Rock team allows just five goals in five games in Michigan
By Pat Payton
The ANAF ‘BB’ Bantams put it all together here on the Dec. 6-8 weekend. In five games, Dale Switzer’s squad allowed just five goals against and won the Spartan Cup tournament.
The tourney was held at the Summit Sports Complex, featuring an NHL-size rink and an Olympic-size rink. The Rock was placed in a five-team division, and all teams played four round-robin games. The No. 1 and 2 seeds earned a spot in the final.
The other four teams in St. Marys’ division were: CEC Aurora Steelers from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.; Chicago Bruins from Chicago; Fox Motors Hockey Club from Grand Rapids, Mich.; and SK Steel from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
In their opening game on the Olympic rink, the Rock scored a goal in each period en route to a 3-0 win over Aurora Steelers. Owen Boyd had a goal and an assist, with captain Ethan Brine and Lucan Vernooy adding the other singles.
“It took some time to adjust to the big ice surface, but the puck movement was very good and we controlled a large majority of the play,” coach Switzer reported. “All three lines and the defence had a strong game, with Josh Ballantyne getting the shutout.”
In their second game on the Olympic ice, the ANAF squad lost 2-1 to Chicago Bruins, who carried a slim 1-0 lead into the third. Vernooy had the lone St. Marys goal with just over two minutes remaining.
“We did not have a good start,” Switzer said. “Chicago scored on their first shot, a screened shot from the high slot. We took a bit to settle into this game as Chicago was moving the puck and their feet quite well.
“Kiefer MacNeil was in net and did a good job of keeping us in it early. No stars on the Chicago team, but they just kept coming at you each shift and did a good job of keeping our guys on the perimeter. Overall, a good game by both teams.”
Back on the Olympic rink Saturday morning, the ANAF Bantams edged Fox Motors 2-1 in their third game. The Rock opened up a 2-0 lead on goals by Ian Boyd and Peyton Lobb. Grand Rapids scored late in the second period to complete the scoring.
“Both teams skated well in Saturday morning’s game,” coach Switzer noted. “We were finally adjusting to the Olympic-size ice and used the spacing to our advantage as the Fox team were bigger than us (they were all second-year Bantams).
“We still controlled the bulk of the game, but when Fox put pressure on us they were able to sustain it. MacNeil had a strong game in net and really controlled the puck well for us. We started running out of gas a bit at the end, but were able to hold off the surge.”
In their fourth and final preliminary-round game, the ANAF crew skated to a 4-0 victory over SK Steel on the NHL-sized rink.
The Rock, which built period leads of 2-0 and 3-0, got goals from Brine (powerplay), Vernooy, Owen Boyd and Alex Slade. Lobb was the playmaker with two assists.
“NHL size is bigger than most rinks we play on, but after being on the Olympic rink it was good to get back to a smaller ice pad,” Switzer said. “We played a real strong game right from the start with us capitalizing on a powerplay early. That seemed to set the tone as the more the game went on, the more we controlled the play and SK Steel lost steam.
“We just kept coming at them and had a real strong cycle down low that SK struggled with. Ballantyne got the shutout again, and although he didn’t see many shots he had some tricky saves to make.”
The final was played on the NHL-size rink against Chicago Bruins. The line of Owen Boyd, Ian Boyd and Peyton Lobb all earned three points to spark St. Marys to a 5-2 win.
The teams were tied 1-1 after the first period, with Owen Boyd scoring for ANAF. Goals by Brock Chessell and Lobb put the Rock ahead to stay in the second period. After the Bruins closed the gap to 3-2 early in the third, Ian Boyd scored twice in the final five minutes to clinch the win and the Cup.
“Lots of energy right from the start in this one,” Switzer said. “We took advantage of the fact that this was Chicago’s second game of the day and we were fresh. This was a good thing because Brine sat out the game with a leg injury.
“We really applied good forecheck pressure and Chicago struggled getting any flow out of their end and through the neutral zone. As the game wore on into the third, our guys just kept digging deep to find the energy needed as we had a much shorter bench than Chicago did. MacNeil had a great game and steered away the danger all game. The defence were moving the puck well and that helped us control the neutral zone throughout the game.
“Overall, a lot of fun over the weekend as the team seemed to get better as the tournament went on. It was good to see some different teams and the hockey overall was balanced and competitive. The whole team played excellent hockey throughout, and hopefully we can use this as a springboard heading into a busy December,” he added.
--Vernooy was awarded the tournament MVP.
--On the Saturday between games, the Bantam team went over to the MSU campus to walk around and see some of the athletic facilities, including a walk through of the Munn Ice Center where the Spartans play.