73’s Advance over Flags

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73sby Garrett Fodor

Heading into this past week, the Essex 73’s were coming off two straight wins over the Mooretown Flags, including a 3-0 win in game two.

Game three took place on Tuesday in Essex. Similar to their games in the week prior, the Flags were doing a good job at suppressing shots from the 73’s and limiting their quality scoring chances. They did this by keeping the 73’s to the perimeter of the offensive zone. As a result, Flags’ goalie Jake Wilkins faced 27 shots on the night.

The teams exchanged chances and were back and forth throughout the game. Both teams earned penalties, which set up the lone goal of the game. Brayden Kettlewell scored his first career playoff goal for Essex with the man advantage 6:06 into the second period. Skating behind the net, Kettlewell threw the puck out front. It deflected off Flags’ goalie, Wilkins, and went in.

It is the first time in the series that Essex was outshot, 33-27. It marked Tyler Ryan’s second straight shutout in the series.

“It is good, the team is helping a lot in the defensive zone and making my life easier,” Ryan said. “I’m just staying focused and playing big. It is always hard to stay focused for 60 minutes in a game like that.”

The 73’s traveled to Mooretown on Friday, Feb. 10, looking for the sweep. Similar to game three, the Flags limited the quality scoring chances. As a result, the goalies had a heavy workload with a lot of traffic in front of their nets. The teams continued to be physical, and in turn, received several penalties.

The lone goal of the game came from Nolan Rielly as his shot trickled under Tyler Ryan’s pad with five minutes remaining. Shots in the game were 38-34 for Essex.

Sunday was the scene for game five. After a scoreless first period, the teams came out flying in the middle frame. The Flags and 73’s were very physical and played a two-way game. Mike Kindrachuk opened the scoring 16:13 into the second as he beat Ryan low on his stick side.

Eric Shaw continued his torrid scoring pace, registering his fifth goal of the series as he beat Wilkins low and on his stick side with 78 seconds remaining in period two.

In the third period, it was looking like the teams were going to need overtime. Essex was quick to control the offensive zone and its players were trying to find the offense again that was in game one.

Shots were 13-7 for Essex. The lone shot to find the twine was from Tyler Scott, who converted on a scramble in front of the net and beat Wilkins. It would be the lone goal in the period as Essex prevailed 2-1 to win the series. They will play the winner of the Amherstburg and Wheatley series.