A number of our SMMHA teams are still playing in OMHA playoffs, looking to earn a berth in the provincial finals. Read below from more information.
Thanks to Pat Payton for his coverage of these teams, and for coverage of SMMHA teams throughout the season.
Firefighter Peewees sweep Thunder, advance to meet Panthers in semi-finals
By Pat Payton
It’s on to Pelham for the Firefighter ‘BB’ Peewees.
On Monday night at the PRC, Dwain Smith’s squad completed a three-game sweep of their best-of-five OMHA quarter-final playoff series with a 6-1 victory over the Caledonia Thunder.
Caledonia is a good team, but St. Marys’ depth proved to be the difference. In the three games, the Rock out-scored the Thunder 18-6.
In the provincial semi-finals, which will likely begin this weekend, the Rock will meet the Panthers -- a team that won the Regional Silver Stick title just after Christmas. Pelham swept Lincoln Blades 3-0 in their quarter-final series.
Firefighters haven’t played the Panthers this season, but coach Smith said he’s confident in his team.
“We’re playing pretty good hockey right now,” he said after Monday’s game. “That’s all you can hope for. I think we’re going to be in any game, no matter what team we face. I’m confident going forward.”
Defence first mentality
In Monday’s Game 3, strong defence and timely scoring were two keys to the Firefighters’ well-deserved win -- their ninth in 10 OMHA playoff games.
“First of all, we said we had to get the puck out of our own zone . . . that was our game plan,” coach Smith explained. “We didn’t want Caledonia to get the early lead like they had the last two games. We didn’t want to play catch-up. We wanted to get it hard off the glass and out to the neutral zone.
“Caledonia had a good forecheck and when they were in our zone they could do some damage.”
After a scoreless and cautious first period, goals by Finn Stewart and captain Jimmy Schiedel staked the Rock to a 2-0 lead by the midway mark of the middle frame. After the Thunder scored their only goal at the 12:40 mark, Ryan Hodkinson restored a two-goal lead for St. Marys just 49 seconds later.
Goals by Schiedel and Hodkinson extended the Firefighters’ lead to 5-1 by the midway mark of the third, and then Schiedel completed his hat trick and the scoring with 3:03 left on the clock.
Ian Boyd chipped in a pair of assists, and centremen Schiedel and Hodkinson both finished the night with three points.
“When we can roll three lines, it’s pretty nice,” coach Smith added. “And we got some good goaltending in the series. Josh Ballantyne played all three games and was pretty solid.”
Overall, shots were 25-9 in St. Marys’ favour.
Third-period power surge
In Game 2 last Wednesday night in Caledonia, five unanswered third-period goals powered the Firefighter Peewees to a 7-3 victory over the Thunder.
Caledonia jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, but Jimmy Schiedel scored a shorthanded tally unassisted in the final minute of the first period to leave the Rock trailing by just a goal. After Ian Boyd tied in the middle frame, the Thunder regained a 3-2 lead late in the period.
The final 15 minutes were all St. Marys.
Goals by defencemen Jaden Shiell and Rourke McEwan--in the first five minutes of the third--put the Firefighters ahead to stay. Midway through the period, goals by Ian Boyd and Alex Slade--just 49 seconds apart--gave the visitors a little breathing room. Finn Stewart tacked on a late goal to cap a great period of hockey for the Rock.
“In the third period, we poured it on,” manager Marty Thomson reported.
Coach Smith says extra skating drills at practice appear to be paying off.
“In the third period, we told the boys that everything had to go on net,” Smith said. “Last year, we got put out by Strathroy and they skated by us. They seemed to have so much more energy.
“Now, we have a lot of skating in our practices. I think that endurance is paying off now. We didn’t stop in Caledonia; all three lines were going and all three lines contributed to the scoring. Plus, we got a couple of goals from the back-end. We’re getting scoring from the whole team, which is nice to see.
“We have to take one game and one period at a time,” the coach added.
Captain Schiedel paced a well-balanced St. Marys attack with four points. Ian Boyd and Shiell both contributed three points, while Stewart and Ryan Hodkinson added two points apiece.
G&CC Atoms advance to provincial semi-finals
Rock sidelines Devils, will now meet NOTL Wolves
By Pat Payton
Offence wins games and defence wins championships, the old adage says.
The Golf and Country Club ‘BB’ Atoms earned a berth in the provincial semi-finals with a pair of strong defensive efforts this past weekend.
