The OJHL Championship Series opened on Thursday night in Stouffvile, Ontario with the hometown and North-West Conference champion Stouffville Spirit hosting the South-East champion Whitby Fury. Prior to puck-drop the OJHL honoured its 2011-12 OJHL Award winners in a pre-game ceremony. The biggest cheers were reserved for Spirit winners Ken Burrows (Executive-of-the-Year), Paul Geiger (Top Defenceman), Christian Finch (Top Scorer & MVP) and captain Andrew Doyle, who was unveiled as the first-ever OJHL Fan Favourite Award winner. Unfortunately for the Spirit, both Doyle and Finch were on the injured list and unavailable to play in the game. This marked the fourth consecutive game the OJHL’s leading scorer was unable to play.
Game one saw Jon Hall for the Spirit and Tyler Feaver for Fury get the start between the pipes. A tentative start to game would see both teams feeling each other out, as they did not play each other during the 2011-12 regular season due to inter-conference play. Christian Powers (pictured - photo credit: Tim Bates/OJHL Images) opened the scoring for the Spirit at 6:24 of the first after taking a nifty backhand pass from Alex Botten in the slot. With the clock ticking down on the period, the two would team up once again with Robert Action serving as the middle-man and Botten scoring the goal to give Stouffville a two goal lead entering the first intermission.
The second period saw much of the same for the Fury as the Spirit continued the attack. Just two minutes into the frame, Powers notched his second (and third point) with a bullet over the shoulder of Feaver, and Botten would earn his third point of the game as well. Drake Caggiula then netted his 12th of the playoffs for a commanding 4-0 lead midway through the game. Powers continued his dominant game one performance, earning his fourth point the evening. Late in the period, the Fury finally broke the “Spiderman” Jon Hall’s shutout bid as Stouffville native Kevin Stevens jumped into the slot and took a pass from OJHL Rookie-of-the-Year Devin Shore to cut the lead to 4-1 going into the break.
Hall would shut the door once again in the third period, stopping 18 Whitby shots in total during the game. Midway through the period, forward Dylan Savory capitalized on a nice three way passing play, banging in a cross-crease feed to make it 5-1 Spirit. Savory received a scare on the play as he took an errant high-stick from the Fury’s Shore just as he scored the goal and he had to be assisted off the ice.
Final score in game one was 5-1 for the hometown Spirit in a relatively tame affair, compared to the hard-fought Conference Final battles that both played, and it would see only six minor penalties called by the officials. The hero of the night was never in question as Powers picked up the scoring slack missed by the absence of Finch, recording four points to earn first star honours. Teammates Alex Botten (three points) and netminder Jon Hall were named the game’s number two and three stars respectively. The jam-packed house saw an announced attendance of 1,055 take in the Spirit’s opening game victory.
Game two will be played tonight at the Iroquois Sports Centre in Whitby, Ontario with puck drop scheduled for 7:40pm. Remember, if you are unable to attend in person, you can watch the game at OJHL Live or follow us at www.ojhl.ca, or on Facebook or Twitter (@OJHLOfficial).
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)