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Liam Shwedyk #19 of the Brantford 99ers waits for the puck with Cole DeFazio #30 of the Oakville Blades at the Sixteen Mile Sports Complex on October 8, 2021 in Ontario, Canada (Photo by Steven Ellis / OJHL Images)

By Darryl G. Smart

Dan Fitzgerald has been around junior hockey for quite some time now. And one of the reasons is because the Brantford 99ers head coach loves coming to the rink. That’s especially so this season.

“This is a fun team to be around,” Fitzgerald said of his Ontario Junior Hockey League team. “They love hockey and they want to improve as a team every day.”

And that has shown in the early going of the season, as they prepare to face the Collingwood Blues Thursday night at the Gretzky Centre at 7:30pm.

In the team’s last outing, the 99ers showed a ton of resilience, beating the Oakville Blades 4-2.

“Friday’s win showed the character of our team,” Fitzgerald said. “It was a great bounce back win, but more importantly it was awesome to see the commitment to each other after a hard loss (9-2 decision to the Burlington Cougars) the night before.”

The 99ers got off to a great start thanks to first-period goals from Josh Sordo and Kurt Watson.

Brendan Bowie finally got the Blades on the board in the third period, before Sordo scored his second goal of the game 36 seconds later. Evan Pringle then replied for the Blades, before Adrian Rebelo gave the 99ers some insurance with the empty-netter.

Ben Bonisteel was spectacular in goal for the 99ers making 34 saves for the win. Cole DeFazio made 21 saves in the loss.

“It’s clear we have high character individuals,” Fitzgerald said. “We all row the boat.”

The night before, Easton Wainright scored both 99ers goals, while Josh Ziliotto led the Cougars with a hat trick. Josh Belgrave scored two of his own, with Jack Richard, Matt Franzoi, Jacob Bramwell, Thomas Lenart adding singles.

Heading into Thursday’s tilt with the Blues, the 99ers are 2-2 and are right in the thick of things in the OJHL’s West Division. Sunday they are also at home, and will face teh Markham Waxers at 4pm.