Essex 73’s battling for position

Filed under: Sports |

by Garrett Fodor

The Essex 73’s continued to get bodies back into their lineup and at a crucial time as they battled two of the hottest teams in the league this past week.

On Tuesday night, the 73’s hosted the first place Lakeshore Canadiens. Entering the game, the Canadiens had given Essex two of their six losses on the season. For the home team, it was a major boost to the lineup as captain Tyler Boughner returned after missing nearly a month due to an injury. He played a shutdown centre role throughout the game.

The two rivals were quick to showcase their capability to play a 200-foot game, as they exchanged rushes and chances.

Wyatt O’Neil opened the scoring five minutes into the game. The 16-year old beat Canadiens’ goalie Mitch Topliffe with a wrap-around.

To close out the frame, the 73’s doubled its lead when Cody Leeming beat Topliffe for his fifth goal in his last four games.

Despite the 2-0 score after one period of play, Essex was drastically outshot with Tyler Ryan turning aside 20 shots.

In period two, fans were treated to a more even hockey game as both teams had nine shots. The lone goal in the period came from Riley Meyerink, who was playing in his 8th game of the season. Meyerink’s first goal of the season came when he used his speed and small stature to his advantage. He eluded the Canadiens’ defense to get up in the rush and made no mistake in finishing off a feed from Justin Bondy.

In the final 20 minutes, Lakeshore continued to push, but was unable to get setup in the Essex zone. Up, by a score of 3-0, Essex played a more defensive and safe game. As a result, the shots were 4-3 for Essex in the third period, preserving Tyler Ryan’s shutout.

Of note, both teams’ special teams were unsuccessful as they combined to go an abysmal 0 for 10.

To close out the week, Essex was in Wheatley to face the Omstead Sharks on November 20.

Similar to the outing with the Canadiens, Essex regained a player back from injury and his presence was felt early. Michael Ruttinger was playing in just his third game of the season.

The line of Ruttinger, playing alongside William Stadder and Wyatt O’Neil, victimized the Sharks early. They held the puck and pressed in the offensive zone throughout the period. It was that line that opened the scoring, with O’Neil beating Dylan Zelko.

To close out the frame, seven minutes later, Zelko was beaten again by Ruttinger. Ruttinger was left unmarked at the hash marks and beat Zelko with a snapshot.

Entering the middle frame, Essex added to its lead with Anthony Cristofaro blasting home a shot from the point, by Zelko, just 91 seconds after puck drop. But, for the Essex faithful who made the trip, they were about to be on the edge of their seats. Tyler Ryan was beaten twice in the final 10 minutes of the period as  the Sharks drew to within 1 goal headed into the intermission.

In the final frame, however, despite mustering 11 shots on Ryan, Wheatley was unable to find the back of the net. Essex prevailed 3-2, with Ruttinger getting two points in his return.

With the win, Essex is atop the Stobbs division standings for the first time this season.