It was a tale of two teams representing the town of Picton in the Provincial Junior Hockey League this weekend.
The Picton Pirates outworked and out-hustled the visiting Port Hope Panthers at home on Thursday night in a massive (or as massive as a game in November can be) four point game, declawing the Cats 6-3.
But the locals were unable to keep the momentum rolling on Saturday night as they fell to the host Lakefield Chiefs 6-3.
With the split, Picton moved their record to 7-10-1 and trail the Panthers for the final Tod Division playoff spot by five points.
Picton’s Head Coach Tyler Green said his young squad learned a tough lesson about working hard and coming into hockey games prepared.
“We were outworked, plain and simple,” Green told the Gazette Monday morning. “Lakefield is a hard working team and they use that smaller ice surface they have to their advantage. They were first on the puck all night and the team that works like that almost always goes home winners.”
Picton got off to a great start as blueliner Cooper Rogers blasted home his second goal in consecutive games at the 1:11 mark to start the first.
Picton would wind up outshooting the host Chiefs 9-8 in the first but it was Lakefield victimizing Pirates starter Brennan Bush twice before the buzzers as Carson Hartwick and James Allen each lit the lamp at the midway point of the opening stanza to build a 2-1 led.
That Lakefield lead was extended to 4-1 as, again, Picton out shot the Chiefs but the hosts had the volleys that accounted for the pair of goals that were scored in the second frame.
Tanner Barbeau and Jacob McPhee counted for the home side to make it 4-1 after one.
Picton wasn’t done however as Kurtis Wood coverted on a Garrison Moore feed at 7:05 to cut the Chiefs’ lead in half at 4-2.
Just over a minute later, Brayden Adams took a Tristan Cowan pass and bulged the twine tent to make it a 4-3 contest with well over a half a period to play.
But Picton succumbed to a classic post-hockey goal trap- the push back shift and William Keith’s goal at 8:54 just 33 seconds after Adam’s second in two games was a dagger straight to the heart of the Pirates.
Picton lifted Bush in the late going but couldn’t muster a marker to get back into the contest late.
Allen’s second into a yawning Picton net with a second left sealed the deal for the Chiefs.
For Picton, the Orr division is putting a big hole in the Pirates hull so far this season.
The locals have just two wins in eight tries against PJHL teams from this side of Central Ontario and Green agreed it’s going to be a bitter pill for his squad to swallow come playoff time if the margin between the Pirates and Tod Division opponents is built by wins over the Orr Division.
“The teams in our league we need to be chasing have had some success so we need to keep pace,” Green added. “Those points will loom large in January.”
The Pirates did manage to pick up an important two points against a team they are chasing in the Tod Division on Thursday as they outlasted the Panthers.
Defenceman Nick Kyte would have the only goal of the first as his power play goal at 7:51 was part of a 15 shot barrage the Pirates put on Panthers starter Connor O’Hare.
Picton continued to step it up in the second and Adams must have thought Christmas had come early as a Port Hope defender went crashing to the ice, setting up a long breakaway for the Frankfort native.
Adams would go bar-down at 2:46 to put his squad ahead 2-0.
Picton continued to buzz and 15 seconds later, it was Will Harrison finding Khaden Henry at the lip of the crease for a tap in to make it 3-0 Pirates.
Port Hope chipped away and Bryson Kellaway’s shot would bounce of a skate and past Pirates starter Eric Tessier at 5:42.
The Panthers and former Cobourg Cougar George Miranda would crave into the Picton lead just over two minutes later and the Pirates could have been excused if they were starting to have that uh-oh feeling.
But the veterans took control and it was Harrison making a nice pass to Griffen Conger in the slot exactly 60 seconds after the Miranda goal to make it a 4-2 contest.
Rogers would snap home a nice shot at the 14:05 mark to make it 5-2 Picton and chased O’Hare in favour of back up Curtis Laviolette.
Port Hope’s Nick Ainsworth would cap off a wild 20 minutes of hockey, taking advantage of a Pirates miscue at 17:31.
The teams combined for seven goals and kept public address announcer Dennis Calnan busy behind the mic in the radio booth.
In the third, Tessier was sharp to counter the Panther push in the early part of the frame and, right at the half way point, Nick Kirby Palliser would spring Dawson Lindsay for a break away.
Lindsay, who had a pair of helpers heading into the second period, would make no mistake on his break away, opening up Laviolette before depositing the puck five hole with a nifty back hand.
After the game, Green said he was really happy the club didn’t lose focus when the Panthers pushed back in the second period.
“Guys on the bench were vocal, speaking up and reminding each other what needed to be done at that crucial point in the game,” Green said.
Picton will be in Napanee on Friday and then return home to take on Uxbridge on Saturday night.
“I think it should be an eager group on Friday. The players saw with that home and home series at the beginning of the month what works and what doesn’t against the Raiders,” Green said.
The Pirates were neck and neck with the Raiders on Fri. Nov. 2 and would up losing by a goal late in a hotly contested game.
The next night at home in Picton, the Raiders ran through the Pirates like a buzz saw en route to a 6-0 win.
“We need to be prepared to put our work boots on and do a job,” the coach added.