Monday (and no NFL football Sunday any longer), this opinion likely holds water. We shall see if times are changed, but as for now, 8PM is gametime Sunday at Civic Centre.