The Terriers are back!
With a big crowd filling the stands at Rotary Place, the revamped and rejuvenated Orillia Terriers skated stride for stride with the reigning champions Saturday night, before stunning the star-studded Stayner Siskins in overtime to cap a thrilling 2-1 victory.
Ayden Dooley had quite a Jr. C debut for the home side. The 16-year-old old Orillian, who played for the North Central Predators AAA major midget team last year, assisted on the team’s opening goal and then scored the winner in overtime.
“That felt good,” said the six-foot, 200-pound defenceman, minutes after the upset win. “It was great to see a big crowd … they gave us a lot of energy.”
Despite being a rookie, Dooley played on the top defensive pairing with Matthew Priest and quarterbacked the power-play. Priest scored the team’s only other goal – a power-play marker in the opening frame.
Dooley, throughout the game, regularly joined the rush – a strategy that paid off in the extra frame when he converted a nice feed to tuck home the game winner 2:52 into the three-on-three overtime.
“When we broke in two-on-none, I kind of knew something good was going to happen,” said Dooley. “It's a great start, but it’s just one game.”
Terriers captain Jake Beard praised the young blueliner.
“He’s phenomenal,” said Beard. “He works as hard as he can and when you see a young guy like that work hard, the whole team just wants to do the same thing ... I really respect him for doing that.”
When you watch Dooley play, it’s easy to forget he’s a rookie playing against seasoned veterans five years older than him.
“It’s definitely a different playing level,” said Dooley. “There’s a lot more hitting, a lot bigger boys, but I wouldn’t say it’s intimidating. I see it as a challenge and an opportunity to push myself to elevate my game.”
He and every other player on the victorious squad did just that. Stayner may have more talent, size and experience, but the Terriers competed every shift, tenaciously hunted for the puck in the corners and in scrums and used their blazing speed to frustrate the league champs.
That frustration was evident throughout the game, but especially seconds after Dooley potted the game-winner. As the young defender was mobbed by his linemates, Stayner netminder Marcus Semiao cross-checked Dooley as he skated off the ice. He was assessed a match penalty.
The Terriers started their new season strong and dominated the first 10 minutes of the game, while building a 10-3 shots-on-goal advantage.
However, the Siskins found their legs and had a large territorial advantage in the middle stanza, outshooting Orillia 14-6 while controlling the play.
But in the third, the Terriers re-asserted control in what was a hotly-contested final 20 minutes. Orillia outshot the visitors 15-6 and had some quality scoring chances; none were better than Beard’s who completed a nice give-and-go with linemate Corey Miller, before pinging the puck off the crossbar.
Beard, who suffered through an injury-plagued season last year in which the team stumbled to a 4-38 record, says he feels rejuvenated thanks to the new coaching staff and influx of talented, young players.
“The people up top brought in a lot of guys who want to win and care,” said the 21-year-old captain. “We skate hard and we want to win. When you see a guy go out and win a puck battle … it’s contagious. That’s the way you have to play to win.”
The victory over Stayner was especially sweet, conceded Beard. Last year, the Siskins had their way with the Terriers, winning some games by 10 or 12 goals.
“I’m one of the happiest guys in this building right now to beat those guys,” said Beard with a smile. “This is my last kick at the can and I’m going to do everything I can to help this team win.”
It also helps to have fans in the stands, said Beard. Last year, at some home games, there were less than 50 fans. On Saturday night, close to 400 fans cheered on the home side, bringing life and energy to the building.
“It’s really nice to see the support from the fans and the community and I thank them for that,” said Beard. “It really brings a lot of energy for us.”
New head coach Nick Ricca and assistant coach Dallyn Telford will look to build on the team’s solid opening-night effort when the team returns to the ice for practice Tuesday night.
The Terriers will travel to Midland to take on the Flyers Friday night and will welcome Caledon to Rotary Place Saturday night. Game time at Rotary Place is 7:30 p.m.
TERRIER TALES: Orillia netminder Jason Cumbo was outstanding between the pipes to backstop the victory. The big goalie was calm, made several key saves and looked very confident in his regular-season debut. Terrier defenceman Chris Brown earned a penalty shot late in the third period, but was thwarted by a timely poke check by Semiao, who shone in goal for Stayner. Overall, Stayner outshot Orillia 40-37.