Some mountains are a bit too steep to climb.
Down 4-0 to the Westport Rideaus by the two-minute mark of the second period on Wednesday night at the Memorial Centre, the Brockville Tikis clawed their way back to within a goal, ultimately losing 6-3.
“We came out flat,” said Tikis head coach and general manager J.B. Ryan. “We were not as prepared as we should have been.”
Ryan said the team may have suffered a bit of an emotional letdown Wednesday after the high of a pair of shootout wins over the weekend, including a comeback win over South Grenville on Saturday night.
He said getting into a deep deficit against the first-place Rideaus was simply too steep for his team to overcome.
“You can't give the Westport Rideaus a four-goal lead,” said Ryan.
The Rideaus opened the scoring on a goal by Peter McGahey at 5:58 of the first period.
Brockville finished the period down a pair of goals, after Connor Merkley banged the puck in from the left side of the goalmouth at 11:03 to make it 2-0 Westport.
The opening minutes of the second period would prove to be the Tikis' undoing.
First, Rideaus captain Cameron McNutt split the Tikis' defence and scored on a breakaway 33 seconds in, then Thomas Porter scored at 1:56 to make it 4-0 Rideaus.
Ryan pulled starter Nathan Peters after the fourth goal and put rookie Mack Frere in net for the remainder of the game.
The Tikis got a goal back at 4:10 when Austin Benson scored from the right side of the net to cut the deficit to 4-1.
As they have many times this season, the Tikis refused to quit in the third period, coming on strong in the frame, particularly in the final 10 minutes.
The team scraped its way back into the game, beginning with a goal by newcomer Corey Drisdelle at 9:42 after a Westport turnover in its own end.
Patrick Rock had a glorious chance to cut the lead to one goal several seconds later, but his shot rang off the crossbar after deking Rideaus goalie Richard Barr.
Tanner Casselman would cut the lead to 4-3 when he scored at 12:15 off another Rideaus turnover.
But the comeback would be snuffed out late in the third period on another goal from Merkley at 15:21 and an empty netter from Ryan Ward with 1:15 left.
“We came on strong, but we've got to play a full 60 minutes like we did the last two games to get the win,” said Tikis captain John Keane.
For Westport, the win provided a key two points, putting the team temporarily alone in first place in the Rideau Division with 45 points.
Rideaus assistant coach Steve Merkley said the staff was pleased with the team's effort for the most part, noting he felt the Rideaus controlled the play for most of the game and the defence moved the puck well.
He said with the Rideau Division race being as tight as it is, divisional games, especially those between the top three teams – Athens, Westport and Gananoque – are crucial.
“It's down to the games you play against each other,” said Merkley.
The Rideaus play next on Friday night, when they are home to the Casselman Vikings.
Brockville's next game is at Saturday's Rideau-St. Lawrence Showcase in Gananoque, when it takes on the Akwesasne Wolves.
The game will provide the Tikis with their first crack at the Wolves since a 7-0 blowout loss at Akwesasne earlier this season.
“That was probably our worst game of the season,” said Ryan, noting his team should have no trouble getting motivated for the rematch.
Keane shared similar thoughts.
“We're looking to get back at Akwesasne for that tough loss last time,” he said.
Game time for the Tikis on Saturday is 5 p.m. For a full list of games at the showcase, visit www.eojhl.com and click on the link under “Events.”
RIDEAUS 6 TIKIS 3
GOALS: Brockville – Austin Benson (Brad Hamilton), Corey Drisdelle (Tanner Casselman, Brad Hamilton), Tanner Casselman (Lee Charlebois, Sawyer Woodside)
Westport – Peter McGahey (Danny Hincks, Jay Waller), Connor Merkley (Max Ming, Jarrett Williams), Cameron McNutt (Ryan Ward, Danny Hincks), Thomas Porter (Peter McGahey, Connor Merkley), Connor Merkley (Jay Waller, Ryan Ward), Ryan Ward (Cameron McNutt, Max Ming)
SHOTS: Brockville – 24 Westport – 20
GOALIES: Brockville – Nathan Peters, Mack Frere Westport – Richard Barr