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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

73’s return to ice - defeating Lakeshore, Wheatley, and Wallaceburg last week

by Garrett Fodor

After preparing for more than a week, the Essex 73’s hockey team returned to the ice last Tuesday for one final push before playoffs.

  The 73’s played one final game on January 4, before the pause of sports, then had a week layoff before returning to the ice. On February 8, the club faced its most historic rival, the Lakeshore Canadiens.

  Entering the contest, the Canadiens remained unbeaten on the season, with a perfect 23-0 record. The Canadiens defeated the 73’s 6-4 the last time these teams faced off.

  In the first period of the game, the 73’s came out on a mission. The home team was winning the battles for loose pucks, finishing hits, and forcing turnovers with relentless pressure. As a result, Essex spent a majority of the first periods in the offensive zone and would be rewarded.

  Essex opened the scoring just over two-minutes into the action, earning a pair of goals, to take a 2-0 lead. Seven-minutes later, former Canadien and 73’s Captain, Tycen Chittle, made it a 3-0 lead halfway through the first. While at the other end, Jakob Knowles was making his second appearance for the 73’s and stopped all seven shots he faced in the period.

  In the second period, both teams continued to play with a pace and did not shy away from the physical side of the game either. The gameplay was fluid, flowing from one end of the ice to the other. Essex scored a pair of goals in the frame to make it a 5-0 game heading into the third period, while the 73’s held a slim 17-15 lead in shots. 

  In the final frame, the 73’s opened the scoring, increasing its lead to six, just six-minutes into the third period. From there, the game shifted, with the Canadiens pressuring hard and often. Nearly 10-minutes later, the Canadiens had cut their six goal deficit to just two, trailing 6-4 with seven-minutes to play. But Knowles and the 73’s defense did not wither. The club handed the Canadiens its first loss of the season, prevailing 6-4. Final shots were 34-21 in favour of Lakeshore.

  Twenty-Four hours later, the 73’s hit the road, travelling to Wheatley to face the Sharks on Wednesday. The Sharks’ players were quick to welcome the 73’s onto their home ice as former 73’s forward, Dallas Anderson, scored his 19th goal of the season just five-minutes into the game. This was the lone goal of the period. The teams skated to a scoreless second period, setting up for a thrilling third.

  Just over 60-seconds into the final frame, the 73’s made it a whole new game. Conor Dembinski found the back of the net to tie things up. Just over 10-minutes later, Dembinski’s linemate, Karson Beuglet, gave the 73’s the lead. From there, Essex did not look back, holding down the 2-1 lead to secure the win. Final shots in the game were 31-30 in favour of Essex.

  Closing out the week, the Essex 73’s team was on the road. On Saturday the team travelled to Wallaceburg. The Thunderhawks are trying to stay afloat and pick up any points they can as they remain tied with Dresden, with a game in hand, for the last playoff spot in the Stobbs Division.

  From puck drop, the 73’s players were quick to show the Thunderhawks why they defeated Lakeshore and why they are currently second in the Stobbs standings. The 73’s paced the Thunderhawks, dominated puck possession, generated scoring chances, and spent a majority of the time in the offensive zone. The team scored four goals on 16 shots in the first period. Jakob Knowles, in net for the 73’s, faced just three shots in the period. 

  In the middle frame, the 73’s continued to have its offense firing on all cylinders, as the Thunderhawks struggled to clear the puck out and muster much offensively. The visiting 73’s continued to cushion the lead, skating into the intermission with a 9-0 lead. A late goal in the third period gave the 73’s a 10-0 victory, outshootiing Wallaceburg 51-16.

  Jakob Knowles earned his first shutout as a 73 in this game. Offensively, Liam Hall had a hat-trick and added a pair of assists, while Karson Beuglet also had five points, notching a pair of goals and a trio of assists. 

  The three wins gives Essex a hold of second place, eight points behind Lakehsore, while Mooretown is six points behind the 73’s with three games in hand. Amherstburg sits fourth, with Wheatley, Blenheim, Petrolia, and Wallaceburg all behind them, while Dresden sits tied for eight. 

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