By Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News
After building what looked like an insurmountable 4-1 first period lead over Brantford Blast, the Kenora Thistles gave up a shorthanded goal that turned the tide.
Brantford went on to tie the game with three unanswered goals in just over two minutes and clamped down on Kenora the next two periods on the way to a 5-4 win to open the 2013 Allan Cup, Monday afternoon.
Temperatures passing 22 Celsius and pouring rain outside took a toll on the opening game of the 2014 Allan Cup. Both Kenora and Brantford said poor ice conditions at J.L. Grightmire Arena impacted their play.
Kenora head coach Brian Olson said the ice was “horrible”, but said organizers had warned the teams before their 3:30 p.m. start Monday afternoon.
“Because of the humidity, it wasn’t freezing that good,” Olson said. “It was tough to make clearing passes. It was a factor – but both teams played on it.”
Despite sticky ice conditions, and bouncing pucks that were at times tough to control, Kenora skated their way to the early lead. Jesse Baraniuk, named Kenora’s player of the game, scored a power play goal three and a half minutes into the game to give the Thistles a 2-0 lead.
After Brantford’s Joel Prpic cut the lead by one, former Dundas Real McCoy T.J. Sakaluk found the net for Kenora. Sean McAslan made it 4-1 just past the 14 minute mark.
Then Mike Burgoyne – a former Hamilton Kilty B – scored short-handed, assisted by fellow former Kilty Jon Jankus. Two more goals followed within two minutes – including Prpic’s second of the game to tie 4-4 before the end of the first.
For Kenora’s coach, that shorthanded goal changed everything.
“There were six or seven minutes when we stopped doing what made it 4-1,” Olson said. “When you let a team like that back in, they take advantage. We were well aware of their explosiveness.”
Dave Russell of Brantford found the net for the winner less than three minutes into the second frame. The game ended with 37 minutes of scoreless hockey.
Prpic, whose two goals earned him Brantford Blast player of the game honours, said he didn’t expect the ice to be as bad as it was.
“It was tough on defencemen going back,” Prpic said. “There were a lot of bad bounces for both teams.”
He motioned to the quiet Brantford dressing room after the hard-fought win.
“It was really hot out there. Guys are tired,” he said, adding Kenora’s slow start never fazed Brantford.
“All year we’ve been slow coming out of the gate. We get better as the game goes on,” Prpic said.