Richmond’s Cameron Donaldson scores the game winner as the Royals beat the Casselman Vikings 5-4 Sunday afternoon. (Manotick Messenger photo)
The barn was rocking in Richmond Sunday afternoon as the Richmond Royals opened their Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League semi-final series with a thrilling 5-4 come-from-behind victory over the visiting Casselman Vikings.
While the Royals and Vikings delivered one of the most entertaining games of the season at the Richmond Memorial Community Centre, the packed house in the stands was loud and lively with drums beating and chirps flying between the section of Vikings fans who travelled to Richmond and the hometown crowd which seems to be getting bigger and rowdier with every game.
In other words, for the first time in years, the delicious atmosphere of smalltown Junior B playoff hockey is back in the village.
The teams finished the long regular season only one point apart in the EOJHL Martin Division standings, with the Royals clinching first on the last day of the regular season thanks to a point gained in an overtime loss.
The Royals waited a full week for the series to start, as the Vikings and Embrun Panthers did not finish their series until Wednesday. If there was some rust on the “Royals, it showed in the first period. The Vikings peppered Royals goalie Mavric Welk with 18 shots and scored three times before the halfway mark of the first period. Jacob Knickle, Kyle Filion and Tyler Stewart all lit the lamp for the Vikings as they took a 3-0 lead into the first intermission to the delight of the large and vocal group of supporters who made the trip to Richmond.
The tide turned midway through the second period, with the Royals taking control of the game and gaining momentum.
Dylan Rorwick, the Royals’ scoring leader who is still without a playoff goal after six games, set up Jaidon Genereux for the first Royals goal at 13:31 of the second period.
Late in the period, Cassleman’s Vincent Bastien was given a two-minute minor for holding the stick. The Royals took advantage of the power play quickly as Ryan Sullivan notched his fourth of the playoffs from Drew Russett and Shane Sullivan just 17 seconds into the man advantage.
The Royals carried their momentum into the third period as Tyler Cutts scored the equalizer from Russett and Shane Sullivan.
The Vikings, however, were not done, at 5:39 of the third period, Todd McBain scored his first of the playoffs. The Vikings were pressing deep in the Richmond zone, and McBain was fed the puck in the face off circle to the left of Welk. With the Richmond goalie on his knees, McBain went top corner on the wide blocker side and bulged the twine to give Casselman a 4-3 lead.
While the Vikings’ success had been locking down leads through the regular season, the Royals were having none of that on this day. The Royals put on pressure and earned the equalizer at the 10:19 mark of the third. Reid Johnston’s shot came in on Viking goalie Zachari Racine like a change-up or off-speed pitch. It handcuffed Racine and found the back of the net, tying the game and igniting the loudest cheer of the season at the Richmond rink. Drew Russett and Dylan Rorwick picked up assists.
The Royals kept up the pressure and nearly scored on a goal mouth scramble before the Vikings cleared the puck.
With 5:50 left in the third period, another goalmouth scramble pulled Racine out of position. Richmond forward Cameron Donaldson was unattended at the side of the crease, and he smacked in a loose puck to send the Richmond crowd into a frenzy. Sam McElheran and Tyler Cutts earned assists on the goal.
Casselman’s chances to tie the game were dealt a blow when Kyle Filion was sent off for tripping with 3:37 left to play. When the Vikings returned to full strength, Racine raced to the bench and the Vikings had a six-on-five. Strong defensive play and good goaltending preserved the one-goal lead, and the Royals skated off the ice saluting the crowd as owners of a well-earned 1-0 lead in the series.
The Royals outshot the Vikings 46-39. Welk made 35 saves for the win. Redi Johnston was the game’s first star with Casselman’s Kyle Filion named second star. Tyler Cutts was the third star.
Game 2 of the series will be played Wednesday night in Richmond with an 8:20 p.m. face off.