The Barrie Blizzard gave it a good effort in front of the home fans in the CLax expansion franchise’s first-ever game at the Barrie Molson Centre, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the now-first place Toronto Shooting Stars. Josh Ruys scored 4 goals and Angus Dineley continued his run of brilliance, stopping 49 of the 58 shots he face as the Shooting Stars downed the Blizzard 13-9 Sunday.
Barrie gave the more than 600 fans in attendance a rousing start, playing a solid first quarter and scoring the first two goals of the game, one from Neil Mayerhoffer and one from Caleb Wiles, who finished with a hat trick and an assist. Mack O’Brien pulled the Shooting Stars within one to finish the first quarter and Dilan Graham scored shorthanded 1:06 into the second to give Toronto its first lead of the game. The Blizzard battled back, though—Wiles scored on the same power play to tie things up.
The final 10 minutes of the second quarter proved to be Barrie’s undoing. Ruys started a four-goal Toronto run with another shorthanded marker. Derek Hopcroft then scored on the power play and Mike Gillan with an extra attacker on a delayed penalty. Connor Daly rounded out the run with a goal 21 seconds after Gillan’s. It was 6-3 at the half and the Blizzard, especially after Ruys opened the third quarter with a goal just 40 seconds in, were never able to climb out of that hole.
They certainly gave it a shot though, refusing to go away and actually tying Toronto 3-3 the rest of the way. As has been the case for the young Barrie club in most of their four straight losses to start the season, it was a stretch where they seemed to lose focus and gave up a run to the opposition that wound up costing them. Wiles was Barrie’s top scorer. Rob Milnes and Eric Benesch—in his first CLax game—each added a pair of goals. Scotty Komer returned from Rochester, where he was the Buffalo Bandits backup goalie in a win Saturday night, to turn aside 31 of the 43 shots he faced.
The Shooting Stars are now 4-1 and looking like the promise they often showed as the Oshawa Machine—which ultimately fell short of securing a playoff spot as they finished fifth in last year’s six-team league—is coming to fruition with their change of scenery. They won yesterday’s game despite missing leading scorer Aaron Grayson, and they appear to have a well-balanced mix of solid defenders and talented but team-oriented offensive players. And everyone on the roster looks comfortable playing the two-way CLax style.
The Blizzard, on the other hand, look very much like the work-in-progress you’d expect from an expansion club. Colin Boucher, last year’s CLax Defensive Player of the Year, says it’s been difficult but it’s slowly coming together and he sees good things down the line for Barrie. “We have high expectations here in Barrie,” he said. “Our first game was good, we lost by one goal in Ohsweken and probably should have had that one. Then it took a really big downhill.”
Boucher, who struggled a bit early in the season but was a dominant defensive presence in Saturday’s game, says he saw the seeds of what the Blizzard will become in the loss to Toronto. “I think it started today, we started to get some chemistry going, guys starting to know each other’s styles. Guys are getting used to the CLax style, too. We’ve got some guys who didn’t play last year who are going to get the changes down, basically get the offence/defence approach down.”
Their next chance to show they’re making progress comes next Saturday, when the Blizzard travel to Durham to take on the Turfdogs. Toronto gets back on the floor when they visit Ohsweken next Sunday.
Toronto 13, Barrie 9
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