The Picton Pirates are sailing into their first Tod Division finals since the abbreviated 2020 showdown that was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Pirates, the division’s third seed heading into the 2023 Schmalz Cup playoffs, came back to down the second place Amherstview Jets in six games Saturday evening.
Meanwhile, the Port Hope Panthers also played giant killers in their round against the Tod Division regular season champion Napanee Raiders in six, meaning the locals will host Game One of the division finals.
Down 2-1 heading into Tuesday night’s Game four at home, the Pirates were able to continue home win trend to knot the series at two games a piece.
The series between the two squads was incredibly tight and featured outstanding efforts in net by Picton’s Brady Spry and Amherstview’s Alex Chu and Tuesday’s Game 4 was no exception.
After the teams played to a scoreless draw in the first, Picton opened the scoring in the second. Captain Landon McLellan would funnel the puck to the Jets net and it slipped between Chu’s legs at 12:31. Cole Lavender and rookie call up Carter McKee would pick up assists on the play.
In the third, the Jets would draw even as Eric Russell would cut down the wing and place a puck off the cross bar behind Spry and into the Picton net at 10:27 to draw even at 1-1.
The game went into overtime where Picton was tasked with killing off three minor penalties including a four minute double minor infraction.
Finally, with the clubs even in score and skaters, Picton worked a face off play to the left of Chu where Nick Kirby won the draw to McLellan who was able to snap the puck through a maze and into the top corner of the Amherstview net at 11:56 of the extra period.
The the series tied at 2-2, the series shifted to the WJ Henderson Arena for Game 5 in Amherstview Thursday where Picton mounted a late come back and worked even more overtime magic.
Once again, the home side would break he ice with Nic Deichmann grabbing a loose puck behind Spry at the 11:21 mark and tapping it into the Picton net for a 1-0 lead in favour of the Jets.
In the second, the Pirates came roaring back after a spirited bout where Ian Harrison earned a knockout over his Amherstivew opponent.
Just over two minutes later with Picton on the power play, McKee and Gerrit Kempers would team up to find a streaking Cole Stevenson who went top shelf on Chu at 5:35.
Just under four minutes later, Cole Lavender would jump into the rush and tuck home a McLellan pass at 7:15 to give the locals their first lead of the night.
Chu needed a couple of big saves to keep the Picton lead from growing the second but it was Jets who came out firing in the third.
Brendan O’Brien’s screen shot would beat Spry at 3:55 and then Andrew White would convert at the the 7:00 mark to give the Jets the lead at 3-2.
Down a goal, McKee would set up Nick Kirby with less than five minutes left to force another overtime.
In the extra session, the Jets thought they won the game early only to have Spry pluck a would-be winner off the goal line.
In the sixth minute, Picton was able to force a neutral zone turnover where Kirby would feed McLellan in the high slot.
The captain would send the puck to the corner where Kirby was able to regain the disc and feed it towards the Jets goal.
McKee, lurking, was able to one time a rebound past Chu at 6:31 to give Picton a 4-3 decision.
Finally on Saturday night, the teams engaged in another close classic with Picton getting the last laugh.
The Pirates would score a pair of goals a little over two minutes apart midway through the first period. Stevenson would tee up Harrison for a one time effort at 9:24 for the game’s first goal.
Rookie call up Caleb Martin also picked up an assist on the play.
Then, at 11:20, Kirby would cap off a breakaway effort on this back hand to give the locals a 2-0 margin.
After a scoreless second, Amherstview’s Russell would bag a shorthanded effort at 5:10 of the third to make the close of the game a thrilling one but Spry was dynamite in the Pirates net with some of his biggest 31 saves made in the late going.
With the series win, the Pirates will host the opening game of the Tod Division Finals for the first time in nearly the decade.
As of Sunday night, the Pirates and Panthers will still working on setting up a schedule for the next round.