A chronologically-quick, if flood-delayed two-goal burst was the Tillsonburg News turning point as the Tillsonburg Oxford Source For Sports Bantams dropped a 7-2 OMHA BB decision to Collingwood Sunday afternoon inside the Kinsmen/Memorial Arena.
“That really hurt us,” admitted Source For Sports bantam captain Alex Sutherland. “We never really gave up hope though, it was just a hard-fought battle the whole game.”
The front end of a potential two-goal swing was arguably the cruellest. Tillsonburg appeared to be finishing the second period off strong, looking for the equalizer with extended pressure inside the Collingwood zone.
The old hockey adage that a close miss at one end of the ice is followed by a goal at the other played out as Collingwood’s Matt Pockaj relieved the pressure on a solo rush up-ice, cutting in on the left wing and firing home a low, scoring shot to the far side, inside the right post with 58.2 seconds left on the clock.
The teams returned to the ice after a flood and Collingwood’s Dylan Rennie delivered the back end of a devastating two-punch combination just 22 seconds into the third period, upping the visitors’ lead to 5-2. From there, a Tillsonburg lineup reduced to two forward lines by a combination of injury, suspension (first-period checking-from-behind infraction) and March break (vacation to Florida) was hard-pressed to battle back against the visitors, who added two additional goals (Pockaj and Johnny Ruppert) to round the 7-2 final.
“It’s hard to play with two lines now,” said Tillsonburg’s Seth Lamoure. “We’re going to have to tighten it up.
“They’re a good team, we just have to shut down their key players and I think we can pull out a win.”
Sutherland agreed with the need to corral Collingwood’s top offensive threats, adding Tillsonburg also has to take care of business itself.
“We have to find a way to put the puck in the net. We had lots of scrambles in their crease, we just didn’t put it in.”
Nehemiah Dube had gotten the Source For Sports bantams off on the right skate, giving Tillsonburg a 1-0 lead just 35 seconds into the contest on assists to Lamoure and Jarrod Winters. Collingwood captain Adam Pollard countered roughly midway through the first period, adding his second at the 20-second mark of the second to lift the visitors into a brief, one-goal lead. Tillsonburg’s Ethan Scruton’s unassisted marker just 56 seconds later squared accounts at two. Collingwood’s Ryan McMullin scored what would stand as the game-winner with 6:23 remaining in the frame, giving the visitors a lead they would never relinquish.
Collingwood opened the OMHA BB final with a 4-2 victory on home ice Saturday, and currently enjoys a 4-0 lead in the six-point set. It is scheduled to resume Saturday, March 22 in Collingwood with a 2:30 p.m. opening faceoff, returning to Tillsonburg for a 6 p.m. start Sunday, if necessary.
Dube says battling back into the series can start with a simple focus on winning individual battles.
“We’re losing more battles than we have all year,” he said. “Gotta play smarter hockey too.”
And despite being down, Dube believes the Source For Sports bantams are far from out.
“We’re going to come back hard,” he predicted. “We’re a pretty good comeback team, so I think we can do it.”