Beavers get off to slow start in 2019 with two losses
It may be a happy New Year to most, but 2019 has started on a sour note for the Blind River Beavers.
The Beavers began the 2019 portion of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League schedule by dropping their first two contests of the New Year. On Friday, the Beavers lost 8-5 to the Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, Eagles, while on Saturday Blind River was defeated 6-2 by the Elliot Lake Wildcats.
Sloppy defensive play by the entire team was chiefly to blame for both losses, as the Beavers surrendered an average of seven goals in their first two matches of 2019. At one point, affil- iate goalie Patrick Boivin was inserted into the game against the Wildcats in hopes of sparking the team, but the move failed to inspire the Beavers to shore up their defence.
Facing the difficult task of playing their first game after the holiday break in the hostile environment of Pullar Stadium in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, the Beavers quickly fell behind the Eagles 1-0 when Kyle Quinn beat starting goalie Garret Boyonoski. However, the Beavers bounced back quickly and tied the score at 1-1 minutes later when Brody White and Ethan Graham combined to set up Justin Mauro for his sixth goal of the season.
The Beavers managed to take the lead late in the opening period when Andrew Warhoftig combined with Nash Hatcher to beat Joseph Benedetto in the Eagles goal to give Blind River a 2-1 advantage heading into the first intermission. After the break, though, the Eagles came out with fire in their eyes and assumed a 3-2 lead just 34 seconds into the second period on goals by Kobe Keller and Charley Hanewall.
Graham got the Beavers back on even terms minutes later when combined with Warhoftig and Dante Cavaliere to tie the game at 3-3. Midway through the second stanza, however, the Eagles broke the tie with a pair of goals by Hanewall and Quinn to grab a 5-3 lead.
Hatcher brought the Bea- vers back to within 5-4 when he combined with Alex Engel and Caleb Serre late in the second period. Before the period ended, though, the Eagles restored their two-goal cushion at 6-4 on a goal by George Orfanos.
The Eagles pushed the margin to 7-4 on a goal by Brendan Blair early in the third period, but the Beavers refused to quit and cut the deficit to 7-5 midway through the frame on a goal by Ryan Peck from Lucas Adams and Ryan Nielsen. That was as close as Blind River would get, however, as the Eagles steadied their defence late in the contest and added an empty-net goal by Keller to ice an 8-5 victory.
Team defence was no better for the Beavers on the following evening in Elliot Lake, though the Beavers did manage to out-shoot the Wildcats by a margin of 36 to 30. The difference was that the Wildcats managed to finish their chances, while the Beavers were unable to capitalize on most of their scoring opportunities against goaltender Dominic Boily of the Wildcats.
With the disappointing start to the New Year, the Beavers now reside in third place in the western division of the NOJHL with a record of 19 wins, 13 losses in regulation time and five losses in overtime or shootouts. They have a total of 43 points, which is just two less than the second place Rayside-balfour Canadians and eight behind the Sault Ste. Marie Thunderbirds.
The Beavers will try to improve upon their slow start to 2019 and move up in the standings with a couple of games on the road this weekend. On Thursday, the Beavers travel to Chelmsford to face the Canadians in a battle for second place in the division.
On Friday, the Beavers make a return trip to Pullar Stadium for a return match against the Eagles. The Beavers do not return to the friendly confines of the Blind River Community Centre until the following weekend, when they face the Canadians on Saturday, Jan. 19 and the Powassan Voodoos on the following afternoon.