Cement Midgets take 5-3 series lead
on Jr. Rockets
Reay fire two apiece in big home-ice win Thursday night
By Pat Payton
Forwards Kaleb Schalk and captain Nathan Reay fired two goals apiece in a 5-3 Cement Midgets’ victory Thursday night in St. Marys.
The pivotal Game 4 win gave the Rock a five points to three series lead in the six-point, second-round OMHA ‘BB’ playoff series. It was another hard-hitting, penalty-filled contest between the two Shamrock League rivals.
Trailing 1-0 early, the Cement men struck for three goals in a span of just 1:44 late in the first period to grab the lead for good. Schalk had two of the St. Marys goals and Keegan Nethercott the other in the outburst.
“That’s what we’ve been preaching all series, get pucks on net and go to the net and bang them in,” coach Brent Rae said. “Their goalie isn’t that great, we just have to get to him.”
Just 21 seconds into the middle frame, Reay put the Rock up 4-1 and the goal would stand up as the game winner. Shortly after, the home team killed off a 5-on-3 Strathroy powerplay, with goalie Jake Bryans making several big stops from point-blank range.
After the Jr. Rockets closed the gap to 4-2 at 6:37, the Cement men had a 5-on-3 powerplay for four minutes, but couldn’t add to their lead. Nethercott also failed to convert on a breakaway in the final minute of the period.
Reay gave the Rock a little breathing room again when he scored on a 4-on-3 powerplay 63 seconds into the third. The visitors completed the scoring at the 6:14 mark.
Centre Ethan Froggett chipped in a pair of assists for St. Marys.
Rae said he hoped they could “close out” the series Saturday in Strathroy. “That’s the nice thing about tonight’s win, we have that insurance (of another game).”
Game 5 is Saturday in Strathroy at 5:20 p.m. If the series goes to a sixth and deciding game, it will be played Monday, Feb. 10 at 8:30 p.m.
Jr. Rockets even series
In Game 3 last Tuesday in Strathroy, the Jr. Rockets evened the series at three points apiece with a 2-0 win.
Both Strathroy goals came in the second period. Aaron Waugh faced 52 shots in the St. Marys net, finishing with 50 saves.
“They definitely out-played us,” coach Rae said. “It wasn’t our best game. I don’t think we’ve played our best game yet in the series.”
Bounce back on home ice
In Game 2 at the PRC last Monday night, the Cement Midgets bounced back from an early 1-0 deficit to earn a 3-1 victory over the Jr. Rockets in a feisty, physical affair.
After Strathroy opened the scoring with a powerplay goal at 5:23 of the first period, Nathan Reay tied it late in the middle frame from linemate Keegan Nethercott.
The Cement men dominated the final 15 minutes, scoring two unanswered goals to claim the win and a three points to one series lead.
Jacob Boyd scored what proved to be the winner at the 7:20 mark, tapping in his own rebound. Assists went to Ethan Froggett and defenceman Mason Boonstra. Froggett then fired a big insurance goal for the Rock with just 3:20 left to play. Reay and Nethercott drew assists on the powerplay tally.
Playing a solid game for St. Marys were goalie Jake Bryans, returning from a recent injury, and his entire defensive crew.
“It came down to hard work at the end of the day,” said Kevin Bilyea, a member of the Cement Midgets’ coaching staff. “We started out flat. We gave up 30 shots over the first two periods, but only gave up four shots in the third.”
The Cement men played the game with just 11 skaters, while the Jr. Rockets had a full bench of 15 skaters.
“In the third, we wanted to cycle it down low,” Bilyea continued. “We wanted more shots because their goalies aren’t overly strong. He was fighting (to control) every shot. All three of our goals were dirty goals in front of their net.”