Entering decision week in the semi-finals in the quest for the Schmalz Cup, the Essex 73’s held a slim 2-1 lead over the defending champion, Ayr Centennials. However, with its two wins coming in overtime, the series could belong to anyone.
The series shifted to Essex for game four Tuesday. After some line changes in the last game, Essex once again was rewarded with goals from each line. It also out-shot its opponent, 29-22. Essex was able to capitalize with the home-ice advantage, and as a result, jumped to an early first period lead thanks to William Stadder’s goal. The team did not look back. Essex was able to prevail 4-2, to take a 3-1 series lead.
The series shifted to Ayr on Thursday for game five. Similar to game one, the Essex athletes were unable to get their legs beneath them and struggled much of the game in the offensive zone. As a result, the visiting 73’s made frequent trips to the box and struggled to get offensive zone time. And, like game one, lost 5-0 to force a game six.
Game six shifted back to Essex on Saturday. Similar to Thursday, Ayr scored first and frustrated Essex. The visiting Centennials jumped out to a 3-0 lead before Anthony Cristofaro blasted a slapshot by Jackson Swindells. Ayr led 3-1 with 20 minutes remaining.
In the final frame, Ayr scored in the opening two minutes before Essex drew back to within a pair of goals. However, they were unable to mount a comeback, falling 5-2 and having to play game seven on Monday.
For Essex, game seven would be interesting. With several key components of the roster out due to exams, it would be in tight. Eric Shaw scored in the first period and it would be the only goal until the third. Ayr bear Tyler Ryan just 23 seconds into the third to tie it.
Essex played the third period short players as Eric Shaw was unable to play due to an illness, Matt McCloud got hit with his head down and was unable to return, Riley Meyerink suffered a shoulder injury and couldn’t return, and William Stadder got kicked out with 10 minutes remaining. The defending champs advance to face the Port Hope Panthers.
The 73’s had a great year, defying the odds and the naysayers and should be proud of the effort put fourth in the season and will look to build off it for the next season.
Congratulations to the careers of graduating players Tyler Scott, Matthew Rosati, Max Viselli, Dallas Pereira, and Eric Shaw.