COLDWATER ICE WOLVES
The Coldwater Ice Wolves were upset by the Bracebridge Pioneers in a tremendously physical and hard-fought Canadian Premier Junior Hockey League (CPJHL) West Division Semi-Final series that concluded last week.
In Game 1, the Ice Wolves opened the scoring with Elias Gronberg notching a powerplay marker less than three minutes in, but the Pioneers answered only 11 seconds later when Bryce Tracey's wraparound squeaked past Ice Wolves' goalie Ty Betham.
The Ice Wolves added a second powerplay goal when Tyler Arsenault made it 2-1 before the end of the period. They added to the lead with a pair of goals by Joseph Iron in the first five minutes of the second period to make it 4-1, causing Bracebridge to pull goalie Jamie Gee and bring in Jacob Evans. The Pioneers got one back on a goal by Angus Macgibbon to make the score 4-2 heading in to the final period.
The Pioneers’ Tracey and the Ice Wolves' Gronberg traded goals to start the third. Then, with 7:26 to play, the game swung as Bracebridge scored three goals in 64 seconds. Patrick Silva and Kristian Luptak scored 10 seconds apart and shortly after Tracey completed the hat trick to give the Pioneers a 6-5 lead late in the game.
Coldwater pressured late but could not beat Evans, who stopped 23 of 24 shots in relief, backstopping his team to the 6-5 win and a 1-0 series lead.
With their season on the line, the Ice Wolves got off to a hot start in Game 2 as Guillaume Vachon and Arsenault scored powerplay goals to take a 2-0 lead in the first back at their home barn in Coldwater. Bracebridge answered with goals by Kayden Voskamp and Braden Simon to tie the game at 2-2 at the first intermission.
Gronberg picked up his third of the series on a highlight-reel goal 3:42 in to the second period, but again Bracebridge responded as Tracey picked up his fourth of the series on a powerplay less than a minute later to tie the game. Coldwater would re-take the lead just before the midway point of the period when Dominik Brzek finished off a terrific passing play with Joseph Iron to make it 4-3.
The Pioneers tied it up on a goal by Nathan Lyndon and then took their first lead on a Carson Jacklin goal with just 45 seconds to play in the second period, leaving Coldwater with 20 minutes to save their playoff lives.
Unfortunately for them, the third period got off to a rough start as a penalty shot was awarded to Bracebridge just over two minutes in. Bryce Tracey made no mistake, picking up his second of the game and fifth of the series to make it 6-4. Arsenault would answer back for Coldwater at the 4:48 mark to the cut the deficit in half, but they would come no closer. Patrick Silva's goal with 8:35 left and an empty netter by Darrell Penton gave Bracebridge the 8-5 win and the 2-0 series sweep.
The Pioneers move on to play the top seed in the West, the Essa Stallions, in the CPJHL West Division Finals.
While the result is disappointing for the Ice Wolves, their inaugural season has to be considered a success. The Ice Wolves will have four players graduating from junior hockey - Dominik Brzek, Tyson Cronk, Guillaume Vachon and Tyler Arsenault - but have a strong returning core and expect to be a championship contender next season.
Submitted by Jeff Sieger