At the PRC Sunday, Dan Schiedel’s squad skated to a 4-1 victory over Erin-Hillsburgh Devils to take the best-of-five OMHA quarter-final playoff series in four games.
The previous afternoon in Erin-Hillsburgh, the G&CC Atoms got a balanced scoring attack and shutout goaltending from Cyler Pickering in a convincing 7-0 win over the Devils.
“Our goaltending and defence were really solid the last two games,” coach Schiedel said following Sunday’s game. “I think that was the difference, and we scored some timely goals.”
Schiedel and company will now meet Niagara-on-the-Lake Wolves in the OMHA semi-finals, likely beginning this weekend. Wolves swept Thorold Blackhawks 3-0 in the quarters, with all three wins by one goal.
St. Marys 4 - Erin-Hillsburgh 1
In St. Marys last Sunday, coach Schiedel said his team likely didn’t have its ‘A’ game, but it was enough to beat a Devils’ team that went out with a valiant fight.
There was no scoring until the final minute of the first period when Rock centre Colton Henderson picked the corner on a solo rush.
It was Pickering’s turn to shine in the middle frame, making several big stops to keep his team in front. One was from point-blank range after an Erin-Hillsburgh player broke in alone. Finally, at the 9:39 mark, Oliver McHugh made it 2-0 after a beautiful set-up by Nate Schiedel.
It stayed that way until Schiedel connected from a scramble at 6:36 of the third from McHugh and Hayden Brintnell. Just under two minutes later, Devils finally got a puck behind Pickering--closing the gap to 3-1.
With 3:25 left on the clock, a desperate Erin-Hillsburgh team pulled its goalie for a sixth attacker. With 2:11 remaining, Jayden Tipping sealed it with an empty-net breakaway goal from Griffin McGregor.
Coach Schiedel thought it was the Devils’ best game of the entire series.
“We didn’t have our best today, but we played hard and found a way to get the job done,” he said. “Erin-Hillsburgh is a gritty team. We knew they would fight tooth and nail to the end today.
Our defence shut them down, Cyler was solid in net and we got some timely goals. I think that was the key to our success.”
Added veteran assistant coach Ken Schiedel: “I thought we got good goaltending today from Pickering.”
St. Marys 7 - Erin Hillsburgh 0
In the pivotal Game 3 Saturday in Erin-Hillsburgh, the G&CC Atoms broke open a close affair with four unanswered second-period goals. Two of the goals came just 42 seconds apart, and the outburst gave the visitors a commanding 5-0 lead.
Forwards Nate Schiedel and Griffin McGregor paced the St. Marys attack with two goals apiece, while the singles came off the sticks of Jayden Tipping, Evan Ballantyne (powerplay) and defenceman Grayson Boreham. Hayden Brintnell was the playmaker, collecting three assists.
“We scored a couple of goals early in the second period, and it seemed to give us a boost and a little confidence,” coach Schiedel reported. “Their goaltender was starting to fight the puck a little bit, but the guys played hard for all three periods.
“It was probably our best game of the entire series. We played with a lot of grit, and that’s what our team identity is. Being relentless on the puck, that’s when we’re at our best.”
Note: The G&CC Atoms played Niagara-on-the-Lake twice at Regional Silver Stick earlier this season and beat them both times.
Dunny’s Atoms take commanding series lead
By Pat Payton
STRATHROY - The Dunny’s Source for Sports A-E Atoms took a commanding 2-0 lead in their best-of-five OMHA quarter-final playoff series with Strathroy Jr. Rockets here last Friday night.
A 2-1 victory left Sean Porter’s squad just one win from advancing to the provincial semi-finals. Game 3 was Wednesday, Feb. 21 in St. Marys. If necessary, Game 4 is this Friday, Feb. 23 in Strathroy, starting at 7:05 p.m.
In last Friday’s Game 2 at the Gemini complex, goals by defenceman Connor Hall and forward Connor Wheeler gave St. Marys another tight win. Wheeler’s tally broke a 1-1 tie in the third.
Trevor Aarts recorded the net win.
For the Atom Rock, it was their eighth straight win without a loss in their playoff march.
Greig clicks for hat trick
In the series opener Wednesday, Feb. 14, forward Simon Greig was the scoring star for the Dunny’s Atoms in a 3-2 victory over the Jr. Rockets.
