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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

73’s draw first blood in Stobbs Division Final 




by Garrett Fodor 

One of the longest and most contentious rivalries in the Stobbs Division added another brick to its legacy, as the finals kicked-off between the Essex 73’s and the Lakeshore Canadiens.

  The two rivals have duked it out for the Stobbs Division for nearly two-decades with every championship in the last 18-years, aside from the COVID stopped season.

  In this matchup, it is the Canadiens who earned the top seed, earning home ice in the series, while the 73’s finished second in the regular season, trailing by just one point. Aside from the Canadiens coming out victorious in the last five-years, this year’s storyline featured a unique twist. 

  It is the tale of the students and the professor, as Tony Piroski, Lee Jones, Chad Wolters, and Jamie McDermott go up against Antony Iaquinta, Milan Dobric, Brent Walker, and Eric Larue. Iaquinta and Dobric both played under Piroski, Jones, and McDermott, dating back to his prior tenure with the club. Iaquinta also spent time coaching alongside Piroski.  

  Getting to this point, the Canadiens swept the Wheatley Sharks in the semi-finals and before that, they had swept the Walpole Island Wild. 

  The series kicked off Sunday evening in Lakeshore. With the Atlas Tube Centre packed, both teams came out flying, looking to bring the fans to life. Both teams did not shy away from the physical side of the game as play flowed the length of the ice.

  Nearly mid-way through the first, Kale Couvillon brought the 73’s faithful to their feet as he skated around the offensive zone before beating a screened Nicholas Bolton, opening the scoring.

The Canadiens responded nearly three-minutes later, with Aedan Sullivan beating Wyatt Sloetjes. When both teams skated into the intermission tied, there was a collective sigh in the arena with both teams and their fans optimistic and relieved. Through 20-minutes, shots were 12-8 for the visiting 73’s. 

  Both teams continued to play with pace and intensity, looking for the game’s next goal. With just over eight-minutes to play in the second period, Conor Dembinski found a loose puck as a Canadiens’ defender blew a tire, breaking the puck out. He threw it out front for Nate Dowling to bury for his eighth goal of the postseason.

  The goal, however, stood just two-minutes before Spencer Higginbottom beat Sloetjes. Just as people began to think it would be tied going into the intermission again, Couvillon rifled a slapshot from atop the circle, with it taking a deflection before going into the back of the net, to make it 3-2 going into the third period. 

  At the eight-minute mark of the third, the 73’s capitalized with the man-advantage extending their lead to two. The Canadiens would press, with Higginbottom beating Sloetjes again to make it a 4-3 game with two minutes to play. But despite a last-minute push, they were unable to draw level, with the 73’s taking game one with a score of 4-3. Final shots were 33-28 for Lakeshore.  

  The series now shifts to Essex on Tuesday before heading to Lakeshore on March 29. Closing out the week on March 31, the 73’ return home for game 4 with a special 2:30pm puck drop. 

  The winner of the series will play the winner of the Thamesford and Mt. Brydges series for the Western Championship and for a spot in the Schmalz Cup Final Four. 

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