Athletics rally to take opener
Alex Simmons couldn’t have picked a better time to score a highlight-reel goal.
Simmons’ short-handed goal halfway through the third period broke a 7-7 deadlock as the St. Catharines Athletics rallied past the Six Nations Arrows 10-7 Wednesday night in the opener of their best-of-five A quarter-final playoff series at Jack Gatecliff Arena.
Not only did Simmons’ goal come with the A’s down a man, but he scored it in dramatic fashion fighting off a pair of Arrows’ defenders before firing a shot over his shoulder as he was falling to the floor.
“I saw an opportunity one-on-two and I went to the net,” Simmons said. “I knew I was going to score.
“We needed a lift. I wasn’t scoring early and all four guys on the floor helped me get in position to score that goal.”
A’s coach Steve Toll wasn’t surprised by Simmons’ heroics.
“That’s really what big players do,” Toll said. “Did he do it when we needed it? Ya, he did.
“He showed up when the time was needed. It was a big, big goal.”
The A’s had to fight and battle for every inch of the floor against a stubborn, well-coached Six Nations squad that led 7-6 before the A’s ran off four straight goals to pull it the win.
“When you work hard, good things happen and we out-worked them in the third,” Toll said.
Simmons knew it would be a battle against the Arrows.
“They’re a good team,” Simmons said. “We didn’t want to look by them. They have a great line-up but we had to move the ball. We weren’t getting to the middle. We were too complacent with taking outside shots. We had to bear down.
“It’s playoffs so it’s going to be a battle every game.”
Toll, too, tipped his cap to the Arrows.
“They came to play,” Toll said. “They’re a good team and they have probably 12 guys who have won a Minto Cup over there so they know what it takes to win.
“They paid the price early and then we paid the price and came out with the win, that’s all the matters.”
Game 2 is Thursday in Six Nations, a notoriously difficult place for a road team to win.
“You don’t want to go down 1-0 and have to go to Six Nations,” Toll said. “Tonight’s win puts us in an OK position, but we have to make sure we answer the bell tomorrow night as well.”
Former St. Catharines netminder Troy Holowchuk started in goal for the Arrows and left the game at the 13:21 mark of the third with the score tied 6-6 when he was shaken up.
Nick Damude was particularly sharp in the third for the A’s in goal.
A’s acorns: Former A’s goaltender Corey Quinn presented St. Catharines defender Tanner Vail with a scholarship bursary on behalf of the Athletics Alumni Association . . . The other quarter-final series are Orangeville vs. Mimico, Burlington vs. Oakville and Brampton vs. Whitby.
Athletics 10 Arrows 7
BPSN Star of the Game: St. Catharines’ Alex Simmons with three goals and three assists.
St. Catharines Athletics: Alex Simmons 3; Jake McNabb 2; Carter Zavitz, Latrell Harris, Liam Mcdonald, Saul Van Der Zalm; Kealan Pilon.
Six Nations Arrows: Tehoka Nanticoke 3; Travis Longboat 2; Jake Rosa, Jamie Dilks.
Game stats: Shots on goal: By St. Catharines on Troy Holowchuk/Dustin Hill (33), by Six Nations on Nick Damude (41); Power plays: St. Catharines 2-for-5, Six Nations 2-for-6; Penalty minutes: St. Catharines 24, Six Nations 22.
Up next: Game 2 Thursday at Six Nations. Game 3 Sunday, July 14 at Jack Gatecliff Arena at 7 p.m.
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