Twenty-four teams compete in four age divisions
By Pat Payton
Special to the Independent
The first-ever Local League tournament, sponsored by the St. Marys Minor Hockey Association, provided lots of exciting and thrilling action for the fans last weekend at the PRC.
A total of 24 teams, in four age divisions, competed in the three-day tourney. The SMMHA had seven teams entered in the event — two in Novice, three in Atom, and one in both the Peewee and Bantam divisions. Both ice pads were kept busy with a total of 45 games, including 27 on Saturday and 15 more on Sunday.
Taking the spotlight on Sunday’s final day were the three Atom teams that represented the SMMHA. The day started with the three Rock teams competing in semi-final games, with the winners advancing to the afternoon final.
Thrilling semi-final games
On the Blue rink, Todd Dittmer’s Biliztik Sports Atoms faced off against Scott Clark’s Nicholson Concrete Atoms. It proved to be a thriller for the big crowd on hand, with the Biliztik squad skating to a hard-fought 4-2 victory.
Finn Wright fired a pair of goals for the winners, with Kaleb Dingman and Reid Taylor (empty net) adding the singles. Colton Hawkins and Owen Maxwell replied for the Nicholson Concrete crew.
With 1:26 remaining and trailing 3-2, Clark pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker. The Nicholson Concrete boys exerted strong pressure, and Biliztik goalie Taylor Shiell was forced to make a couple of big stops to keep his team in front. Taylor finally clinched the win with his empty-netter with 16 seconds left on the clock.
At the same time over on the Rock pad, another thrilling Atom semi-final was unfolding. It featured Mark Frayne’s Bickell Built Homes against Lucan.
At the end of regulation time, the teams were deadlocked 1-1, with supporters from both sides loudly cheering them on.
Nathan MacDonald emerged the scoring hero for the Bickell Atoms, firing the game winner with 51 seconds left in a five-minute overtime period. It was MacDonald’s second of the game.
It set up an all-St. Marys final later in the afternoon.
Sparked by Finn Wright’s four goals, the Biliztik Atoms claimed the gold medals with a 7-3 victory over the Bickell Atoms. It was close for the first 20 minutes, with Dittmer’s squad holding period leads of 3-2 and 4-3. The swift-skating Wright took over in the third, scoring a natural hat trick to seal the win for his team.
Also scoring for the division champs were Michael Ewing, Reid Taylor and Kaleb Dingman. Answering for the Bickell Atoms were Nathan MacDonald, Logan Hudson and Luke Richardson.
The win capped an undefeated 4-0 weekend for the Biliztik Atoms. A “team effort” is the way coach Dittmer best described it.
“It was a complete team effort all weekend,” Dittmer said following the final game. “We moved the puck well, forechecked well, protected our goalies and got some timely goals.”
In round-robin play, the Biliztik Atoms defeated Ingersoll 5-3 Friday, with Danny Switzer scoring twice, and Wainfleet 3-1 Saturday. Owen Dittmer fired the game winner against Wainfleet.
The Bickell Built Homes Atoms went 1-1-1 in their opening three games. They lost 5-4 to the Nicholson Concrete Atoms Friday with Brier Frayne scoring twice, tied Lucan 0-0 Saturday with Braydon Robertson earning the shutout, and defeated Ingersoll 4-3 in the quarter-finals Saturday night with Andre Mollet scoring twice.
The Nicholson Atoms started with their 5-4 win Friday, with Lucas Clark scoring twice, but lost 5-3 to Ingersoll Saturday afternoon. Clark again scored twice against Ingersoll. They earned a berth in the semi-finals with a 6-1 victory over Wainfleet Saturday night. Colton Hawkins fired a natural hat trick in that game.
Ashton Tire Bantams finalists
In their four-team division, Sean Harvey’s Ashton Tire Bantams qualified for Sunday’s final with a 4-3 win over Fergus Saturday afternoon and a 3-3 tie against Dresden Saturday night. The Tiremen lost 7-3 to Paris Wolfpack Sunday afternoon, with Owen Zurbrigg, Justin Dill and Jared Lucas scoring for St. Marys, but their three points was enough to get them into the championship game.
In the final game, the Ashton Tire Bantams got another crack at Paris. Paris jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead. It stayed that way until Max Smith scored with 5:10 remaining in the third. St. Marys pulled its goalie for an extra attacker with 1:15 left to play. The Rock had a couple of late chances, but couldn’t push the game into overtime.
The Adanac Images Peewees reached the quarter-finals on the weekend. Don Gibson’s squad opened with a 6-4 loss to Lambeth Friday night, but rebounded with a 5-3 win over Wainfleet No. 2 Saturday morning. Ashton Wiseman had two goals, including the winner, against Wainfleet.
The Adanac Images squad was sent to the sidelines Sunday morning after losing 5-3 to Wainfleet No. 1. Sebastian Linares scored twice for St. Marys in that game.
St. Marys Ford Novices and the Hitching Post Novices both went winless (0-3) on the weekend, and didn’t advance to the playoff round.
–Mt. Brydges Cougars edged Mitchell Meteors 3-2 in the Novice Division final, and Strathroy Rockets blanked New Hamburg Huskies 2-0 in the Peewee final.
–Kristene McCurdy was tournament convener, with Dale Switzer and Rich Ballantyne serving as assistant conveners. The games ran on time all weekend.
–For the Biliztik Atoms, it’s their second tournament win this season. Last month, they captured the Richard Vollmer Memorial tourney in Wellesley.