For the sixth consecutive season the Essex 73’s are in the Provincial Junior Hockey League Stobbs division finals. Essex faces its long, and storied, rival Lakeshore Canadiens, and is one win away from earning its sixth straight title.
The Canadiens finished first in the regular season, earning home ice advantage. They hosted Game 1 on Tuesday March 7. With nearly 1,200 fans in attendance, the atmosphere was intense. Essex was quick to jump to the lead with Tyler Boughner scoring 25 seconds into the game. Lakeshore responded three minutes later, beating Tyler Ryan. But, going into the intermission, Riley Meyerink restored Essex’s lead as he picked Canadiens’ goalie Mitch Toppliffe’s pocket and slid the puck in.
In the middle frame, teams exchanged goals. William Stadder gave Essex a two goal lead before JJ Percy drew his team back within one.
In the final frame, Essex was quick to capitalize, with the man advantage, adding two power play goals past Topliffe as Essex won Game 1 with a final score of 5-2.
Game two was on Friday, March 10 in Essex. From the start, like in game one, the 73’s were quick to take control, scoring two goals in 13 minutes. Tyler Scott opened the scoring before Anthony Cristofaro added the second goal, with the man advantage.
Similar to game one, the teams exchanged goals in the second period to head into the third period with Essex up 3-1.
The period remained scoreless until Eric Shaw was able to dig out a loose puck and beat Topliffe with Essex on the power play. Essex added an empty netter, to take a 5-1 win.
To end the week, Essex was back in Lakeshore on March 12. Like the first two games of this series, Essex opened the scoring. Midway through the opening frame, Michael Vieira beat Topliffe. The second period was scoreless as the two teams headed into the third period with Essex ahead 1-0.
In the final period, Eric Shaw screened the Canadiens’ goalie Topliffe and found the rebound at his feet. Shaw made no mistake to give Essex a 2-0 lead. Lakeshore’s Connor Rosaasen brought the home team back within one goal, with 90 seconds to go. However, the lead was short lived as Vieira scored an empty netter, for his second of the night, as Essex won 3-1.
The win put Essex up 3-0 in the best of seven series with Game 4 scheduled for Tuesday, March 14 in Essex. If necessary, Game 5 is on Friday, March 17 in Lakeshore.