Written by Peter Rukavina, Sports Information Assistant
Photo by Marc Lafleur
ST. CATHARINES, ON — Following four periods of unshakeable goaltending from Justin Nichols (St. Catharines, ON) and Alex Brooks-Potts, the Brock Badgers played spoiler to the Ravens 2016 finale with a 1-0 win in double overtime. The Saturday-night bout at the Seymour-Hannah Centre looked as if it was destined to remain scoreless thanks to a pair of unprecedented performances from two netminders who have been slotted as backups through the opening half of the season.
“It’s never the result you want, but we’re really happy with Justin [Nichols’] performance tonight,” says Ravens head coach Marty Johnston. “Between his performance and our defence throughout this weekend, we went seven periods without giving up a goal so tonight wasn’t from a lack of effort.”
This effort from the Ravens turned aside 36 shots and broke up a countless number of Badgers’ offensive rushes, leaving the home team frustrated. But with 39 of their own shots stymied, the patience of the Ravens’ top-five OUA offence was wearing thin.
An early power-play opportunity proved to be an offensive catalyst for the visiting Ravens as the Badgers repeatedly struggled to breathe under the suffocating forecheck of Brett Welychka (London, ON) and Michael McNamee (Perth, ON). Even with the play shifting to five-on-five, this pressure carried forward, creating some prime scoring chances and forcing Badgers’ goalie Brooks-Potts to be sharp early and often.
Much to the Badgers’ relief, however, a proceeding streak of five Ravens’ penalties flipped the script, bringing the play to Carleton’s end and putting Nichols in the spotlight.
“He came up with some big saves early in the game and was good for us through our penalty trouble,” explains Johnston, whose team denied the Badgers’ eight power-play chances.
Throughout four periods, the remarkable dramatics of Nichols and Brooks-Potts left both offences in a daze.
Although facing off against a Badgers’ offence that has struggled as of late, Nichols’ third start of the season lined up with the return of former leading scorer and team captain Andrew Radjenovic to the Brock lineup. In front of his home crowd, Nichols repeatedly turned aside the Badgers’ captain and seemingly improved as the game grew on. His heroics were especially evident in the third, as three Brock attackers crashed his crease, creating a flurry of shots and a countless number of rebounds. But with an unshaken focus, Nichols turned aside all Brock shooters before breaking through the mayhem to freeze the play.
Meanwhile, in an overtime period that saw zero shots from the Badgers’ offence, all the pressure was on Brooks-Potts and his defence. The former Aurora Tigers’ standout seemingly saved his best for last as he faced an onslaught from a point-shooting Welychka. With back-to-back blasts targeting just under the crossbar, Brooks-Potts managed split-second saves with his shoulder and helmet to keep the game scoreless.
While it continuously seemed like neither goalie would budge, the second shot taken in double-overtime would prove to break the scoring drought. From behind the Ravens’ net, Radjenovic’s left-side pass found a slotted Matt MacLeod for a quick wrist shot that would beat Nichols’ reacting glove.
The 1-0 final brings the Ravens to a 10-7-1 record and closes out the opening half of their 2016-17 season. With a long December break ahead of them, the team now has a chance to recharge before returning to play on January 6 against the RMC Paladins.
“It’s been a tough first half in terms of performance, injuries and other things, but we’ve started to turn the corner defensively,” says Johnston. “We’re going to have to build off that. We only have ten games left in the season so we need to be ready to go right off the hop.”
RAVENS PLAYER OF THE GAME:
#39 Justin Nichols – Goalie – 1st year – St. Catharines, ON
Carleton at RMC
Friday, January 6, 2017 – 7:00 p.m.
Constantine Arena – Kingston, ON