A battle for the North in Halifax tonight as the Toronto Rock came to town. The Halifax Thunderbirds collected a much-needed win, 9–8. A big night for Halifax, as this win stops a 2-game skid, is a revenge game, and moved the Thunderbirds back into 1st in the North.
To start the game, it looked as if the Thunderbirds were going to revert to their usual play style to start games. Just 4 minutes in, the Thunderbirds found themselves in the penalty box and that opened the door for Dan Craig to fire a shot past Warren Hill.
Mike Burke was welcomed back to the lineup after missing last game with a tally on a pass from Ryan Benesch about just over 30 seconds after the Rock goal. That would only tie the game for so long, however, as Rob Hellyer did what he does best and regained the lead for the Rock, shorthanded, nonetheless.
A backdoor feed to the crafty Challen Rogers and a diving goal extended the Rock lead to 2, and it seemed as if the Thunderbirds were going to fall victim to a slow start yet again. Then the tide turned when a delayed penalty and an illegal procedure gave Halifax both a Power Play opportunity and a penalty shot.
Cody Jamieson walked down and slipped the ball right over Nick Rose’s shoulder on the penalty shot to make the game 3–2, and the Thunderbirds still had an extra man opportunity to work with. Jamieson found Kyle Jackson with 29 seconds left in the 1st, and KJ netted his 99th career goal. As the 1st quarter ended, the game was tied up at 3.
As former player and current coach Billy Dee Smith said going into the 2nd, “We just have to be patient offensively and use the full 30,” and going forward, Halifax did just that. The defense stood tall and Warren Hill turned into the brick wall he can be, denying shots from outside and in close. A transition goal from Graeme Hossack pushed the Thunderbirds ahead.
Another Hellyer goal tied the game back up at 4, but Ryan Benesch answered right back to reclaim the lead. Only 12 seconds later, Cody Jamieson let one fly and found the back of the net to make the game 6–4 in Halifax’s favor. Dan Dawson stopped the short Thunderbird run, but not for long. Clarke Petterson fought hard and flew through the air, sneaking the ball behind Nick Rose. A 7–5 score was on the board going into half.
Before the half, the Captain Cody Jamieson declared, “We know what’s at stake. Every game is important. We just have to keep doing what our coaches say, they put a great game plan in place and we just have to follow it.”
Unfortunately, some extracurriculars at the end of the first half found Jamieson ejected for the second, but the defense, led by their goalie, locked it down going forward. Only one goal was scored in the 3rd quarter by either team, and it was Mike Burke for Halifax. The game was now 8–5 only 19 seconds into the half.
Hill, along with the rest of the Halifax defense, played perfectly. A lengthy penalty couldn’t even break this defense, and only low-quality shots were thrown Hill’s way.
Going into the 4th, the defense for Halifax continued to play well, and the offense fed from their success. Ryan Benesch threw a creative behind-the-back pass to Brandon Robinson for the goal to make the game 9–5.
Rob Hellyer wasn’t going down without a fight, however, and after Robinson scored, he matched with a goal of his own. A Power Play opportunity for the Rock enabled Johnny Powless to score as well, and the Rock were slowly crawling back, now down only 2.
A broken play for the Halifax offense let Damon Edwards score in transition, and now we are back within 1 goal. With all the momentum on their side and a Power Play chance that took the dangerous Graeme Hossack off the field, Toronto was poised to even the game.
But they wouldn’t. Warren Hill said no. Making saves on both long-range shots and great looks right on the doorstep, Hill shut down every shot the Rock took. 38 saves including 10 in the 4th to seal the game earned Hill the Player of the Game honor tonight.
“The boys came to play tonight. We’re glad to stop that losing streak,” said Hill. “It’s all credit to my defense. They make my job so much easier, forcing the shots I want to see. The offense played great, too, on their end. It was a total team effort.”
This win takes the Thunderbirds to 7–2 on the season and back in control of the North Division. Their next game is against another divisional rival next Saturday when they travel to Buffalo for their second matchup against the Bandits. That game takes place at at 8pm AST/7pm EST and can be seen on B/R Live.