Montreal Canadiens: Arber Xhekaj’s Beautiful Game Winner Ties OHL Finals

HAMILTON, ONTARIO - MARCH 14: Arber Xhekaj #8 of the Hamilton Bulldogs (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)
HAMILTON, ONTARIO - MARCH 14: Arber Xhekaj #8 of the Hamilton Bulldogs (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images) /

Montreal Canadiens prospect Arber Xhekaj is one of the handful of players in the Habs pipeline that is still playing for a league championship and a berth in the annual Memorial Cup tournament for Canadian Junior hockey supremacy.

Xhekaj, as well as Jan Mysak, are playing in the OHL Finals for the Hamilton Bulldogs. The are facing Daniil Sobolev who was a draft pick of the Habs as well. Canadiens first round pick Kaiden Guhle is in the WHL Finals with the Edmonton Oil Kings and the QMJHL Finals feature Xavier Simoneau and William Trudeau suiting up for the Charlottetown Islanders.

That is a lot of Canadiens prospects battling for Junior hockey championships in the next two weeks. Thanks to an incredible effort by Xhekaj, the Bulldogs are one step closer to clinching their title.

The Bulldogs lost Game 1 of the final round to the Windsor Spitfires. It was the Bulldogs first loss of the postseason after three consecutive sweeps got them to the verge of an OHL championship.

The Bulldogs seemed in control of Game 2, with a 4-2 lead late in the second period. That’s when Xhekaj burst into the offensive zone and made a phenomenal shot into the top corner to push the lead to 5-2.

Avery Hayes gained the offensive zone with the puck before dropping it to Xhekaj. The big, physical defender pull the puck to his backhand to deke around one Spitfires defender and found a little open ice. He was off to the left of Windsor’s goaltender and didn’t appear to have any chance of cutting to the middle. So, he cradled the puck on his backhand and whipped it just over the shoulder of the goalie and into the top shelf of the net.

It was an absolutely perfect shot that found the very little area of net that was open. Xhekaj, known mostly as a punishing, defensive defenceman has shown an offensive touch this season as well.

The goal was his 6th of the playoffs and his 11th point in 13 games. After a pair of Windsor goals in the third period, it was also the difference in a 5-4 Bulldogs win in Game 2. The series is now tied as it shifts to Windsor tomorrow night.

In 12 games this postseason, Mysak has five goals and eight points. Xhekaj has proven to be a great top pairing defender who can play in all situations and adds to the Bulldogs great team at both ends of the ice.

Let’s hope he can bring it all the way to the Memorial Cup and face Guhle, Simoneau and Trudeau there as well.

A Winning Habit
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