WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES – GAME 1:
SAULT STE. MARIE 3 – KITCHENER 2
(SSM leads series 1-0)
Colorado Avalanche prospect Conor Timmins (4, 5) stepped up in Game 1 of the Western Conference Championship Series, lifting the Soo Greyhounds to a last second victory with his second of the night beating the final buzzer for a 3-2 victory.
Morgan Frost won an offensive zone draw before Taylor Raddysh pushed the puck to a waiting Timmins who snapped a shot past Kitchener’s Mario Culina as the Essar Centre erupted. After a lengthy review the goal was confirmed as the Greyhounds faithful went home happy as their club took out a 1-0 series lead.
“We want to gain as much momentum as we can in this series,” said Timmins after the goal. “Getting one late like that going into Game 2 is going to be huge for our team I think. The crowd was behind us all night too and that helped us as well.”
The Rangers took the first lead of the game when captain Connor Bunnaman (5) shovelled one in from the slot on the power play 10:29 into the first period. Jack Kopacka (5) drew the Hounds even before Givani Smith (8) snapped one past Sault Ste. Marie’s Matthew Villalta 8:03 into the second reinstate the Kitchener lead.
Timmins would even the score at two with 7:51 left in the second before his last second heroics blew the roof off the Essar Centre and put the Greyhounds in the driver’s seat.
“Game one is big, especially with the turnaround we had playing in a Game 7 on Tuesday,” said Greyhounds head coach Drew Bannister. “We had to make sure we got ourselves focused and ready for this game after the emotional high of Tuesday’s win.”
Greyhounds defenceman Rasmus Sandin had a pair of assists on the night as did Kitchener’s Adam Mascherin.
Matthew Villalta made 18 saves to collect the win while Kitchener’s Mario Culina made 29 saves in the loss.
The Sault Ste. Marie victory came before a crowd of 4,722 at the Essar Centre. The two teams get back to work when the puck drops on Game 2 Saturday night.
POST-GAME PRESS CONFERENCE:
EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES – GAME 2:
HAMILTON 7 – KINGSTON 1
(HAM leads series 2-0)
Much like their strong start in Game 1 on Wednesday, the Hamilton Bulldogs stormed out of the gate, taking a 5-0 lead on home ice after one period to eventually defeat the Kingston Frontenacs 7-1.
The Bulldogs controlled the pace and the play, outshooting Kingston 37-20 as seven different goal-scorers got in on the action.
Nicholas Caamano (6) got things started 2:35 into action, taking an assist from Ryan Moore as both players extended their lengthy point streaks. Brandon Saigeon (11), Will Bitten (3), Robert Thomas (7) and Moore (7) followed with markers to put Hamilton in full control after 20 minutes.
Ryan Cranford (3) provided the one glimmer of hope for the Frontenacs on an otherwise disappointing night, scoring with 2:24 left in the second period before Hamilton tacked on two more as MacKenzie Entwistle (4) and Riley Stillman (3) lit the lamp in the third period.
“We challenged our guys to repeat what they did in Game 1 and they did it, so credit to those young men for sticking to a game plan and executing at a high level and jumping out ot a quick lead again,” said Hamilton head coach John Gruden. “It’s just Game 2 so hopefully we can continue to do the same.”
Frontenacs head coach Jay Varady shook up his lines to try and inspire some better results, but the Frontenacs never managed to get things going and come away outscored 13-3 over the first two games of the series.
“They’ve wanted it more than us, and that’s not acceptable on our behalf,” said Frontenacs fourth-year captain Ted Nichol. “We have to figure a couple things out and make sure we take a couple wins on home ice.”
Robert Thomas earned first star honours with a goal, two assists and a 14-for-22 night in the faceoff circle as the Bulldogs went 62 percent as a team on the night. Marian Studenic and Ben Gleason both recorded two assists while goaltender Kaden Fulcher stopped 19 of the 20 shots that came his way.
The two clubs take a day off on Saturday before the series continues on Sunday evening in Kingston.
POST-GAME PRESS CONFERENCE: