Falcons smother Blackhawks
Owen Simpson is quickly making a name for himself with the St. Catharines Falcons.
The 17-year-old rookie forward has made a smooth transition to junior after missing last season due to the COVID pandemic following a year under current Falcons assistant coach Matt Miller with the Niagara North Stars midget AAA squad.
Simpson netted the game-winner and also chipped in with an assist as the Falcons blanked the Thorold Blackhawks 4-0 in a Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, Golden Horseshoe Conference game Monday night at Thorold Arena.
It was the second straight shutout for the Falcons who improved to 8-2-0-1. They trail the Hamilton Kilty B’s by one point for first place. Hamilton defeated Welland 9-3 Monday at home to improve to 9-1.
Simpson has quickly made a believer out of Falcons coach Tyler Bielby.
“The kid just doesn’t stop,” Bielby said. “It’s the most honest effort we’ll ever get out of a player, and as a coach, that’s a dream.”
Bielby said Simpson came highly recommended by Miller.
“I put a lot of weight into what coach Miller said when we were in the off-season. He’s got some familiarity with some of these boys and the truth is he swears by Owen Simpson,” Bielby said.
Simpson normally lines up alongside Mitchell Armstrong and Jagger North, who also played for Miller.
“That line in general has been one of the best shutdown lines in the league and it’s because they’re playing their shifts in the other team’s end,” Bielby said.
Simpson, a 17-year-old Grimsby resident who attends Orchard Park High School in Stoney Creek, has felt more at ease as the season has progressed.
“I feel a lot (more) comfortable,” he said. “I love the guys who I’m playing with. I feel like you can’t go wrong with having three truly fast kids on a line and two really fast linemates.
“The team is always going and so supportive. We have defence jumping up into the play to help the offence and offence helping defence.”
Simpson played minor hockey in Hamilton as a defenceman before joining the North Stars in bantam where he was converted to forward.
“I feel like I’m very capable defensively on the PK (penalty kill) and stuff,” he said. “I was able to block shots, I wasn’t afraid to do that.
“I feel the COVID year gave me a couple years to get stronger so I’ve just gained my confidence (as a forward).”
The Falcons did another exceptional job cycling the puck and hemming the Blackhawks in their own end.
“I thought our team came out flying from the get-go,” Simpson said. “In earlier games, we had a harder time getting into the corners but now I think we’re getting the pace of it. We’re buying into the systems.”
The Falcons permitted just 17 shots on goal for the second game in a row as Andrew MacLean earned his fourth shutout of the season and third straight. The former Niagara IceDogs backstop has a .086 goals-against average and .967 save percentage.
“We’re averaging less than a goal against a game and that’s something as a coach I’m extremely happy about,” Bielby said.
Thorold coach Scott Barnes tipped his cap to the Falcons for a well-executed game plan.
“Honestly, they play a really well-structured game and defensively they’re really good,” Barnes said. “They have a really good defence and their goalie plays the puck well so anytime we got the puck in their zone, he was clearing it right back out.
“We got no sustained pressure. It’s back-to-back and our guys didn’t seem to have any juice. We were a little short-handed yesterday (in Pelham) and again tonight, but we didn’t have a lot in the tank to generate anything.”
The Blackhawks dropped to 3-6-1 and have been the epitome of inconsistency early on this season.
“We need to string together wins and go on a win streak here,” Barnes said. “I know we have some guys out of the lineup but that’s no excuse, we have to be better.”
Hawk talk: Tanner Hunt, Nathan Kelly, Harrison Goan, Owen Caldwell and Nico Balice did not dress for the Blackhawks . . . Michael Santini and Matthew Stranges were scratched for the Falcons . . . St. Catharines lost Nate Shirton for a checking from behind penalty in the second. North hobbled off with a leg injury in the middle period but returned in the third and netted his third goal of the season.
Falcons 4 Blackhawks 0
St. Catharines forward Owen Simpson with a goal and an assist.
For the St. Catharines Falcons: Simpson (2); Kyle Glenney (5); Jagger North (3); Trent Glenney (1).
For the Thorold Blackhawks: No scoring.
Game stats: Shots on goal: By St. Catharines on Kyle Fortuna (43); by Welland on Andrew MacLean (17); Power plays: St. Catharines 0-for-5, Thorold 0-for-2; Penalty minutes: St. Catharines 16, Thorold 27.
Up next: The Falcons are home to Pelham Friday. The Blackhawks are at Hamilton Saturday and home to Fort Erie next Monday.
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