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73’s stunned in overtime loss to Admirals


Photo by Laurie Beaten: Matt Zelko evades pressure and skates the puck up ice. Zelko had 4 points this week, including 3 assists against Petrolia. 

by Garrett Fodor

Coming off the heels of its loss at home against Mooretown on October 21, the Essex 73’s had a quick turnover this week, playing three games. The local team would receive a boost in the way of a couple players returning and debuting to the lineup.

  On Tuesday night, against Blenheim, Jack Sanko returned to the lineup, having missed the start of the season due to injury. The energy player would be needed, as Essex would be without key contributors William Stadder and Dawson Winchester.

  The game began quick for Essex. Three minutes in, Bryce O’Brien struck with the man advantage. Then closing out the frame, Josh Pope-Ferguson doubled his team’s lead. Blenheim’s Keir Cumming would beat Jax D’hondt to draw within one, but in the third period, the 73’s special teams were too much. Bryce Ryan would score with the man-advantage and Pope-Ferguson added a short-handed tally to prevail, 4-1.

  On Thursday, the 73’s were on the road so they could face the Petrolia Flyers. Making his debut for Essex was Brock Grandbois, who came over after playing USPHL. The 6’0 and 175 lbs winger would make his physical presence felt early and throughout the game. Opening the game, Sanko scored his first of the year, as Pope-Ferguson drew all four Flyers skaters to him, leaving Sanko open.

  The teams skated to a scoreless second period, before Essex stormed out of the intermission looking to put the game away. Michael Vieira scored his 10th goal of the season, just 32 seconds into the third stanza. The Flyers would respond short-handed with six minutes remaining. But O’Brien halted any chance of a comeback with the man-advantage, just over a minute later. And, to close out the frame, Tyler Beneteau scored again with the man-advantage to cushion Essex’s lead, as they prevailed, 4-1.

  Closing out the week, the 73’s traveled to Amherstburg to face the Admirals. The two teams have a history of fierce and physical play, and Sunday’s contest was no different. The teams exchanged chances and blows throughout the opening period. It would not be until the final three minutes of the first period until the Admirals opened the scoring.

  After being outshot 13-8 in the first, Essex came and set the tempo early in the second as it scored two goals in the opening seven minutes from Bryce Ryan and Matt Zelko. But, closing out the frame, Amherstburg made Essex pay for its undisciplined play as Austin Jennings blasted a shot by D’Hondt, which set the stage for an exciting third period.

  In the third period, D’hondt would be beaten 8:32 in, causing excitement to stir from within the Admirals’ fans. In the closing minutes, however, that excitement was taken out of their fans when Pope-Ferguson capitalized on an opportunity after an Admirals’ defender collided with goalie, Ben Larder. This sent the game into overtime.

  In overtime, Amherstburg killed off a penalty and used its speed to its advantage. After blocking a shot, Michael Hatch was hauled down on a breakaway for a penalty shot. Hatch made no mistake, freezing D’Hondt with his speed. The Admirals topped the 73’s, 4-3.

  The OT loss now gives Essex a record of 10-2-0-3, which is good enough for second place in the Stobbs Division standings, behind Dresden. 

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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