Playoff hockey continues in St. Marys on Sunday, 2 pm
By Stewart Grant
Both the ANAF Bantams and the McDonald’s Independent Grocer Atoms dug deep last weekend, winning crucial games to even up their series with the respective OMHA Final opponents, South Muskoka and Midland.
After dropping both games in Bracebridge to open the series, the Bantam BB St. Marys Rock coached by Brandon Boyd tied the best-of-five final by winning 2-1 and 4-1 on home ice. Both teams will have an extended break before the fifth game of the series is contested on Saturday, March 25th back in Bracebridge.
With the Bantam series on hold for another week, we’ll focus our attention this weekend on the Atom BB squad who will play in Midland this Saturday at 2:45 pm and then play game 4 in St. Marys on Sunday at 2 pm. The best-of-five series is tied at one game apiece, with Midland taking the first game at the PRC 4-1 and St. Marys responding with a 3-2 win the following day in Midland.
In advance of this weekend’s action, I sat down with St. Marys head coach Dan Schiedel and asked him to reflect on his team’s memorable season thus far:
SG: What have been the keys to success for the Atom BBs this season?
DS: Our team has played with grit and determination all year long, and has had great goaltending from both Jake Sorensen and Josh Ballantyne. We’ve had contributions from all team members not just on the scoresheet but blocking shots, back checking and winning puck battles.
SG: Where have you seen the greatest improvement in your team’s play over the course of the year?
DS: Probably on the blue line. We started the year with 4 new defensemen (Grayson Boreham, Adam Turner, Isaac Zurbrigg and Lucan Vernooy). It’s not an easy position to learn but all four have embraced the role and worked hard to win puck battles and continue to get stronger on the defensive zone coverage as the year has gone on.
SG: What have you learned about your OMHA final opponents? and what will you need to do to pull off victories?
DS: Midland is a strong fast team that is deep down the middle (#14, #10) and possess a lot of skill. In addition, they have a big strong defenseman (#16) that has good hockey sense and a heavy shot. Their goaltending has been strong in the first two games as well.
SG: What will you need to do to be successful this weekend?
DS: The keys for St. Marys to be successful are:
1. A good start. We need to be ready to go from the drop of the puck. In game #2 we scored the first goal early in the 1st period and this seemed to inject our team with a ton of confidence and energy.
2. Solid goaltending. In the first two games Jake Sorensen has been solid in net
3. Timely goals. Midlands’ goalie has been great as well. We need to be aggressive and “puck hungry ” on the forecheck as well as get more pucks on goal and continue to drive hard to the net in order to generate more quality scoring opportunities.
4. Play as a team. If we have all players working together as one unit – skating hard, distributing the puck and supporting each another, we have a good chance to be successful.
Our team identity all year has been to play with grit. If we can continue to play with grit and can grind for all three periods, our team is at their best.