Oakville Blades Drop First Game to Orangeville After 41-Save Performance by Wyatt Pickrell

Wyatt Pickrell (59) looks on as Oakville tries to battle back late in the game.
Oakville Blades Drop First Game to Orangeville After 41-Save Performance by Wyatt Pickrell

The Oakville Blades began their 2014-2015 playoff bid on a sour note, dropping a 3-1 decision to the Orangeville Flyers in the first game of the Southwest conference playoff series.

The first game of the series didn’t start too favourably for the Blades. Four minutes into the contest, Lucas Smilsky grabbed the power-play goal after converting on a fanned attempt by Ian Nichols with his own hard slap shot.

Five minutes later, Nichols was able to score one of his own. The second top scorer on the Flyers, Nichols took advantage of poor defensive coverage in front by slamming one past Daniel Mannella on the doorstep, giving the lower-seeded team the 2-0 lead early on.

Oakville wasn’t ready to just let things slip away that early. 2015 NHL Draft prospect Jackson Bales gave the Blades their first goal of the battle. After taking a Josh Kosack feed from beside the net,  Bales fired it past Wyatt Pickrell to cut Orangeville’s lead in half.

The second period wasn’t a positive one for the Blades. With five minutes to go, James McLaughlin got the only goal of the middle frame for the Flyers, beating a surprised Mannella with a backhand just a few feet away from the crease to regain the two goal lead.

The Blades were forced to play with a man down for the rest of the game after an unfortunate penalty to one of Oakville’s top offensive threats, Ryan Burns. Oakville’s top scorer in the final ten regular season games, Galso hit the glass hard, resulting in a possible concussion. He would not return to the game.

While the Blades were struggling to find the back of the net, it wasn’t due to a lack of effort. Oakville had many chances to even the game up, but Pickrell always found the right spot to get in front of the shots. For example, the first five minutes of the third period was almost solely dominated by the Blades, but nobody was able to get a really solid attempt in close to get one past the Orangeville puckstopper.

The Blades surely didn’t leave the game without a few bruises along the way. With 5:42 left in the contest, scoring defenseman Tanner Shaw was given a quick rest after taking a close range shot to the face. Luckily for the Blades, Shaw was able to stick around for the rest of the game, even if that meant a few of his teeth had to call it quits.

The Blades pulled their goalie with just under two minutes to go, but their attack was too little too late. Ross Sloan had the best chance to score when Matt Lippa sent the puck cross ice to the unguarded forward, but unfortunately Sloan was unable to get a handle on the puck. Oakville was unable to get another past Pickrell as the Flyers were able to ride their goaltender to a 41-save performance to take home the 3-1 victory.

The two teams will return to the ice on Saturday evening when Orangeville plays host to game two. The series will return back to Sixteen Mile Sports Complex on Monday for game three.


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