The Stephens Equipment Major Bantam Highlanders hosted two home games this past weekend, one at 2:00 pm Saturday against the Burlington Eagles in the Chesley Arena and the other at 1:30 pm Sunday in the same location against the Brampton Battalion.
The Burlington game started off slow as both teams probed the other’s defence. It wasn’t until the 9:51 mark that the first goal was scored. Graydon McArthur (Chatsworth) got the puck to Garrett McFadden (Kincardine) who rushed end to end, beating the goalie as he cut in front of the net.
Near the end of the period, the Eagles got themselves into penalty trouble and the Highlanders took advantage with a 5-on-3. At 4:21 Ben Van Ooteghem (Saugeen Shores) deflected a Brenden Welsh (Owen Sound) shot from the point over the defending goaltender’s shoulder for the 2-0 lead. McFadden set up Welsh for the shot.
In the second period the Stephens Equipment team widened the lead to 3-0 at the 11:50 mark during a man-advantage. McFadden and Welsh worked together to get the stretch pass to Ethan Skinner (Kincardine), giving him the speed to go around the Eagles “D” for a shot that beat the net-minder.
Later in the period, during a penalty kill, Van Ooteghem blocked a point shot that bounced out the Highlanders end. Pushing it further into the Burlington zone, Van Ooteghem and Caleb Stephens raced around the visitor’s defence, with the former beating the Eagles’ goalie who had come out to try and play the puck. With the two Highlanders going in alone, Van Ooteghem passed it over to Stephens to put it into the empty net. Just before the goal, Tyler Fassl (North-Bruce Peninsula) had made a great glove save, moving across the goal crease to take away an open net from a stunned Burlington forward who thought he had a goal.
With seven seconds remaining in the second period, Tyler Rolfe (Shelburne) scored from the left side on a set-up by McFadden, giving the Stephens Equipment team a 5-0 lead going into the third period. The final frame saw the Highlanders content to sit on the lead and held off the Eagles for Fassl’s shut-out win.
Sunday’s game against the Brampton Battalions started off with the Battalion pressing early for the lead off goal, but it was the Highlanders who opened the scoring at 10:05 during a 4-on-4. Spencer Elder (Owen Sound) got the puck to McFadden, who carried it in behind the net and fed it out to Jordan Vanhaelemeesch (Saugeen Shores) in the slot, where a back hand shot beat the Brampton goalie for the opening goal.
That lead stood up until the 10:25 mark of the second period, when a Brampton forward got the loose puck off the face-off and beat Nick Redmond (Collingwood) high on the short side to tie things up. Then,at 5:32, with the Highlanders pressing on the man-advantage, the Battalion broke out and with a two-on-one managed to score and take a 2-1 lead.
Early in the third period an unfortunate bounce gave the puck up to a Battalion forward high in the slot, with the resulting goal at 13:23 giving the visiting team a 3-1 lead. Not content to sit back the Stephens Equipment team fought back, with Elder feeding the puck to Stephens in the slot at 8:22 for a goal to close to 3-2.
At 2:55, while killing off a penalty, Elder scored to tie the game at 3-3. McFadden and Skinner assisted on the goal. With the score tied up, the Battalion pressed and were blessed with the winning goal at 1:46. The Highlanders tried but couldn’t mount any sustained pressure and good scoring chances this late in the game, losing a heart breaker by a 4-3 count.
The Stephens Equipment Bantams have a busy and tough schedule next weekend, with a 7:30 game Friday night at the Joshua Creek Arena against Oakville, a 2:00 pm tilt in Chesley on Saturday versus the Southern Tier Admirals and then a 6:35 match Sunday night against the Battalion in Brampton.