Midhurst native Ben Hughes turns in back-to-back 6-point games
As the Provincial Junior Hockey League's regular season winds down, the Orillia Terriers have fallen into the bottom of the standings, a dangerous position they wanted to avoid.
The slumping Terriers were thumped twice on the weekend as they were outscored 18-4 in a pair of lopsided losses that dropped their record to 13-24-0 and slides them into seventh spot in the eight-team Carruthers Division.
The Stayner Siskins sit atop the division with a 31-3-0 record, including a 7-6 win over the second-place Alliston Hornets (28-4-1) at the New Tecumseth Recreation Centre on Friday night. Midhurst native Ben Hughes led the Siskins offence with five goals and an assist.
While all eight teams qualify for the playoffs, the Terriers desperately want to finish in the top six to avoid a first-round matchup with either the Siskins or the Hornets, who are heads and shoulders above any of their rivals.
The Midland Flyers sit in third with a 16-20-0 record.
"We're not that far out of third place. The teams are really bunched together in the standings," Terriers winger Mike Barroso said. "We know how important these games are ... (and) we don't want to finish seventh or eighth and have to play Alliston or Stayner in the first round."
Unfortunately for the Terriers, it is looking more and more like they will finish seventh.
With 26 points, they are 10 points ahead of last-place Caledon, but will only be able to move up to sixth if Schomberg suffers a monumental collapse. The Cougars are one point ahead of the Terriers and have played three fewer games.
To make matters worse, two of the Terriers' final four regular-season games are against a vastly superior Alliston team, whose 28-4-1 record has them just five points behind first-place Stayner.
Heading into last weekend, the Terriers had some control over their destiny. They entered Saturday night's critical contest against visiting Schomberg one point in front of their rivals.
But the Terriers fell flat in their most important game of the season as, once again, a slow start sealed their fate.
The Cougars exploited that tepid start and found the Terriers easy prey while building an early 4-0 first-period lead before coasting to a 7-2 romp at Rotary Place before less than 100 fans. With the victory, Schomberg leap-frogged the Terriers into sixth place.
Things went from bad to worse for the short-staffed Terriers on Sunday afternoon as the host Stayner Siskins continued their dominance over Orillia, building a 10-0 advantage after 40 minutes as they coasted to an easy 11-2 decision.
Hughes flipped his offensive stats from a few nights earlier against the Hornets, with a goal and five assists. He now leads the PJHL in scoring with 39 goals and 49 assists for 88 points in 32 games.
On Thursday night, the Flyers are in Stayner to take on the Siskins, while the Terriers travel to Schomberg. Friday night's action sees the Penetang Kings take on the Hornets.