To ensure they finished the regular season in third place and were the top seed in the play in round of the PJHL’s 2022 Tod Division playoffs, the Picton Pirates needed at least one point against the circuit’s top squad Thursday night.
Exactly one point was what Picton (16-12-2) obtained with a last second goal that forced a scoreless overtime against the visiting Amherstview Jets.
Just a few hours after they were honoured, Picton’s four overage graduates were on the ice for a faceoff in the Jets end with nine scant seconds left on the game clock.
Captain Devin Morrison won a clean draw to Noah Brant on half wall.
Picton’s top goal scorer then slung the puck in perfect rhythm to Nate Boomhower at the top of the circle.
With checkers flooding towards him, Boomhower snapped a puck low to the blocker side of Jets goalie Jeremy Piazzi.
Piazzi would get a piece of rubber but not quite enough to stop the biscuit from tumbling into the Amherstview net and landing Picton a valuable regulation point that ensured the Port Hope Panthers would not be able to catch the locals in the standings by virtue of Picton’s lead in overall wins as the first division tie break.
Picton’s other overeager Owen Dever was held off the scoresheet on Thursday but that’s a rare occurrence for the Belleville native. Heading into the final game of the regular season, Dever had amassed 14 points in his last half dozen outings and Picton’s most recent prolific scorer was finally silenced.
Thursday’s result wound up being moot as the Panthers and visiting Napanee Raiders tied in Port Hope on Saturday night but try telling that to the Pirates who have gone on a nice run since downing the Cats in overtime 4-3 at the Jack Burger Sports Complex back on Feb. 19.
Since that time, Picton’s defeated and tied the Jets, pummelled the Frankford Huskies and came oh-so-close to working a regulation tie with the Raiders, outplaying Napanee for two periods only to give up a go ahead goal in the late stages of the third period Feb. 24.
“It’s encouraging to be playing our best hockey at the most crucial stage of the season and I think the players are starting to realize the pieces are in place if they can put them together,” Pirates General Manager Jason Parks said.
As has been the modus operandi against teams like Amherstview and Napanee in the last month, Picton would fall behind in the first period.
Jets forward Zach Beaubien would pick up a loose puck at the Picton blueline and move to the goal with a deke and put a back hand effort past Pirates starter Nolan Lane.
Just over a minute later and on the powerplay, the PJHL’s leading point getter Matthieu Halle would snap a puck through traffic that eluded Lane and had the visitors ahead 2-0 after 20 minutes.
In the second, Picton went to work and were first to the puck in a game that picked up in its physicality.
Brant would make a nice no look pass from behind the goal line to a wide open Cole Stevenson and the rookie made no mistake on his sixth of the season at 2:13.
The duo were at it again a few shifts later when Stevenson set up a rush where Brant busted in and went top bunk on Piazzi to tie the game at 8:48 of the second.
“Noah has been phenomenal for us,” Parks said. “After the game I told him I was proud of him and what he had accomplished for this organization in 2021-22. He’s scored some big goals and his work ethic has always been evident.”
In the third, Picton and Amherstview both had chances to pull ahead but the goaltenders put on a show.
Lane would blink first as defenceman Jakob Harris was allowed to skate across the top of the circles and send a seeing eye shot past Lane at 12:06.
Down 3-2 however, Lane gave his team a chance to get back in the game with a pair of massive glove saves from point blank range.
Picton was also tasked with killing off a penalty with just over two minutes left in the game and Lane was huge down the stretch.
“He had more than a few of those ‘If the Pirates come back, remember that save’ sequences,” Parks noted. “The growth and maturation rate over this season is some of the best I’ve ever seen at this level.”
The Pirates, with Lane on the bench and five skaters aside, put the pressure on Amherstiview and forced the Jets to take an icing with under ten seconds left, setting the stage for Boomhower’s heroics.
Despite being three skaters aside in overtime, the heavy hitting continued including a couple of big body checks by the captain.
“(Morrison) was incredible in overtime, you could tell he wanted that win,” Parks said. “Given his stature, he’s not going to be the most physical player on the ice but he climbed the ladder to throw a couple of devastating hits that set the tone.”
Stevenson would be upended by Halle heading to the Amherstview net with about a minute to go that had the home side howling for a penalty shot.
A one-on-one overtime showdown was not to be and the Jets managed to kill off the penalty and preserve the 3-3 draw.
After the dust settled on the PJHL’s final weekend of regular season play, Amherstview wound up leading the division and Napanee took second place. Both teams were given a bye for the first round.
Picton will face off with Frankford while Port Hope and Campbellford will hook up in best of seven series for the right to advance.
The Picton-Frankford schedule is as follows:
Game 1: Thurs. Mar. 10 in Picton 7:30 PM
Game 2: Sat. Mar. 12 @ Frankford 7:50 PM
Game 3: Sun. Mar. 13 in Picton 7:30 PM
Game 4: Mon. Mar. 14 @ Frankford 8:30 PM
*Game 5: Thurs. Mar. 17 in Picton 7:30 PM*
*Game 6: Sat. Mar. 19 @ Frankford 7:50 PM*
*Game 7: Sun. Mar. 20 in Picton 7:30 PM*