Written By: Bill Potrecz
The St. Catharines Falcons didn’t have to search very hard to find a silver lining following a disappointing 3-2 overtime loss to the Fort Erie Meteors Friday night at the Seymour-Hannah Sports Complex.
The Falcons picked up a point with the OT loss and clinched not only top spot in the Golden Horseshoe Conference, but first place overall in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League.
The Falcons are 38-5-6 for a .837 winning percentage with one regular season game remaining.
“We spend a lot of time at the arena, a lot of commitment,” St. Catharines coach Tyler Bielby said. “Twenty-five teams start at the beginning of the year and we’re the top team in the regular season.”
Bielby said the Falcons are proud of the achievement, but don’t plan to dwell on it.
“We just told the boys in the room, ‘Congrats’ now get past it,” he said. “It’s time for playoffs. Where you finish in the regular season doesn’t matter, where you finish in the playoffs is what they will take with them for life.”
The Falcons jumped out to a 2-0 lead before game was 12 minutes old but weren’t able to extend their lead.
The Meteors began their comeback with a late goal in the first period by Josh DiFrancesco, then tied in halfway through the third when Rylan Masterson scored from the point.
Sam Barrett gave the Mets the win when he ripped a shot past Falcons goaltender Aiden Berry at the 3:10 mark of overtime.
Fort Erie outshot St. Catharines 14-6 in the third period and could have come away with the win were in not for some solid play from Berry.
“You work hard for 48 games and you’re a period away from first place. Even if you’re not trying to bring attention to it, there’s not a boy on that bench that didn’t know it and I think they played a little on their heels as a result,” Bielby said. “At the end of the day, Bears (Berry) likes to find ways to win, gives us a chance to win. We have to compete a little harder for him in the D zone. We were little nonchalant and that’s what cost us tonight.”
The Falcons wrap up the regular season Sunday in Niagara Falls in a game that will not impact the standings for either team.
“The message on Sunday is going to be we have a lot of 20-year-olds in the room that can’t get games back at this point, so let’s go make the most of every hockey game,” Bielby said. “There’s some guys that are going to get a lot of minutes that aren’t used to it.
“As much as it’s about winning, you’re never going to be confident and successful unless you’re finding a way to enjoy it. I think we have to still enjoy this process.”
The Falcons will take on the Pelham Panthers in a best-of-seven quarter-final playoff series tentatively set to begin Wednesday in Pelham.
“It’s been one long year it feels like because we played so late into the year last year,” Bielby said. “This is why we do it. A lot of us would just skip the 50 games and go play playoffs.”
The Meteors, meanwhile, were justifiably feeling good about themselves after defeating the Falcons for the second straight time.
“We’re a depleted group that kind of keeps battling,” Meteors owner/general manger Nik Passero said. “It’s not how talented we are, I think the will to win is showing.
“We go down two early and that could have been 8-0 real fast but we were determined to step on the gas and get it back.”
The Meteors host Hamilton in their season finale tomorrow before taking on the Canucks in the first round. Game 1 is Wednesday, March 1 in Fort Erie.
“Tomorrow is a celebration of the 20-year-olds,” Passero said. “We have eight of them and there’s going to be a nice ceremony for them and then be the same thing as today — put the foot on the gas.”
Falcon facts: Carter Geoffroy, Blake Yetman and Cameron Lowe were scratched for the Falcons . . . Kyle Adamo, Jayden Baldinelli, Matthew Herb, Cam Thorpe, Owin Hendsbee, Nicholas Holomego, Henry Vest and Colin Stickland did not dress for the Meteors . . . The Niagara Falls Canucks topped the Pelham Panthers 5-2 in the other Golden Horseshoe game Friday.
Meteors 3 Falcons 2 OT
Fort Erie’s Sam Barrett with the winner in overtime.
St. Catharines Falcons: Parker Forlin (20); Colton Chipman (13).
Fort Erie Meteors: Josh Di Francesco (13); Sam Barrett (11); Rylan Masterson (5).
Game stats: Shots on goal: By St. Catharines on Josh Smith (29), by Fort Erie on Aiden Berry/Stephen Toltl (27); Power plays: St. Catharines 0/3, Fort Erie 0/1; Penalty minutes: St. Catharines 6, Fort Erie 10.
Up next: The Falcons visit Niagara Falls Sunday at 3 p.m. for their last regular season game. The Meteors host Hamilton Saturday at 7 p.m.
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