FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The Fort St. John Huskies fell to the North Peace Navigators in Game One of the NWJHL Finals Wednesday night.
The Huskies opened the scoring just over nine minutes into the first period. Matthew Apsassin scored unassisted after picking up a loose puck and deking out Navs’ goalie Ryan Noble. The two teams set a physical tone in the game, with several big checks thrown during the first. With 3:10 left in the frame, the Navigators tied the game at one apiece with a shot from in close. At the end of the first period, the Huskies had narrowly edged the Peace River team in shots on net, 13-9.
The Navs managed to get their first lead of the game just five minutes into the second period after a shot from the point deflected off one of Fort St. John’s players and squeaked its way past Zak Babin. The Huskies kept up the pressure, which caused the Navs to take several penalties during the middle stanza. Aidan Tegart lead the way in the physical play, landing several big bodychecks.
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On one of those powerplays with just under four minutes remaining, Jacob Lang managed to tie the game at two’s with a shot from above the face-off dot during a rush into the Navs’ end. Apsassin and Jared Loewen tallied the assists on that second goal. The Huskies continued to apply pressure on North Peace in the final minutes of the period, but with 27 seconds left the Navs managed to pick up the puck during a scramble in front of the Huskies’ net to make it 3-2.
Carrying the momentum into the final 20 minutes of play, the Navs appeared to be in charge of things. North Peace was also playing a physical game, and Fort St. John’s Dane Bateman got caught with his head down in the defensive zone. A big open-ice hit sent Bateman off to the dressing room in a daze, though he would return to play later in the period.
Though the Huskies kept peppering the Navs’ goalie with shots, penalty trouble cost the team several chances, and the Navigators managed to shut the door. An empty-netter in the final seconds sealed the deal for North Peace, who took Game 1 of the best-of-seven series 4-2.
The Huskies will travel to Peace River for Game 2 against the Navs on Friday night. Puck drop is at 8:00 p.m., with the game being live-streamed on the Huskies’ Ustream page: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/huskies-hockey.