Canadians ousted in branch playdowns

Heading into their first-ever playoff series, Dave Allison, head coach of the Fort Frances Canadians Midget ‘AA’ squad, felt getting out to a fast start was the key to success at the branch playdowns last weekend in Atikokan.
The Canadians certainly did get out to that all-important quick start against Fort William, grabbing early leads both Friday night and Saturday afternoon.
The trouble was they couldn’t hold on to those leads, and the result was a pair of losses–9-3 and 7-3–to be swept in the best-of-three showdown.
The turning point in both games came in the second period, with Fort William outscoring the Canadians 8-1 in that frame.
“Well, I think the depth of Thunder Bay started to show,” Allison said of their second-period woes. “Their depth took over the game.”
And even though Fort William took more penalties than the Canadians, the Thunder Bay squad played better with the man advantage, scoring several power-play goals.
“Five-on-five, both games we played well enough to come out winning or tied,” said Allison. “Five-on-five, we were fine, it was specialty teams that hurt us.
“It sounds funny but we were in every game,” he stressed.
Scott Witherspoon put the Canadians ahead 1-0 in the first period of the opening game Friday night but Fort William tied it up on the power play.
Adam Sus then made it 2-1 for Fort Frances, only to see Fort William tie it up once again–also on the power play.
It was all Fort William in the second and third periods as they outscored the Canadians 7-1 (Witherspoon added his second goal of the game in the second period).
To add insult to injury, Josh Baxter, one of the Canadians’ top offensive players, suffered an ankle injury late in the first game and never returned to action.
That left the Canadians with just seven forwards, making it very difficult to play an up-tempo style of forecheck, which Fort William took advantage of.
Still, even without one of their top forwards, the Canadians grabbed a 2-0 lead on goals by Josh McAndrew and Jeff Savage in the second game Saturday afternoon.
But Fort William regained some momentum with a late goal to make it 2-1, then scored four-straight times in the second period before Sus netted one to make it 5-3 heading into the third.
Fort William sealed the win–and the series–with a pair of late goals.
Despite having trouble in their defensive end, allowing 16 goals in just two games, Allison felt his team gave a good effort against Fort William.
And he hopes they finish the season on a better note when they travel to Winnipeg for the Assiniboine Rangers tournament April 1-4.
“I thought our guys competed very well and showed lots of composure early,” said Allison. “We were as good, or better, than they were.
“The program will continue to gain momentum as time goes on, and we’ll be able to compete,” he predicted. “Right now, we just didn’t have the depth.”