Kitchener, Ontario – Knowing they needed at least a three-goal win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in order to have any chance at tomorrow’s championship game, the Florida Panthers rookies went on the attack, but fell victim to a hot goalie in a 6-3 loss.
“We knew we had to take chances if we wanted to get in to the final,” said Panthers assistant coach Guy Charron. “We came out and tried to put pressure on them but that early goal kind of deflated us a bit and their goalie also played very well, especially in the second period.”
A second period of missed opportunities and untimely breakdowns spelled doom for the Cats. Trailing 2-1, the Panthers had a number of chances to tie the game on two early power plays including a point blank chance by Shawn Matthias
that was stopped inches from the goalline and a one-timer from the slot by defenseman Franklin MacDonald that was deftly stopped by Leaf goaltender James Reimer. Reimer stopped all 17 Cats shots during the frame, and 32 on the night, while his teammates mustered an insurance tally to make it 3-1, despite registering only 8 shots in the period.
“We had our chances during the second period,” Charron said. “We just couldn’t bury them.”
Matthias, who scored his first goal of the tournament on a pretty individual effort in the third period, certainly stood out with his physical play and nose for the net. The same can be said for linemate Michal Repik
, who scored twice in the game and currently leads the tournament in goals with three.
Things didn’t look good for the Panthers early when the Leafs’ Korbinian Holzer gave Toronto a 1-0 lead just 36-seconds in to the game. It took 10 minutes for Repik’s answer, but Darryl Boyce’s goal in the last minute of the first period sent the Cats in to the locker room down 2-1.
“Goals against at the beginning and end of periods are momentum killers,” Charron said.
The Cats allowed three of the “momentum killer” variety in the game, including Jiri Tlusty’s second goal of the game 24-seconds in to the third period to make it 4-1 Leafs and all but seal the deal.
Florida didn’t go quietly however. After Reid Cashman made it 5-1, Matthias answered with a laser over Reimer’s shoulder. Then Repik scored just minutes later on a 5-on-3 power play to make it 5-3. MacDonald and right wing Dan Collins got the assists on both goals, Charron pulled goalie David Shantz (24 saves) to keep the pressure on, but Toronto’s Alex Foster scored in to the empty net to make it a 6-3 final.
The setback drops the Cats to 1-2 on the tournament, setting up a consolation game rematch with Toronto tomorrow at 2 p.m.. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators will play in the championship game of the Kitchener Rookie Tournament at 6:30 p.m.Click Here
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