It was a battle for first place in the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s martin Division Sunday, as the Embrun Panthers travelled to Richmond to face the league-leading Royals at the Richmond Memorial Community Centre.
Rather than putting some space between the Royals and the rest of the pack, the Panthers got off to a strong start thanks to their power play and then locked it down for a 4-2 win.
The win moved Embrun into a tie with the Royals with 41 points atop the standings. The Casselman Vikings are right on their heels with 40 points. The Royals are 2-2-1 so far in January.
As was the case on the previous Sunday in an overtime loss to the Ottawa West Golden Knights, penalties again cost the Royals.
Just over a minute into the game, high-octane forward Tyler Cutts was called for interference. The Panthers took advantage with their first power play goal of the game, coming from Keyshawn Francis.
Later in the period, Dylan Rorwick of the Royals took a hooking penalty, and then Cutts was given a double minor for spearing. The Royals caught as break about 30 seconds after Rorwick’s penalty ended, as he netted his team-leading 26th goal of the year shorthanded from Jackson Dallaire.
The Panthers, still on the power play with a double minor, went to work. Cameron Grant scored a power play goal to give Embrun a 2-1 lead. The Panthers continued to press offensively, and added a third goal as Noah McDonell made the score 3-1. It was technically not a power play goal as it came three seconds after Cutts stepped out of the penalty box.
The Panthers took a 4-1 lead early in the second as Juno Gregoire scored 30 seconds into the period. The Royals started to press offensively, and they made the score 4-2 on a goal by Reid Johnston from Robbie Disilvestro and Leo Kluchert.
In the third period, the Panthers went into lockdown mode. Embrun forwards used an aggressive forecheck and the Royals struggled to get the puck out of the their own end. On the few occasions when they did, Panthers defencemen Connor MacDonald and Riley Findlater threw up a brick wall and goalie Aidan Foley was flawless.
The Royals had a big chance to get to within a goal midway through the period when Cutts was awarded a penalty shot. Cutts failed to score, but two minutes later, Royals forward Giulio Carulli had a breakaway for the Royals but was denied by Foley. Moments later, Embrun’s Yanick Blanchard had a breakaway and was hauled down. He was awarded a penalty shot. Richmond goalie Gabe Arrigo made the save to keep the score 4-2.
The Royals ended the game with nearly four minutes of a man advantage. Marshall Drevniok of the Panthers was sent off for hooking with 3:54 left to play. The Panthers penalty kill continually cleared the puck and then bottled the Royals up in the neutral zone. The Royals then pulled Arrigo for nearly two full minutes of six on five, but could not score.
The Royals go back to Embrun Friday night with sole possession of first place up for grabs. The Royals are at home again Sunday afternoon when the Ottawa Jr. Canadians come to Richmond for a 1:20 p.m. face off.