The Bradford Rattlers visited the Ville-Marie Pirates on Wednesday, March 15 for Game 1 of the North Division Greater Metro Junior Hockey League championships for a contest that would prove the series one worthy to write home about.
The Rattlers would take Game 1 with a 3-2 win over the Pirates. The game was stolen from the clutches of the Pirates in overtime by Arvid Malm in the final two minutes of the third period. While the Pirates would dominate the game, delivering 51 shots on Rattler goaltender Oliver Balazs, the Rattlers still managed to come out on top.
Thursday, March 16, the teams returned to Bradford to compete in Game 2 in this best-of-seven contest, with a full house in the stands and fans in the hall windows. The game was sure not to disappoint.
The arena welcomed Aria Dafoe and Ryan Meyers from the Barrie U7 hockey program to the game, acting as the team’s pre-game flag bearers. The girls represented the U7 Timbits girls teams, where 40 girls practise weekly. The flag bearers were joined by the teams “biggest fan” and local hockey legend, Nolan Wappel, who assisted the young ladies on the ice during the opening ceremony. Nolan received, as a thank you, a signed puck and photo from his favourite player, Julian McCarthy. The ladies would complete one lap under a spotlight provided by team sponsor Upsight & Sound Inc. (Barrie) before accompanying the starting lineup for the singing of O Canada. A beautiful rendition of the anthem rang out, sung by Holy Trinity student Nicole Pedota, who did an amazing job in both English and French.
Ville-Marie would take an early lead with a goal off the face-off by Mathis Chartier (No. 91) 37 seconds into the period, assisted by Olivier Boucher (No. 15). The Pirates would keep the Rattlers on their toes in the defensive zone for most of the first half of the period, being on the constant attack. By mid-period, the Rattlers would swing the tide of battle with a power-play goal by William-Daniel Burns (No. 22) at 13:50, assisted by Jacob Rhodin (No. 91) and Swen Meusy (No. 12) to end the first period in a 1-1 tie. The goaltenders stayed busy, with 13 shots by the Rattlers to the Pirates’ 12.
During the first intermission, the Rattlers welcomed Timbits U7 and U9 skaters from Bradford and Barrie for a few minutes of entertainment for the fans. Joined by both the male and female hockey players, the Rattlers are proud to support and give opportunities for younger generations to enjoy the sport and showcase their skills for all to see. Timbits Red would score during the mini-game and Nolan Wappel would give the enthusiastic goal signal to the winning red team.
The second period would see the same intense action and nail-biting worry from the fans. The Pirates took a quick lead with a goal at 2:09 on the power play by Olivier Boucher. The goal was assisted by Gabriel Therrien (No. 20) and Xavier Gagnon (No. 17) and was quickly followed by Mathias Trottier (No. 93) at 11:16, assisted by Etineene Bourgque (No. 5). Down 3-1 and on the only penalty kill of the period for either team, the Rattlers coach would rally his team with some strong words of encouragement, resulting in Jesper Eriksson (No. 8) draining the puck at 13:38, assisted by Jacob Rhodin (No. 91), followed by the pair scoring again at 18:55 to end the second period tied again, 3-3.
The third period would be dizzying for the fans, with multiple back-and-forth goals, battling for the win. The Rattlers would finally start the period on top with a goal at 2:18 by Hunter Godmere (No. 20), who recently returned from his European tryouts debut, with an assist by Georgi Trofimov (No. 16). The team would pull ahead 5-3 with another goal by Stepan Levitskiy (No. 14) at 11:13, assisted by Swen Meusy (No. 12) and Ryan St. John (No. 13).
Stepan’s goal would trigger the biggest goal exchange of the night, with there being seven goals in just over six minutes of play.
Ville-Marie would shorten the lead with a goal at 12:51 by Oliver Boucher, his second goal of the night, and assisted by Taylor-Jay Swallow (No. 19). The Rattlers would re-establish their two-point lead, with Tanner Skrypnyk (No. 27) dropping the puck over the goalie’s shoulder at 13:05, assisted by Jacob Rhodin. Ville-Marie would tighten again with a goal by Xavier Gagnon (No. 17) at 13:47, followed by Rattlers Adam Witkowski at 15:21, assisted by Stepan Levitskiy, to keep the two-point lead.
Ville-Marie, however, was not ready to face defeat yet and would sink an unassisted goal by Jordan Rochon (No. 22) at 16:04, followed by Olivier Lamothe (No. 9) at 17:16, assisted by Taylor-Jay Swallow, to tie the game and end the third period in a 7-7 contest.
The Rattlers and Pirates would proceed to five minutes of overtime hockey. The Rattlers would manage seven shots on net against the Pirates’ five, with no penalties and no goals scored, but a heavy battle between the two teams. The game would proceed to a shootout, with each team featuring three shooters.
The shootout would see the Rattlers starting off with Stepan Levitskiy attempting to evade the goalie and go low on the stick side, but the goalie got his pads on it, preventing the goal.
Ville Marie’s Olivier Lamothe attempted a high stick-side shot that Rattlers goalie Oliver Balazs handly stopped with the blocker.
Rattler Jacob Rhodin would come in fast and hard and attempt to snake it between Beausoleil’s legs, but once again the Pirates would deny the Rattlers success.
The Pirates’ secondary shooter, Mathis Chartier, would come down hard centre with a snapshot, directly at Balazs’s pads, for an easy stop by the Rattlers’ goalie.
The Rattlers’ Hunter Godmere would come calmly straight down the rink centre with a triple deke directly in front of the Pirates goalie to finish with a glove-side backhand up and over the pads and into the net to give the Rattlers the lead on the shootout.
Pirates team captain Xavier Gagnon would come down stick side with a quick shift in an attempt to put the puck behind the Rattlers’ glove-side pad, but Balazs wouldn’t be caught by the play and stopped the puck to an eruption of applause by the fans. Welcome back to Hunter.
The three stars of the game:
- Bradford Rattlers’ No. 91, Jacob Rhodin (4A)
- Bradford Rattlers’ No. 8, Jesper Eriksson (2G)
- Bradford Rattlers’ No. 27, Hunter Godmere (2G)
The Rattlers play at home on Saturday in the BWG Leisure Centre for Game 3 in this best-of-seven series. Leading the series now 2-0, the game will prove to be one of heavy hitting and high action.