Greig scored a goal in each period to spark his team to the home-ice win.
Greig fired the only goal of the first period, unassisted. Jr. Rockets moved ahead 2-1 midway through the second period, scoring goals less than two minutes apart. Greig tied it late in the period, with Connor Wheeler assisting.
Greig scored the game winner at 1:44 of the third, from Brody Higham and Myles Clinton.
The net win went to Isaac Cousineau.
Strathroy took three of the four minor penalties.
“I think it’s going to be a tight series,” Rock coach Sean Porter said after the opener. “They’re a hard-working team like us, and I don’t think there’s going to be any big blowouts in this series at all.
“Both teams are skating teams, and both teams can be physical. Whoever comes to play is the team that’s going to come out of this series, for sure.”
How do the Dunny’s Atoms have to play to be successful against the Jr. Rockets, Porter was asked.
“We just have to keep stressing our team game,” he replied. “We have to move the puck and work as a unit and we’ll be fine.”
Foodtown Novice AE
In another OMHA round-robin playoff game last Thursday night in Strathroy, Dan Murrell’s Stonetown Foodland A-E Novices defeated the Jr. Rockets 3-1. It was their fourth win in the five-team, round-robin series.
Legion Midgets display gritty effort in Game 6 loss Sunday
Now meet Owen Sound in Tri-County playoffs (subhead)
By Pat Payton
It was a gritty effort by the Legion Minor Midgets last Sunday night at the PRC.
Due to injuries, illness and vacation, Owen Penney’s squad faced the Mooretown Jr. Flags with just 12 skaters in Game 6 of their best-of-seven OMHA ‘BB’ semi-final series. The Jr. Flags won the hard-fought game 4-2, and the series 4-2, and now advance to the provincial final against a team from the Niagara area.
The best team probably didn’t win the St. Marys-Mooretown series. The Legion Midgets had more speed and overall talent, but couldn’t get enough ‘puck luck’ to go in their favour. Mooretown defenceman Blake Howard was another big factor in the series, scoring several key goals for his team.
“I think that was the story of the series,” coach Penney said. “I felt we were the better team, but the bounces didn’t go our way. We couldn’t seem to finish on our scoring opportunities. We just couldn’t find a way to put the puck in the net. And I felt our mistakes hurt us a lot more than their mistakes hurt them.”
Penney added that he was “very proud” of his team’s effort with such a short line-up Sunday.
Mooretown 4 - St. Marys 2
At the PRC Sunday night, the Jr. Flags scored the winning goal with just 1:44 to play--snapping a 2-2 tie. The Legion Midgets pulled goalie Jake Bryans with 1:35 left, and had a couple of great chances--including one by captain Owen Hartman--to tie it.
Howard clinched the win for Mooretown with an empty-netter with 32 seconds remaining. It was his fourth point of the game.
Centre Blake Boreham got St. Marys off to a great start--scoring from Matt Payette just 13 seconds into the contest. However, the Jr. Flags answered with goals--just 78 seconds apart--before the five-minute mark of the first period.
Late in the opening frame, Boreham tied it 2-2 when he tipped home a perfect centring pass from Eric Taylor.
The Rock were the better team over the final two periods, but didn’t get rewarded for it. The home team applied strong pressure the entire second period, but couldn’t get a puck past Luc Thorne-Smith.
Bryans, meanwhile, played a strong game in the St. Marys net.
Mooretown 5 - St. Marys 3
In Mooretown Saturday, the Jr. Flags led 3-0 after the opening 15 minutes and 5-0 in the second period. The Legion Midgets attempted a late comeback, but dropped a 5-3 decision in the pivotal fifth game of the series.
“We got into penalty trouble early and made some defensive errors; we weren’t getting out of our zone,” Owen Penney reported. “All of a sudden we were down 5-0.
“But we were, by far, the better team in the second and third periods.”
Mooretown got a quick start with two powerplay goals early in the first period.
After scoring twice in the final frame to narrow the gap to 5-3, St. Marys finished the game on a five-minute powerplay. However, the visitors couldn’t pull any closer with the man advantage.
Blake Boreham, Curtis Topp and captain Owen Hartman scored the Legion goals. Both goalies--Alex Martens and Jake Bryans--saw action for the Rock.
Note: The Legion Minor Midgets will now play Owen Sound in Tri-County playoff action, beginning this week. “I’m looking forward to getting started,” coach Penney said.