Meteors fail to seal the deal
The Fort Erie Meteors lost their cool Wednesday night and in the process wasted a golden opportunity to put away the Niagara Falls Canucks.
The Canucks staved off elimination with a 3-2 victory at the Leisureplex and can now even the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, Golden Horseshoe Conference best-of-seven quarter-final playoff series at 3-3 with a win at home Friday night.
The Meteors had a chance to celebrate a series win on home ice, but instead self destructed with a lack of discipline and execution.
Fort Erie assistant coach Anthony Passero left no doubt how the coaching staff felt about the effort.
“Our best players haven’t been our best players. We shut their best player (Alexander Hebblethwaite) down but their best player doesn’t take penalties,” Passero said. “Our best players took nine minutes in penalties tonight and ended up with a match penalty.”
The Meteors lost leading scorer Joseph Maccione when he was given a match penalty for deliberate attempt to injure after crosschecking a member of the Canucks in a brief melee as the first period came to an end. The penalty also carries with it an automatic four-game suspension. Forward Brad Ditillio was nailed for an unsportsmanlike penalty seconds earlier.
Passero wasn’t about to cut them any slack, either.
“You can blame the moment, you can blame wanting to get to the next round, but at the end of the day, it’s just being selfish,” he said. “Any team sport in the world, if you do something solely for you, it’s just selfish and that’s what happened tonight.
“The best teams in the league, they don’t do selfish things. They win championships. We haven’t got over the hump yet because we do selfish things night in, night out.”
The Meteors must now find a way to rebound Friday at the Gale Centre against what is sure to be a fired-up Canucks squad.
“Playoffs don’t wait for anybody so if we don’t come out hard Friday, it’s going to be even harder Saturday,” Passero said. “It’s going to be a lot harder to win Saturday than it was tonight.
“These guys have an opportunity — I always tell them it’s the best sport in the world because they let you play again the next night — but you only have so many chances.”
The Canucks grabbed a quick 2-0 lead in the first period, which played right into their game plan.
“It’s tough. They shut it down pretty good and their goalie’s hot, but at the end of the day, we took two good shots on the net and they go in,” Passero said. “The other ones, we do a lot of shooting the puck at their goalie. He’s playing great but we have to get to areas to score. Their D blocks shots. They’re 20-year-olds, they’re men. They gave us a couple of chances but our power play is zero per cent. To win a playoff series, it’s going to be hard to win if your power play is zero per cent.”
Caleb Bidgood got Fort Erie on the board at 11:10 of the second but the Canucks responded with a goal less than a minute later to silence the crowd.
“That was my dad’s biggest saying. We get scored on before they even announce our goal. We make it 2-1 and the rink is going crazy, the rink is shaking, and we give the puck up behind the net because we’re soft and we’re down 3-1,” Passero said.
Liam Loftus got the Mets back to within one at he 14:46 mark.
The game was the first of the series that did not feature a shutout by one of the teams.
“At the end of the day I think we’re the better team but it doesn’t matter in playoffs. There are no moral victories. Our best players haven’t been our best players and now have a chance Friday to play for their careers,” Passero said.
Metscellaneous: Jayden Baldinelli, Luke Gualtieri, Kyle Adamo and Nolan Stickland did not dress for the Meteors.
Niagara Falls netminder Avery Alves with 30 saves.
Canucks 3 Meteors 2
Fort Erie Meteors: Caleb Bidgood, Liam Loftus.
Niagara Falls Canucks: Benjamin Kay, Jake McKinstray, Keegan Driscoll.
Game stats: Shots on goal: By Niagara Falls on Josh Smith (34), by Fort Erie on Avery Alves (32); Power plays: Fort Erie 0/4, Niagara Falls 0/3; Penalty minutes: Fort Erie 11, Niagara Falls 10.
Up next: Game 6 in Niagara Falls Friday at 7 p.m. Game 7, if necessary, Saturday in Fort Erie.
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