Valley Maple Leafs inching closer to securing playoff slot

Published on February 7, 2017

Wesley Demone, No. 27 with the Valley Maple Leafs, celebrates a goal against the Sackville Blazers in Windsor on Feb. 5.

©Colin Chisholm

After a devastating loss on Feb. 5, the Valley Maple Leafs rallied to defeat the Sackville Blazers the following day, bringing the team closer to a guaranteed spot in the playoffs.

After a devastating loss on Feb. 5, the Valley Maple Leafs rallied to defeat the Sackville Blazers the following day, bringing the team closer to a guaranteed spot in the playoffs.

The VML won 4-1 against the Blazers at the Sackville Arena Feb. 6, which was a much better showing than the game the previous day where they lost 7-6 against the same team in Windsor.

Brett Fletcher, an assistant coach with the Valley Maple Leafs, said the team came together with a renewed desire for victory.

“It was a better effort, everybody played the way they should have,” Fletcher said. “I went in the locker room and I told them… ‘we were not going to change our strategy, we’ve coached the same way for many years. It’s up to you to take what we’ve given you onto the ice and you need to want it.’ They wanted to win.”

A Sackville Blazers player makes a shot on net while goaltender William Earley tries to deflect the puck.

©Colin Chisholm

Fletcher said Sackville didn’t make it easy, playing on par with the Leafs.

There was no scoring in the first period, and the Leafs gained one goal in the second. It wasn’t until the third period that things took off, with the Blazers scoring one goal near the beginning and the Leafs getting three more, with the last being an empty net with only three seconds remaining on the clock.

Connor O’Brien got two of the four goals during the game for the Leafs, with Brett Bittner and Wesley Demone grabbing the other two.

Sean Anderson, No. 20, received a 12-minute penalty for misconduct and head contact in the second period.

“It was not a strong call in my opinion… Anderson went in and finished his hit, the guy was low, and there was a little bit of upper shoulder and neck contact, the ref thought it was deliberate,” Fletcher said. “You have to serve a 10-minute conduct at the same time. We weren’t hurting as far as number went.”

Seth Brison reaches for the puck during the Feb. 5 game against the Sackville Blazers in Windsor.

©Colin Chisholm

Stronger playoff position

The latest win puts the Leafs in a good spot, closer to clinching a guaranteed slot in the playoffs.

“We do have a couple of games left, and we’re in the drivers seat now,” Fletcher said. “Last night was the biggest game of the season quite honestly. Our strategy is to just try to win and let the cards fall as they may.”

Fletcher emphasized that anything can happen once the playoffs begin.

He said that O’Brien performed well against Sackville, despite getting kicked out of the game the day before.

“He plays gritty, (he’s) the smallest guy on the ice but he does have a big heart,” he said. “When he throws his body around, he gets noticed. He creates room.”

The Leafs were missing two of their key players against Sackville on Feb. 6 — Nathan Clarke and Drew Stonehouse — but Fletcher said they were able to fill in the gaps and came together as a team.

“We just gotta carry what we did, stay away from the bad habits and prepare ourselves for playoffs,” he said.

The Valley Maple Leafs celebrate a goal during the Feb. 5 game against the Sackville Blazers.

©Colin Chisholm

Defeat in earlier game

The Leafs lost 7-6 in overtime to the Sackville Blazers on Feb. 5 at the Hants Exhibition Arena.

“We had a three goal lead, we were wining 4-1 at one point and basically we threw that away,” Fletcher said. “Overtime looked promising but then they got a short breakaway and scored.”

Fletcher said the game was fairly back-and-forth between the two teams, with both managing lots of shots on net.

The Sackville Blazers took 37 shots and the Leafs took 36 during the Feb. 5 game in Windsor.

“Sometimes when you get up by a few goals you can take things for granted a bit and you get a little laid back,” he said. “We should have kept the pressure on. Maybe we took a couple of shifts off and it cost us some goals.”

Fletcher said Clarke stood out, killing penalties and gaining a point in the first period.

Valley Maple Leafs and Sackville Blazers players keep their eyes open during a face off. The Leafs lost the game 7-6 on Feb. 5, but came back to defeat the Blazers 4-1 on Feb. 6.

©Colin Chisholm