Peach Kings dominated the first part of this game and built up a comfortable 3-1 lead that they held until the midway point of the second period. And then, for some inexplicable reason (certainly premature), backed off and went into a shell that quickly cost them the game. Essex scored four goals in the back half of the second and coasted to a 5-3 victory. Grimsby had several powerplay chances after that, including a 5on3 in the third period, but came away empty on all occasions. A bit of panic set in on the Peach Kings in the third which only made things worse in their desperation to avoid their first play-off loss of this season.
Both teams seemed a little bit nervous in this game which could account for the bad passes, missed nets and a whole truckload of icings. It was a bit of a choppy-and-sloppy type game (78 PIM's total) that one might expect for a Game 1 but you could see the confidence slowly building for the 73's as the game wore on. Most of the first half of the game seemed to be played between the blue lines with most of the offense coming off lucky breaks, bounces, softies and one-man-show type goals. Neither team was really able to get into any type of rhythm or team-play, but I'm sure their confidence and comfort levels will soon increase as the series goes on. A couple of the Essex 2nd period goals were beauties, to say the least. I got the distinct feeling this series could boil over at some point, given all the jawing and jabbing that took place. Even the goalies got roughed up a bit from players crashing the net while making little to no effort to avoid the keeper. Officiating on this night was pretty good (but then I'm never one to bash the refs) except for one mysterious call in the first that somehow got overlooked or forgotten about on the way to the box. One ref signalled a penalty and as the play continued the other stripe raised his arm for another penalty against the same team (and at least 5 seconds after the first ref raised his arm, so we know they weren't calling the same infraction) and immediately blew the play down. Then he just stood there as if nothing happened, and only one player went to the box. hmmm weird
I fully expect this series to go the distance simply because I don't feel the Peach Kings are the powerhouse they were last year. I don't think they have as much offense or are as solid on the back-end and in goal. Don't get me wrong, they are still a force to be reckoned with that can put you away if you don't pay attention. But this year it might take them a little longer. In Game 1 I noticed that they were easily drawn in to the after-whistle nonsense and trash-talking (which is very uncharacteristic of this team) and I only hope it's not their downfall. They have always been a great team to watch that stuck to playing the game, for the most part. I think they can take out Essex if they just walk away from all that type of garbage. The 73's are a team that has always been up for a little extra-curricular activity regardless of the score, as their history has shown us. Time will tell.