With a number of restrictions in place at the Jack Burger Sports Complex in Port Hope, the Picton Pirates hit the ice for real this season on Saturday.
Well, as real as Provincial Junior Hockey League action can be in this 2020 COVID-19 reality.
The Pirates finally faced off against the Panthers in a three game exhibition series hosted exclusively at the Panther’s den as the Pirates have yet to see ice installed at Huff Estates Arena in Picton.
Game 1 wound up going to the hosts 3-2 after a late goal but overall, Pirates coach Tyler Green was thrilled with the effort his club gave.
And the fact there was a game to talk about with your humble scribe after months of inaction.
“We’re just really happy to be back on the ice in a game situation and we are so thankful to the Port Hope Panthers organization for extending the invite and setting this up,” Green told the Gazette. “I know the staff and the players are all really thankful for this. The arena staff and the Panthers volunteers were warm and welcoming on Saturday and it’s a great credit to them and our league that we can get the players doing what they love to do which is play hockey games.”
The Pirates would score first after a scoreless first frame.
Derek Vos, who spent most of the season with the Wellington Dukes last year took a nice feed from 16-year-old freshman Nate Woods and lit the lamp early in the second period.
Veteran Nick Kirby also had a helper on the play.
The Quinte Red Devils grad who had 15 points for the U16 club in 36 games last year impressed his coach in his first game as a Pirate.
“We are really happy with Nate’s tenacity to work for the puck and create opportunities off the forecheck and turnovers,” Green said “He really stood out.”
Another standout for Picton was Whitby product John Chambers who tended goal for Picton.
“He had a really strong game and made some crucial saves on the penalty kill that were musts down the stretch to keep us in it,” Green added.
The Pirates didn’t have much time to enjoy the lead as the Panthers stormed back and Zach Laverne capitalized on a defensive zone turnover to make it a 1-1 game.
The no body contact rules in effect, the Pirates had a difficult time adjusting and spent most of the frame in the sin bin but managed to escape with a 1-1 tie.
In the final stanza, Picton would again push ahead as Owen Dever snapped a go ahead goal with help from Landon MacLellan.
But the Panthers were ready to play comeback again and William Moore managed to fire home an equalizer part way through the third.
Panthers captain Corey Saman would bag the game winner of Game 1 of the bubble series with just under six minutes to play as he went top shelf over Chambers at 5:50.
The game marked the comeback of Stirling native Bailey Matthews who suited up for 28 games with the Pirates in 2017-18 but was dealt to the Napanee Raiders later that off season.
“He played really well and he’s going to be an important piece for us moving forward,” Green added.
The Pirates play Game 2 of the bubble series on Saturday night and then finish up the three game set on Sat. Dec. 19th. Both games get underway at 7:30 pm and live streams and/or updates are available through both teams social media channels @PictonPirates and @Panthers_JrC .