Beavers get off to slow start in 2019 with two losses

The Standard (Elliot Lake) - - SPORTS - By KELLY JAMES For The Stan­dard

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.

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