The Picton Pirates closed out a three game bubble series against the Port Hope Panthers in style on Saturday, taking the rubber match against the hosts going away 5-1.
The Bucs, who have been working out at Lehigh Arena in Wellington over the past few months, slowly elevated their game through the series, allowing only two goals in the final two matchups and Picton Head Coach Tyler Green said the evolution of club’s collective game was a positive sight.
“Right from the first period to the last period of the series, you could really see the progression of the team and it was great to see,” Green said. “I was really happy with how we were able to move the puck and play that up tempo style. In the first game we were behind the puck all the time but as we played more, we shook the rust off and got more focussed.”
The Pirates would outshoot the Panthers in the first period of Game 3 Saturday night 1o-7 and it was the locals breaking the ice for the second straight game.
Picton native Cooper Rogers would generate a scoring chance from the backend and the veteran blue liner beat Conor O’Hare for a 1-0 lead.
The Panthers responded in the second stanza early and it was Drew Clapperton finding a hole in Pirates starter Eric Tessier to square the affair at 1-1.
Picton pulled back in front partway through the frame when defence man Derek Vos ripped a point shot that found mesh behind O’Hare for a 2-1 score.
Highly touted 16-year-old rookie Nate Woods has impressed Pirates brass throughout the series and his tally early in the third provided both a key measure of insurance and a glimpse of what’s to come for Picton.
“We are real ecstatic to have Nate in the lineup and it was so nice to see him capitalize on that scoring chance. He’s fitting in really good with the group and he’s committed to getting better every day. His speed and work ethic helps him create off fore check and we are excited about his future.”
While youth was served to start the frame, Picton’s experience came through in the final stanza as the lead was extended.
Team captain Griffin Conger scored a power play goal to make it 4-1 and then Owen Never capped off a nice series with his third of the three game bubble set.
“It’s been great to see those veterans come alive and hit the score sheet like we know they can. For a depth guy, seeing Owen Dever get hot and score some goals is great and guys like Griff and Landon McLellan were strong in the later stages of the game.”
The coach also mentioned Tyendinaga native Noah Brant who had a season with the Powassan Voodoos last year.
“It’s great to see a player like that come back with tons of experience and knowledge and have him in our dressing room,” Green said.
Another bright spot for Picton was the netminding they received in the series.
In Game 1, John Chambers turned in a solid effort in a 3-1 loss, keeping the Panthers at bay while Picton struggled to find its game.
Over the span of Games 2 and 3, veteran Tessier had 47 stops while allowing just two goals against.
“Both goalies I was real impressed with. We were late to start Game 1 and Chambers bailed us out to keep us within reach and then Tess was great early in Game 2 so that we could get our legs under us and get that key confidence in what we were trying to accomplish,” Green said. “Both guys came into camp in game shape and that was really nice to see.”
After the game, the organization took to Twitter and thanked Port Hope and club General Manager Alex Guiney for their leadership and hospitality.
“We were really happy and thankful for the invitation and everything ran so smoothly and that’s a testament to their hardworking all the way to the volunteers. There were no glitches and everyone was very welcoming and professional,” the coach added.
Picton will enjoy a shutdown over the holidays but nothing has been scheduled for 2021.
Green said finding ice time in Wellington for a game and working through the rules laid out by the municipality has been challenging but the club is hopeful for games in the new year.
“We’ve been In discussion with Campbellford for something in the new year. We are going to take a break and hope the COVID numbers plummet and see where we are in 2021,” he said.
As the club hockey club was putting the finishing touches on a deciding game victory at the Jack Burger Sports Complex in Port Hope on Saturday, Green admitted it was difficult not to look out on the ice and speculate what the hockey club might do in a regular play.
I”t’s really tough. This is the best shape we’ve been in in the four years that I’ve been here,” Green told the Gazette. “I’m really disappointed for the overage players and the uncertainty they are facing and we hope there’s a next season with them. Plus the 16 and 17 year olds that are trying to make it to the next step, it’s a mental battle for them. With everything we have in place, we feel like we are ready to challenge for the top of the Tod Division.”