Overholt's power play goal holds up as the winner as Exeter edges the Dolphins
4-3, taking the PJHL Yeck Division final in five games
Friday, March 15, 2019
By Rob J. Ross
DORCHESTER - For the second consecutive year, the Dorchester Dolphins fall in five games in the Provincial Junior Hockey League Yeck Division final.
Nick Overholt had the game winning goal, coming on a second period power play, as the Exeter Hawks held off Dorchester, 4-3, to capture the Yeck Division championship, four games to one.
"It's an amazing feeling," Hawks' forward and St. Thomas native Derek Smith said. "This is the first time I actually got pass the first round. It was great to make a run and even better to win the championship. It's crazy. It hasn't really set in yet."
The Hawks never let the Dolphins build on any momentum in game five. Dorchester opened the scoring just under three minutes in to the game on Dylan Buckholz's power play marker. In the second period, the Dolphins struck twice in 12 seconds for a 3-2 lead, on goals by Colin Capstick and Nolan Blewett.
But Exeter replied within 90 seconds to tie the game on both occasions, with tallies from Troy Kennedy and then Carter McLlwain.
"We got those two quick goals and for whatever reason we go into a shell. I don't why. We got away from doing what made us successful," Dolphins' head coach Mark Steele said. "I feel we didn't compete at their (Hawks') level, not that we can't compete to their level, but we just didn't come to play every night and they did."
Exeter took a 2-1 lead on a last minute goal in the first period from Nick Sammons.
No scoring in the third period, but the Dolphins out shot the Hawks, 13-9, pressing for the equalizer with a number of quality scoring chances.
"If we would have had played like the third period the whole series, we would have been hard to play against, but we didn't muster it every shift," said Steele.
Both sides were two for five on the power play.
"They have the best power play in the league, you can't give them opportunities," said Steele. "We preached discipline and we knew coming in we can't take penalties against them."
Dorchester was without defencemen James Newland and Braidon Duncan, both out serving suspensions, from infractions in game four.
"Taking those guys out was a big blow for us," said Steele. "James is the best defenceman in the league."
Steele didn't agree with the penalty/suspension given to Newland, pointing to three different occasions his players had helmets knocked off, yet no call made in any game.
The Hawks' overtime win could be looked upon as a major swing in momentum for the series.
"Game two was the game we should have had. That one really sticks. We had a 4-2 lead. For them to win it on the power play was definitely a game changer," said Steele. "We responded well in game three, but then came back out flat (game four)."
While the Hawks won twice in Dorchester, including tonight's clincher, the Dolphins could not win at Exeter.
"It's a tough place to play," Steele said. "It's smaller and they're built big, built for their barn and we couldn't muster enough energy in game four."
Dorchester finished first, one point more than Exeter, for the regular season. That one point, earned in an overtime win, the difference in the season series, won by the Dolphins, three games to two.
Smith, the former captain of the Port Stanley Sailors and former Dolphins' defenceman Nick Whitworth, arrived in Exeter via trades in January.
"It feels pretty good I'm not going to lie, winning in your old home barn. Kind of bittersweet coming back here but I'm happy I was on the winning side," said Whitworth, who also won a Yeck title while with the Dolphins in 2017. "I was hoping to bring some leadership that they (Hawks) might not have had. As an over-ager, your only goal is to win. Sure hope I helped out enough."
Whitworth has a goal, three assists and 38 penalty minutes in 13 playoff games this year.
Smith spent almost four seasons in Port Stanley before becoming a Hawk with eight regular season games remaining.
"Being the captain there (Port) it was obviously tough, but I was fortunate enough to come to this team. We knew from the beginning of the playoffs we had a special team and we all bought in every single game. You see the result, we won the championship," the 21-year old said. "I was hoping to do whatever I could, whether it was starting on the fourth line, or third line, play penalty kill, block shots, it didn't matter. I was ready to do whatever to help this team win."
Smith has three goals and six assists in the playoffs.
"We really battled hard. All year we've been talking about doing the little things right and a certain way we want to play. Over the course of the series, that's where those things really shine through," Hawks' head coach Ryan Shipley said. "We did a really good job on the defensive side of the puck tonight. We only gave up one even strength goal tonight and that's a testament to the guys and how hard they've worked."
Shipley is brother to Steven, who played with St. Thomas native and current Carolina Hurricane, Greg McKegg, during their time with the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs, under head coach Dan Rose.
Both Steele and Shipley are in their first seasons behind the bench of their respective teams.
"I'm thankful to be hired here. I'd love to come back, build on my first year and win the Yeck Division. But that's out of my control," said Steele. "The pressure here is to win."
The Dolphins advanced to their seventh Yeck final in their seventh season, but now are 3-4 in the series, including being 1-2 against Exeter. The Hawks also won in 2015. Lambeth beat Dorchester in five games a year ago.
Exeter moves on to face the Lakeshore Canadiens, in the Western Conference final, one of four PJHL Schmalz Cup quarterfinals.