Birchmount Panthers claw their way into frozen final

Patrick Jackson scored a thrilling game-winning goal on a solo rush to help the Birchmount Park Panthers defeat the York Mills Titans 3-1 on Wednesday.

Just 54 seconds into the final period, Jackson rushed the puck up centre ice, squeaked past a defender at the blue line and sniped the puck into the far side of the net.

The goal sealed a berth for the Panthers in the North/East Region Tier 1 final against first-place Sir Oliver Mowat.

The game at Canlan Ice Sports Scarborough was a back-and-forth affair until the third period when the Panthers came out flying.

“I told [the players] to keep the tempo up,” coach Adam Dahlke said. “I could tell we were tiring [the Titans] out and we were in good shape.”

The Titans’ frustration escalated as time waned, resulting in back-to-back minor penalties, giving the Panthers a five-on-three power play with eight minutes to go.

The Panthers, looking to put the game out of reach, capitalized on the opportunity. Justin Crofts feathered a cross-crease pass to Devin Retzer who one-timed the puck into a wide open net past a sprawling Titans goaltender.

Titans keeper Scott Lung played a solid positional game in a losing effort.

At the opposite side of the rink, Alex Chandler stopped a late third-period flurry, keeping the highest scoring team in the division to one goal.

“It was great goaltending today by Alex,” Dahlke said. “He played awesome.”

Chandler was tested early, making a desperate toe save a minute into the game. Aside from allowing a screened puck past him on the penalty kill, he was equal to everything the Titans fired at him.

The Titans opened the scoring halfway through the second. John MacIver’s shot from the from the point found the back of the net on the Titan’s second power-play opportunity.

The Panthers were quick to respond, tying the game just 43 seconds later. Jordan Robertson accepted a pass in front of the net, brought the puck to his backhand through the crease and roofed it.

Coach Jeff Simpson of the Titans said he knew that missing his top scorer due to a shoulder injury wasn’t the only reason for losing.

“Discipline was a major issue. We had a game plan that wasn’t stuck to.

“We tried to play a physical game but were out-played by a skilled game. Birchmount is a very skilled team and we just couldn’t match them.”

The teams met twice during the regular season, averaging 10.5 goals over the two games.

The Panthers are set to play for the championship Thursday against the division’s top team, Sir Oliver Mowat, a squad that has only allowed 12 goals in eight games.