Playing their fourth game in five nights, the Stouffville Spirit and Whitby Fury continued to fight tooth-and-nail for every square inch of ice in pursuit of the Buckland Cup during the 2012 OJHL Championship Series. A day after a one goal loss to the Spirit in Stouffville, the Whitby Fury returned home to return the favour, downing Stouffville 3-2 to even the series at two games each.
Tyler Feaver for Whitby and Jon Hall for Stouffville continued their stellar play between the pipes for both squads during the pivotal game four. A couple of early penalties saw the teams play four-on-four. Then after the Fury’s Ryan Kirkup returned to the ice to give his club a man advantage, Whitby’s Henry Thompson notched his first of the playoffs just prior to the expiration of Paul Geiger’s interference minor, giving the Fury an early 1-0 lead. The lead would be short-lived as Stouffville forward Alex Botten netted his 10th of the playoffs to knot the game at one heading into the intermission. Shots on goal were 12-7 in favour of Whitby.
Earlier in the day NHL Central Scouting announced its final rankings for the 2012 NHL Draft being held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. One player from each of the two clubs figured prominently in the rankings as Devin Shore of the Whitby Fury was the highest-ranked player in the entire CJHL at #58 among North American skaters, while the dynamic Drake Caggiula of the Stouffville Spirit was ranked #185 in North America (other OJHL players ranked include James De Haas of the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots, #175 & Jamie Phillips of the Toronto Junior Canadiens, #26 among North American goaltenders). Both players were among the top three in playoff scoring and both would figure prominently in period two. Just over nine minutes into the second, Caggiula potted his 13th of the playoffs to give Stouffville the lead, with set-up man Paul Geiger recording yet another assist, his 27th of the playoffs. Exactly one minute later with the Spirit’s Chris Porter off for roughing, Matt Davis buried another power play goal, his fourth of the playoffs, to once again even the score. Whitby once again outshot the Spirit, 11-9, but remained tied on the scoreboard as they entered the final frame.
Another close period ensued as the teams traded opportunities. Midway through the period, Whitby’s Taylor Best (pictured - photo credit: Tim Bates/OJHL Images) fired a long shot from just inside the blueline, beating Jon Hall for his second game-winner of the series. The teams would trade hitting-from-behind ejections as the period waned with Connor Hale for the Fury and Chris Porter for the Spirit both leaving early. But netminder Tyler Feaver would hold a late Stouffville push to preserve the 3-2 victory and turn the series into a best-of-three affair.
Taylor Best’s game winner earned him the first star in front of an announced crowd of 793 in Whitby. Defenceman Christ Raguseo was star two, while NHL prospect Devin Shore was the third star, playing in front of scouts representing 20 of the NHL clubs.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)