Bantams off to finals
The Campbell River No. 1 Autobody Bantam A Tyees came out flying from the opening face-off when they hosted the Saanich Braves on Saturday in a Tier 2 cross-over semi-final game.
Sage Lim and Josh Coblenz worked a bit of magic to break in on goal within the first 30 seconds. Lim put a shot on net and Coblenz was there for the rebound but couldn’t get a lot on it which allowed the Braves goalie to make a huge save. Some observers felt that this initial save helped the Braves self-confidence increase ten-fold. They shook off whatever lethargy may have remained from their trip north and began to keep things simple but effective as they sprang their forwards on odd-man rushes.
At times the Tyees played with the intensity that was critical to their success in prior round-robin playoff victories but they were running up against a goalie who believed he could stop anything. A sense of frustration seemed to manifest itself in the worst possible way as many players were making high risk plays and relying upon Tyee goalie Kyle Franceschini to bail them out, which he did several times.
After the Tyees killed off a two man disadvantage, Dawson Frank and Will McLean forechecked the Braves in the neutral zone and McLean was able to take the puck in for a shot on goal. Both tried to bang the rebound as it was just outside the goal line but the Braves goalie smothered it before they could reach it.
Tyees opened the scoring with a classic shot-and-rebound combo with Lim scoring from an assist by Coblenz.
The Braves replied with their first goal which drew great cheers from their many fans in attendance. The Tyees simply tightened their chinstraps and started to forecheck the Braves relentlessly. Darian Swift grabbed the puck in the offensive zone and fed a sharp pass back to the point. Liam Rivett drew back and fired a howitzer into the top corner; 2-1 for the Tyees.
The Braves kept coming. One shot almost trickled through Franceschini and across the goal line but Matt Barker got his stick on it just in time, sending it the length of the ice to keep the Tyee lead.
Unfortunately the Braves went back on the power play and made some crisp passes to break down the box. A hard shot leaked through Franceschini and slowly found its way into the corner of the net to tie the game at 2.
Cory Bukauskas was in the right spot at the right time to bury a rebound off of Olivia Knowles’ shot on goal. The Tyees proved why special teams are so important as they went on the power play late in the first period. Frank made no mistake as he put the biscuit in the basket off of a rebound from a Dustin Kew point shot with the second assist to Swift.
The first period ended with the Tyees leading on the scoreboard (4-2) and in shots on goal (13-11).
The second period saw the both teams continuing to battle for loose pucks. The Braves went on the power-play and wasted no time as they wired a shot over the blocker to bring the score to 4-3. Later in the period, the Braves managed to put sustained pressure on the Tyees. Too many Braves were left standing in the low slot area as players hacked and whacked at the puck. The inevitable lucky bounce went in the Braves favour as they put the fifth, or maybe it was the sixth, shot into the back of the net and tied the game at 4. Cumulative shots on goal at the end of the period reflected the play; 21-22 in favour of the Braves.
The third period started with the Tyees on the power-play as the Braves took a minor penalty with seven seconds left in the second period.
The Braves took advantage of the clean ice to spring a breakaway on net but Franceschini held his ground and made a huge save to keep it tied at 4. The Tyees couldn’t convert on this power play but kept their skates moving which is always a positive sign.
Once again, Swift found a loose puck in the offensive zone and got it to Coblenz who slid it five-hole for a 5-4 Tyee lead.
Still at even strength, Coblenz worked the forecheck perfectly to get the puck and fed it to Lim. Lim made no mistake and put it five-hole to extend the lead, 6-4.
The Braves knew they had a tall mountain to climb but they kept trying and forced Franceschini to make a great glove save with about three minutes left in the third period. The Braves pulled their goalie for an extra attacker with a minute and a half left on the clock but were unable to get any closer. The final shots on goal were 31-30 in favour of the Tyees in their 6-4 victory.
The No. 1 Autobody Bantam A Tyees now face Juan de Fuca Grizzlies in a best-of-three final series. This promises to be a fast-paced series. The Tyees are definitely capable of beating the Grizzlies but the key is for the players to believe they can do it. Unfortunately the game dates and times were not available prior to publication.