In Huntsville recently
HUNTSVILLE – The Royal Canadian Legion A-E Midgets travelled here on the Nov. 1-3 weekend for the annual Winston Watson Memorial Classic.
Game one was against Caledonia Thunder on Friday afternoon. Both teams came out hard and were well-matched. Caledonia held the upper hand early, but several key saves by Nic Kiestra kept St. Marys in the game.
The Rock gained momentum as the game went on. Tenacious forechecking resulted in two third-period goals for the Rock. Ben Richardson scored the first unassisted, and Maurice Kiestra finished off a nice play with Loghan Hodkinson and Jake Pfaff. That would be all the scoring, with the Rock posting a 2-0 win.
Saturday morning, despite lots of enthusiasm, the Legion crew came out flat. As hard as they pressed, things just didn’t go their way. Almaguin Ice Devils skated to a 4-0 win. The Rock regrouped knowing that the next game was going to decide if they played on Sunday or not.
In game 3, the Rock came up against the division leaders, South Muskoka Bears, who were undefeated to that point. This was a much different St. Marys team that took the ice in the evening.
Both sides were evenly-matched and play was fast and furious. Although South Muskoka had the upper hand early, the Rock gained strength with every period. The game ended 0-0 and for the moment the Legion squad had avoided missing the playoff round. Penetang, meanwhile, defeated Almaguin in the last game of the night, and the locals earned a spot in the tourney semi-finals.
The Legion squad was determined to prove that there would be no repeat of the previous morning. They played what was arguably their best game to date. Facing Penetang, who had helped their cause the night before, they came charging out of the starting gate.
Using constant offensive pressure, along with outstanding defensive-zone play, they controlled the game from beginning to end. Moving like a well-oiled machine, they scored five times, while allowing no goals. Nolan Shackleton made several tough saves to keep Penetang off the scoreboard.
Ben Richardson started the scoring, with helpers to Carter Reid and Ben Turner. Aaron Vernooy finished some hard work from Kirk Boreham and Sam Watt, and then Vernooy and Watt set up Loghan Hodkinson to make it 3-0. At that point, Maurice Kiestra got hot and fired home two in a row. He received help from Hodkinson and Noah McLeod. It capped a 5-0 win and gave St. Marys a berth in the final.
“We played a complete team game from beginning to end,” coach Andrew Davis said. “We dominated from our end to their end. It was great to see the boys play like this.
“We really earned this win. It was fun watching them play like that,” added trainer Ken Schiedel.
The Legion Midgets would now play Caledonia once again for the trophy. St. Marys came out ready to play, but were caught off guard in the first few minutes and gave up two goals on breakaways.
The Rock then dug in and allowed no further goals. Kiestra was in net once again and made several stellar saves to keep the locals in the game. It was an excellent back-and-forth game, with the Legion playing more and more solid as the game progressed.
Midway through the second period, Jeremy Stephens would put one in from the point after some nice passing from Loghan Hodkinson and Zach Rooney. With only a minute and a half remaining, the Rock pulled goalie Kiestra for a sixth attacker. Unfortunately, several close chances did not result in the tying tally. The final score was 2-1 Caledonia.
“We were very proud of our boys,” coach Bob Davis reported. “They played hard and never gave up. To bounce back from Saturday morning’s game shows what kind of team they are and how well they can play when they play together. They were excellent ambassadors for St. Marys minor hockey,” he added.