By Ken Pagan
The Caledonia Corvairs are the top team in the GOJHL with their fair share of OHL veterans, but even the stars had to grind right to the final buzzer to escape Hamilton with a 2-1 win on Monday night.
Clinging to a one-goal lead while trying to kill a 5-on-3 disadvantage over the final 37 seconds (6-on-3 with the goalie pulled), Corvairs captain Ryan Wells came up with a couple of big shot blocks as the desperate Kilty B’s peppered the net in the dying seconds looking for the equalizer.
The Corvairs (23-2-1) didn’t take their first lead of the game until 1:49 remained, after a Nick McHugh screened shot beat Kilty B’s goaltender Justin Easter.
Easter stopped 36 of 38 shots in taking the loss in an intense, physical matchup in front of 1,069 fans.
“We definitely gave our all there,” Easter said. “I think the discipline level at the end of the game, they got in our heads and we started taking too many penalties, which really cost us.”
The Kilty B’s (15-9-2) held a 1-0 lead for more than 40 minutes, after Terry Bridgland opened the scoring early in the first period to get the crowd revved up. Wells finally tied the game 1:07 into the third period on a big clapper from point-blank range during a 5-on-3 power play.
“These games are definitely the games you look forward to playing, because you know the best teams with the best skill will give you a chance to get better and play your best hockey,” Easter said. “And if you beat them, it proves to everyone in the league that we can play.”
The Kilty B’s were outshot 38-23, but were relentless all night in pursuit of the puck and standing their ground against an older, more experienced club.
“I really liked our team’s effort tonight,” said Kilty B’s head coach John Barrett. “We did not back down to Caledonia and we had our entire lineup ready to play every shift and go toe-to-toe with them.”
The crowd of 1,069, courtesy of Allstate Hamilton’s Corporate Game Night, made for a lively, energetic atmosphere in the Dave Andreychuk Mountain Arena.
“The boys loved playing in front of a big crowd,” Barrett said. “The boys fed off the crowd and loved playing in front of so many fans. Playing Caledonia is always a tough game but we love playing them. They are our closest rivals geographically so playing them is always a lot of fun because both teams’ fans travel well.”