December 9, 2018 was the date of the Welland Jr. Canadians last win against the Hamilton Kilty B’s. Entering the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL) postseason, the team would be given, at least, four chances to end that drought. The Jr. Canadians also looked for their first playoff win since game one of the 2016 postseason, when Max Cipriano scored the overtime winner at the Jack Gatecliff Arena, against the St. Catharines Falcons.
Heading into the series, the Kilty B’s were the betting favourites, as the team lost only seven games all season. But all underdogs share a common theme, and that’s the need to overcome adversity. Something this particular group has learned throughout the last five days.
The Jr. Canadians entered the series without their two most consistent forwards, arguably, as Captain Peter Spameni and Cody Miskolczi both missed the opening three games, due to an upper body injury and suspension, respectively. The adversity continued as, in game one, the bulk of the team was playing ill, after contracting, suspectedly, the Norovirus. In game two, about 20 seconds into the second period, Ethan Labbe suffered an upper body injury, that will sideline him for the remainder of the postseason.
The team was outscored 7 to 1 and outshot in 106 to 43, during the opening two games, but responded in a physical way. In game three, the Jr. Canadians channeled their inner Boston Bruins, and used that style of play to wear down the Kilty B’s, to silence the airhorns (which are prohibited at the Welland Main Arena). It was a hard-hitting affair, and a masterclass of blocking shots.
Thomas Shain, Daniel Thomakos, Tyler Isherwood and Matthew Schlosser led the Jr. Canadians to a 4-1 lead, before the Kilty B’s responded with two of their own. The Jr. Canadians slightly took their foot off the gas pedal in the third period, and the Kilty B’s had numerous opportunities to tie the game. But goaltender Markus Stoikos shut the door. Out of the bullpen, he stopped 32 shots, which was good enough to receive the Jr. Canadians x Welland Fire Department Player of the Game helmet.
“We can compete, we can win,” said Jr. Canadians Head Coach Dave Burkholder. “This team needs to remember what it feels like to play hard and physical for a complete 60 minutes to get the job done.”
The series will now pause for day before resuming Tuesday at the King Street Ice Palace. Stoikos is expected to get the nod in goal, and Miskolczi is expected to return to the lineup.