Perhaps Michael Jordan described it best when he said “Talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships.”
Last Wednesday, the St Marys Rock Finnbilt Novice BB squad capped off an incredible season with a sweep of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Wolves to claim the OMHA BB championship. It was a season that began on a dire note with returning veteran, and stellar defenseman, Colton Hawkins being sidelined for the beginning of the campaign with a serious off-ice injury. A fast and successful start to the season followed, as his absence became a rally point for the young Rock team and his inspirational return to the ice shortly after Christmas ignited the already talented squad to the next level.
The playdowns began with a gruelling 8-game round robin series against Dorchester and Strathroy. St. Marys needed all hands on deck to finish with a 5-2-1 record, claiming first place and home-ice advantage against Dorchester for a 6-point series. The Rock team managed to sweep this series in three games straight. Assistant captain Colton Henderson stood out in the series with his aggressive fore-checking and unrelenting back-checking. Speedy forward Griffin McGregor also stepped up and contributed key goals in timely situations.
The next team to meet St. Marys was the Erin-Hillsburgh Devils. St. Marys came out in the first game with guns blazing. Centreman Nate Schiedel fired 4 goals in the win and quickly became a target for the Devils tenacious checkers. St. Marys, deep in talent, was able to overcome this shut-down tactic and found ways to keep the goals coming.
Fleet-footed Jayden Tipping could be relied on to power the offense through the neutral zone, and deep into Devils territory. Winger Oliver Mcugh was rewarded justly in the series by charging to the net and hammering in some workman-type goals. St. Marys’ winger Connor Wheeler, while outsized by the big Devils team, played well above his fighting weight, winning most of his battles in the corners. His cousin and fellow winger, Ty Wheeler, roamed the ice fearlessly setting a tone that the Rock team would not be bullied in this series.
Although, getting off to a great start and a two-game lead, the Rock team lost consecutive third period leads and suffered heartbreaking overtime losses in games three and four. So, the series returned to Erin-Hillsburgh for the deciding game. Once again, St. Marys relied on the team approach and fought to a hard-earned one goal victory.
The St. Marys defence was the highlight of this critical match with the offensive-minded Grayson Boreham and his fearless defence partner Hayden Britnell moving the puck well out of harm’s way and up the ice with authority as they did all season. Chase McDougall had a great series and strong final game, showing the other team his confidence with the puck and his nose for the net. Cyler Pickering also shone in net, making huge saves when his team needed them and saving his team from elimination.
The next and final series saw St. Marys matched against the fast and well coached, Niagara-on-the Lake Wolves. Once again, Scheidel set the tone with a huge first game, firing three goals with his pugnacious work effort and heavy shot. The defence paring of Connor Hall and Adam Turner also came to play. They continued their playoff-long shutdown-style system to thwart the efforts of the Wolves.
Games two and three seemed to be a foregone conclusion, with the St. Marys captain firing on all cylinders and the whole team committed to defensive hockey.
The Rock boys were impressive with their back-checking, blocking shots and clearing pucks, combined with timely saves from their goalie to protect the hard-earned lead. A frustrated NOTL team was unable to mount a comeback, giving the St. Marys team the OMHA Zone West championship, and a lifetime of memories, in three straight games.
– Every game in the playoffs was close. St. Marys averaged 3 goals per game while conceding an average of just over 2.
– Colton Hawkins dressed for every game, and his inspirational presence was vital in the team’s Championship run.
– AP goalies Trevor Aarts and Isaac Cousineau travelled with the team and helped selflessly in practices. Cousineau’s acrobatic stretching between periods was a fan favourite, and Trevor’s upbeat optimism on the bench rallied his teammates.
– NOTL parents commented on the sportsmanship of the St.Marys team and the great hospitality of the Rock team while in St. Marys.
– The St. Marys Novices were both grateful and amazed by the fan support in the final series, and the well-wishers who lined the parade route.