BRANTFORD – Adding to the list of those who came back after the holidays to find out they are a little heavier than they were before… are the Brantford Blast.
One week after the teams squared off in Dundas and the Real McCoys took Brantford down 6-4, the teams got back at it at Civic Centre on Friday, January 10th for a rematch.
Wearing their black jerseys, the Blast were playing their first home game since beating Whitby 6-3 four days before Christmas.
However, it was Dundas lighting the lamp first. Seven minutes in, off a scramble in the Blast zone, Dundas’ Phil Brewer carolled the puck from the top of the circle and when he saw a lane, the forward ripped it into the top corner. The goalie didn’t even see the shot. Just like that, it was 1-0 Dundas.
Next goal too was from Dundas. An innocuous puck battle on the side hash emerged Real McCoy Darren Haydar who got some space looking to go behind the net. He looked up and instead planted a shot high on the Blast goaltender David Leggio. Leggio went down a tad early and the shot went high, which is not ideal for a goalie since the shot went up and over the goalie on one knee. Despite having most of the zonetime and shots in the first period, the Blast found themselves down a deuce not even 10 minutes in.
At the end of the first, Brantford got a powerplay. It really seemed like it was the ideal chance for the Blast to get right back into the game. But out of nowhere, Dundas got a two-on-one rush that dissolved into a mini-breakaway. This time they picked a low corner and Mark Bennett ripped it home. It was 3-0 Dundas.
In need of a jolt, Blast coach Bryan Hamm had a message delivered to the penalty box where goalie Brett Leggat was sat: Get ready, you’re going in.
This is Leggat’s, the stalwart Blast goalie from years past, first action at home this season. His coming into the game granted an announcement from Norm “the fist” Tolhurst and it got a large ovation from the Brantford fans. It was amazing how loud the cheer was considering attendance was fairly sparse.
Leggat (featured image, courtesy of Figure Four) had to be sharp right off the bat, but he got up to speed quick making a collection of tough stops early on as Brantford’s levee was breaking. They were lucky to make it out of the first period down just 3-0.
Three minutes into the second period, Brantford, seeking rebirth in this game, got a rush. And Nikola Bibic– via Nathan Pageau– went high into the roof to make it 3-1.
Leggat then made a save of the year candidate with his glove off the Dundas player in tight on the backhand going high. It appeared that despite the likely possibility of rust, that our boy still has it!
But a few minutes later he couldn’t fend off both the first shot and also the rebound on a defensive zone lapse. However, while that goal was being announced, Brantford rushed up the ice and Pageau scored snapped it up high and into the net. Quickness with the puck, Pageau has in spades.
Brantford with the bulk of the chances seemed ready to break through in a big way. However, they were stymied at the offensive end and many times were forced to look to the heavens wondering, How did that not go in?
At the end of two it was 4-2 Dundas but the game felt well within reach for the Blast with just a bounce or two in the third period.
Early into the third though, it was Dundas on a two-on-two rush which may have been put in on an own-goal. This deflating goal seemed to burst Brantford’s bubble as they immediately after gave up a two-on-one rush and left Leggat out to dry.
It felt somewhat like last season where Brantford got big eyes for the rush and would forget about defense. The obvious problem with this tactic is the high quality chances surrendered. Unlike last year, in the latter half of the game tonight, Brantford were not trading good chances, they were just giving them up. The Blast, uncharacteristically for this year, had zero resemblance of transition defense.
Brantford’s Chris Lawrence dipped into the goal pool late, but by now, fait d’accompli. The game was already decided.
In total, it was a poor effort by the Blast tonight as they looked a step behind all night. Perhaps they do have a hangover from Christmas or are still working off all the holiday food. Hopefully the Blast just need a week to get back into the groove or to work their extra bulk off. Their next game is Friday in Hamilton. Their next home game is Sunday the 19th against the same Hamilton Steelheads.
I conceded that it was a poor effort by the Blast this game. It was, by virtually everyone except for one man in black. While getting pelted as his team almost seemed to mail it in after being down early, Leggat stood tall making many great saves.
The following night Dundas took on Whitby and won 10-5! Looks like Allan Cup Hockey betters would be wise to take the OVER if betting on Dundas as their last two games have amassed 25 goals combined!
Also, these two victories on this back-to-back makes Dundas the hottest squad in the league as they sit alone in first place. Brantford sits seven points back… but they have three games in hand on these Real McCoys.
The Civic Centre will hope to see a better showing of their Blast next Sunday, the 19th at 7:30pm, when they face the Hamilton Steelheads, the team just above them in the standings.