After going winless in September, the turning of the calendar and cooler weather has agreed with the Picton Pirates.
The team has strung two wins together to move their record to 2-3-1. The Pirates shaded the Panthers 3-2 in Port Hope Sat. Oct. 7 and then earned their first win on home ice Thurs. Oct. 12, quelling the Campbellford Rebels 5-4.
A trademark indicative of a young and inexperienced squad, Picton had multi goal leads in the third period in both contests but only managed to escape with a much needed win.
Against the Panthers, the locals had goals from three Prince Edward County Minor Hockey Association grads and an otherworldly performance from their net minder.
In the first, Nick Kirby was set up by Cole Stevenson and Liam Rice at 5:19 to break the ice and give Picton an early lead. The Panthers would respond with a Connor MacGregor shorthanded effort with just under five minutes to play in the frame to tie it at 1-1.
Picton had a pair in the second with Parker Mattis notching his third of the season at 3:49 and then Gerrit Kempers would pot a power play tally just under four minutes later to extend the lead to 3-1.
The Panthers had designs on a comeback in the third and a Brandon Rose marker with under two minutes left made for a thrilling finish but Picton goaltender Ethan Schwarz served notice his 51-save performance in Napanee Sept. 22 was not a fleeting effort. The Ottawa native was stellar through 60 minutes, making 46 stops to pick up his first Provincial Junior Hockey League win.
On Thursday, it was Nic MacGrayne in the Pirates net and he too would earn his first PJHL victory, however his squad needed some late game heroics to make it happen.
The Pirates looked to have things well in hand with a 3-0 lead with under a minute to play in the second stanza against the winless Rebels. Zack Brooks collected a Tyler Brady rebound at the 2:29 mark of the first to notch a power play goal for Picton. At the end of the frame, Mr. Stevenson would spot Mr. Kirby in the slot area and a deft backhand by the Consecon native would push Picton ahead 2-0.
The Pirates continued to pour it on the Rebels’ net with Campbellford starter Brayden Freidrich being tasked with making a number of goalline stops.
Finally, with under a minute to play, Mr. Stevenson would bat home Picton’s second power play tally to give the locals a three goal cushion.
But Picton couldn’t quite grind out the end of the period and Kobe Dostaler beat McGrayne with just six seconds left, setting the stage for a wild third period.
Former Pirate Kleighton Grove would set up Colton McCurdy at 5:43 to bring the Rebels to within one and then Vince Larose-Amyot would score his first PJHL goal just under two minutes later to square the affair at 3-3. The Rebels continued their march to the Picton net and Aiden Trevorton set up Kaleb Brown at the 11:28 mark to give the visitors their first lead of the night.
But Picton had a comeback of their own planned.
Mr. Kempers would feed Kaleb Baldwin along the blue line at the 15:35 mark and the Harrowsmith native snapped a puck through traffic to tie the game up at 4-4.
With time ticking down and the Pirates pushing the pace, Mr. Stevenson and Cole Lavender would team up to get the puck on the stick of Luc Amat who buried this third of the season with just five seconds left to break the hearts of the Rebels and their faithful.
The Pirates are back in action on Thursday when they host Port Hope. That game will be special for Picton fans as, by way of an agreement with the Ontario Hockey Association, former Pirate and Pittsburgh native Pete Banasick will be at the Prince Edward Community Centre to be part of the officiating crew. Mr. Banasick skated on Picton ice in the mid to late 90’s with the Pirates and has climbed the ranks of USA Hockey’s officiating program to become a top junior hockey referee.