Game three of the OJHL Championship Series for the Buckland Cup took place on Easter Sunday afternoon in Stouffville and saw the home squad take the upper-hand for the third consecutive game in the series as the Spirit won a nail-biter, 2-1, over the Whitby Fury.
Jon Hall for Stouffville and Tyler Feaver for Whitby were between the pipes once again as the passion and intensity continued to build between the two championship squads that did not meet during the regular season. Just over two minutes into the game, Spirit sniper Drake Caggiula took an early double-minor for high-sticking that sent Whitby to the first power play of the contest and they would make no mistake. Matt Davis, playing the point with the man advantage, knocked down an errant clearing attempt and put one on net that alluded Hall as he came off the post. The Fury continued their strong play throughout much of the first period, often dominating play and heading to the break with a significant 17-8 advantage on the shot clock. Despite allowing the power play goal, Hall kept his club in the game after one.
Much like his counterpart on the other bench during game two, Spirit head coach and runner-up for OJHL Coach-of-the-Year Craig Donovan had some inspirational words for his club during the intermission that seemingly turned the tide of the game and his club came out firing on all cylinders in period two. They finally broke the shutout as Spirit captain Andrew Doyle (pictured - photo credit: Brian Watts/OJHL Images), returning after missing two games due to injury, potted his ninth of the playoffs, showing why he was named the first-ever winner of the OJHL Fan Favourite Award. Just over five minutes later, with Fury defenceman Connor Hale off for high-sticking, Doyle notched his second of the game, burying a rebound off a Paul Geiger point shot to give the Spirit a 2-1 lead they would hold until the intermission. The assist for Geiger was his league-leading 26th assist and 17th power play assist of the playoffs. The period ended with a couple of controversial plays as Fury forward Nick Neal collided with Spirit netminder Jon Hall as he played the puck near the end zone face-off dot and then Spirit forward Drake Caggiula laid an open-ice hit that had the Fury bench up in arms. Emotions were running high as the teams went to the dressing room in the one goal game.
The Fury would use the emotion to their advantage to start the third as the two teams traded scoring opportunities. The penalty-free period would see both netminders hold the fort, despite a couple of near misses for Whitby with the goalie on the bench for the extra attacker. A near misplay behind the net with just seconds remaining by the Spirit’s Hall almost led to the tying goal, but the Fury couldn’t capitalize and the final score was 2-1 for Stouffville.
Played in front an announced crowd of 735, with many more at home listening on the radio and watching on OJHL Live while they entertained for Easter Dinner, Andrew Doyle returned to the lineup in fine form, notching both Spirit goals to take first star honours. Jon Hall’s 33 save performance as the Spirit were outshot 34-26, earned him second star honours, while Paul Geiger was named star three.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)