First place gets away in the final week as Dolphins place fourth
now face North Middlesex in the first round of the PJHL playoffs
Monday, February 3, 2019
By Rob J. Ross
DORCHESTER - First, second and third slipped away, leaving the Dorchester Dolphins in fourth place.
The Dolphins couldn't hang on to the lead position, losing their final two games of the regular season in the Provincial Junior Hockey League Yeck Division. Two wins would have locked down top spot, but the Dolphins fell 4-2 at Exeter January 28th and 5-3 loss to the Thamesford Trojans, at home January 29th.
Meanwhile the Trojans, Exeter Hawks and Mt. Brydges Bulldogs won their final games to finish as the top three teams in the division.
In what was likely the tightest race ever to close the regular season in the division, four teams finished with 28 wins each, separated by just four points.
The Trojans (28-10-1-3) edged the Hawks (28-11-2-1) by one point, finishing with 60 points, for top spot and home ice throughout the playoffs. The Bulldogs had 57 and the Dolphins, 56.
"We thought we had it nailed down and figured out and then we go into Exeter and again tonight we didn't do the things we worked on," Dolphins' head coach Mark Steele said following the loss to the Trojans. "We're disappointed but I don't think anyone looking at our roster at the beginning of the year thought we'd be where we are, having the opportunity to be in first."
The Dolphins started their regular season three weeks after most other teams and dropped two of their first three games, including a 3-0 loss to the North Middlesex Stars.
"You reflect on games at the beginning of the season that we should or could have won that come back to haunt you," said Steele.
Now the Dolphins (28-14-0-0) have a best of seven game first round series against those Stars, who finished fifth (21-6-2-2). Game one is Friday at Dorchester (7:30 p.m.)
"It won't change for what we need to be successful," said Steele. "We really have to be able to play without the puck. We have to know what we're doing when we don't have it. We know what to do when we have it. We're still confident with what we have here."
Dorchester led Thamesford 2-1 after two periods, but the Trojans scored four third period goals, including the go ahead goal and empty netter in the final minute.
"Again, it's our Achilles heel. We had a four minute span," said Steele. "It's been like that over and over again, that four minute span where we have a breakdown."
Overall the 'Phins bench boss was satisfied the team played, aside from having "no puck luck" over the first half of the game.
Isaac Boer-hersh, with two goals and Austin Bisschop scored for the Dolphins.
Dylan Buckholz assisted on both Boer-hersh goals, to finish with 62 points to lead the team and finish third overall in the division.
Cole Schnittiker had two goals for the Trojans including the winner. Jared Caldaroozzi, Chris Dimmers and Lucas Ojero, completed the Thamesford scoring.
A night earlier at Exeter, an empty net goal secured the Hawks a victory.
"We didn't play well enough but we were in it," said Steele. "We were playing timid to make a mistake, too cautious. We didn't play our type of game."
Josh Short, with his 23rd goal of the season and Dean Jackson, tallied for the Dolphins.
The Dolphins finish with four 20-goal scorers, Buckholz (29), Short, Noah Small (23) and Brody Smith (21). Four players averaged over a point per game, Buckholz, Smith, Small and Ryan Root. Boer-hersh had two goals and three assists in the four games played for the Dolphins, after arriving from Lucan.
Goalies Matt Waller and Liam McCartney both finish with 13 wins and seven losses and two shutouts. McCartney had the third best save percentage (.930) and fourth lowest goals-against average (2.54) in the division.
The Dolphins had the top power play (22.6 percent) and number three penalty kill (88.7) and the division with 12 shorthanded goals.
Dorchester took the regular season series with North Middlesex, four games to two. Over the six games, the Dolphins scored six times on the power play and three goals while shorthanded. Dylan Van Dusen led the Dolphins against the Stars with six goals.
The Stars are led by Sam Baker (18 goals, 28 assists), Josh Moorhouse (15G, 21A), Keegan Decaluwe (15G, 21A), Donny Manzara (34 points in 33 games) and Dorchester native Sebastian Nogueria (12G, 17A).
First round match-ups
Thamesford takes on Port Stanley (1-41-0-0), Exeter
faces their neighbour, the Lucan Irish (9-29-0-3)
and Mt. Brydges has the Aylmer Spitfires
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