There was a playoff feel to Saturday night’s PJHL game at the Libro Centre where the host Amherstburg Admirals came up short 3-2 to the Blenheim Blades.
With ten games remaining in their 42-game schedule, the Admirals are poised to finish sixth in the eight team West Stobbs Division and could possibly take on third place Blenheim in the first round of the post-season.
“They (Blenheim) play a certain style and they are well coached but we gave them a good run tonight and hopefully we’ll see them in a couple of weeks and it will be different,” said Admirals’ assistant coach Zack Gervais.
Gervais and fellow assistant coach Zach Guilbeault ran the bench in place of head coach Beau Hunter, who was sitting out a suspension.
Saturday night saw a couple of firsts for the hosts as Finnegan Russett and Cole Vaillancourt got their first goals of the season and both were big. Russett’s came shorthanded 7:51 into the game as he was on the receiving end of some great hustle by veteran Owen Papulkas who stole the puck, hugged the boards down the ice and fed it over to Russett.
It was 1-1 after 20 minutes and Vaillancourt put Amherstburg ahead just seven seconds into the middle stanza as he walked in on Blenheim goalie Owen Lemieux. First to get to the goal scorer in a big celebration behind Lemieux was Braeden Armstrong who set up the goal.
“Everyone stepped up and played their roles for sure. That’s good to see especially coming down the stretch,” said Gervais.
Scoring for the Blades were Joey Hayter and Justin Ewald. Captain Craig Spence, who sits in the top five in scoring in the entire PJHL had a pair of assists.
Amherstburg goalie Joe Costea made 31 saves on the night and turned in one of his better efforts of the season thus far.
“He’s an athlete and a confident kid. In the room he had his headphones on and was focused and ready for his chance,” said Gervais.
It was a physical game and the Blades were 1-for-6 on the powerplay and the Admirals failed to score on five man-advantage chances. Huge game on the blueline for rookie 6’5” 245-pound Declan McGrath as he is really beginning to have a physical presence.
PJHL Commissioner Terry Whiteside was in Amherstburg Saturday night bearing both bad news and good news. The bad – the league has handed Admirals overage forward Mitch Demelo a minimum of 13-game suspension for an incident in the game in Mooretown back on January 20.
“Sometimes we come to do interviews with certain players. I’ve got 15 more rinks to visit this year. We talk about things going on in the league,” said Whiteside.
The good news – it looks like the PJHL could be adding a fifth overager. Right now, they are allowed four.
“Next year we want to go with five overagers. I think it was an easy thing. We had a meeting and they (teams) consider this to be a Destination League.”
Big week ahead for the Admirals as they were in Essex on Tuesday to face the 73’s, Wednesday they travel to Wheatley to play the Sharks and then its back-to-back at home this weekend. Saturday at 7:30 versus the Sharks and then Sunday at the Libro Centre against Mooretown at 7 p.m.
SLAPSHOTS:… Amherstburg veteran forward Owen Papulkas has at least one point in the past nine games… Nice show of sportsmanship by Admirals trainer Jenna Jardine who helped out with the care of Blenheim’s Ethan Chittle who had a serious knee injury in the third period… The Amherstburg Stars U9 who are undefeated so far this season were at the Libro Centre and got a chance to meet-and-greet the Admirals.
By Fred Groves