The Arnprior Packers drew last blood in the regular season, but it’s the Renfrew Timberwolves who have drawn first blood in the 2013 Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League Valley Division playoffs.
Players on the Renfrew bench spoke of a character-building victory, and it was as the Wolves overcame the solid goaltending of Arnprior’s Kyle Lamothe and a 3-1 deficit to outlast the visiting Packers 5-3 at the Ma-Te-Way Activity Centre Tuesday night.
Wolves 5, Packers 3
Ex-Packer Casey Doner paced the Wolves with a goal in each period, including a game-clinching third goal into an empty Arnprior net with 19 seconds remaining.
Jesse Riopelle and Patrick McGrath collected singles. Drew Anderson added two assists to the Renfrew triumph.
Andrew Dekroon, Jared Steege and Jamie Prebble connected for the Packers.
The teams traded powerplay goals in the opening stanza before Steege and Prebble gave the Packers a 3-1 lead in the middle stanza.
Doner’s second, a powerplay marker, started the Wolves back on the road to recovery at the 18:24 mark.
Riopelle pulled Renfrew even early in the third when he patiently outwaited Lamothe, setting the stage for McGrath to tuck home a sliding puck to snap the 3-3 deadlock 12:30 from the end.
The Wolves killed off a Packer two-man advantage for 1:29 to preserve the tense victory.
The story of the night was Lamothe in the Packer goalcrease.
The Arnprior netminder faced a barrage of 62 Renfrew shots.
Renfrew goalkeeper Matt Gagne challenged 25 Packer drives. His biggest stop came when Arnprior’s Alex Serafini broke in alone with eight minutes left in the third period.
Game two of the best-of-seven series is tonight (Wednesday) at Arnprior’s Nick Smith Centre.
Game time is 8 p.m.
Game three in Renfrew is Friday, also an 8 p.m. face off.
It’s the fourth consecutive year this two rivals have met along the Valley Division playoff trail.
The Wolves won the 2010 division semifinal in six games, and the 2011 Valley Division championship in five. It was Renfrew’s first crown since 2000.
The Packers swept last spring’s division semifinal en route to capturing the club’s first title since 1998.
The Perth Blue Wings and Stittsville Royals lock horns in the other 2013 Valley semifinal series. Game one is in the Lanark County town tonight.
The South Ottawa Canadians (3-1) and Clarence Creek Beavers (5-4 in double overtime) are one game up in their respective Metro Division series with the Ottawa West Golden Knights and Gatineau Mustangs.
The EOJHL champion Casselman Vikings are already off to a great start in their quest to successfully defend their league championship.
Casselman swept the Winchester Hawks in the opening round. The Vikings scored 12 third-period powerplay goals in a 16-2 victory in game two, and won the next game 3-2 in double overtime.
In other Rideau-St. Lawrence Conference matchups, the Char-Lan Rebels own a 2-1 games edge on the Akwesasne Wolves; the Westport Rideaus have a similar lead on the Gananoque Islanders, while the Brockville Tikis – winners of one regular-season game a year ago – are halfway to a potential stunning upset of the Athens Aeros.
Brockville leads the Rideau Division regular-season champs two games to one.