PELHAM – The Cement Major ‘BB’ Midgets travelled here just after Christmas to participate in the 28th annual Niagara Midget ‘A’ Regional Silver Stick tournament.
In their opening game, the Rock met New Hamburg Huskies, a fast-skating club. The locals took a while to get going, but played good defensive hockey.
The Cement men finally found their timing, igniting a three-goal blitz. Bayley Boyes started the scoring on a nice passing play, and Kyle Spence put the Rock up 2-1 with some strong puck control and a nice finish.
Defenceman Nick O’Grady capped off a 3-1 victory with a nice blast from the point. “The boys finished strongly and never let New Hamburg back into the game,” assistant Bob Davis noted.
Andy O’Connell was in top form, making some key saves early to keep the Rock in the game until they got rolling.
Welland strong team
Game 2 put the Cement Midgets up against what would turn out to be the strongest team in the tournament, the Welland Tigers.
Undaunted, the locals came out with all cylinders firing and great team game. It remained scoreless until the midway mark of the second period. Greg Swan finished off a nice pass from Braiden Weston after some hard work by Rhett Lucas to get the puck to him.
Two minutes later, Spence teamed up with Boyes and put the puck behind the Tigers’ netminder. This would be the only two goals scored against Welland in the entire tournament.
Unfortunately, the early morning drive and two fast-paced games took their toll on the Cement men. They continued to give it their all, but a strong Tigers team began to score. Welland tied it 2-2 by the end of the second and scored two more in the third to hand the locals a 4-2 defeat.
Despite the loss, Ryan Van Dam was very strong in net with several great stops or the score would have been higher.
Game 3 saw the Rock up against Glanbrook Rangers once again. Rangers are a team St. Marys met in the recent Parry Sound tourney.
The locals came out strong, but just couldn’t finish. At the other end, O’Connell was sharp making save after save to keep his team in the game.
The Cement men applied the most pressure, but saved their best play for the second half. Rangers scored first in the second and went up 2-0 by the midway mark. The Rock regrouped and put one in towards the end of the second. They took advantage of a Glanbrook penalty and Kyle Spence finished off a nice passing play with Boyes and Swan.
The boys kept pushing in the third and their hard work paid off. Spence sent a pass to Colton Drinkwalter who put a shot on net and captain Mike Stover, who was a strong leader throughout the entire tournament, fired the rebound past the Rangers’ netminder.
The game finished in a 2-2 tie, but this was enough to put the locals (with a 1-1-1 record) ahead of Glanbrook in their division.
Meet SHL rival
Finishing second in their pool put the Cement Midgets in the quarter-finals up against their Shamrock rivals, Dorchester Dragons. Once again, it was a fast-paced affair with no score until the third period.
Van Dam stood on his head several times, while the defence gave him great support. The defensive corps of Colton Drinkwalter, Carter Simpson, Jamie Gibson, Robert Clifford and Nick O’Grady were at the top of their game through the entire tournament.
Dorchester went up 1-0 early in the third, but the stamina of the Cement men became evident as the game wore on. Gibson started the play that led to the Rock’s first goal. Greg Swan made some great moves behind the net, and fed a nice pass to Braiden Weston, who placed the puck up under the crossbar.
This sent the game into overtime, and the Rock carried most of the play as they wore the Dragons down. It was Bayley Boyes who finished the game with a tip-in at the edge of the crease.
Semi-finals against Grimsby
The Cement men’s 2-1 OT win earned a spot in the semi-finals against the very strong Grimsby Peach Kings, who finished first in the ‘A’ division.
St. Marys surprised Grimsby right from the start. They out-skated and out-played them early. The locals scored a goal in each period.
Braiden Weston scored from Greg Swan after some nice team-work. They combined once again in the second to score number two.
Early in the third, one of the prettiest goals was scored by Rob Clifford. He out-raced a Grimsby defenceman in their end, controlled the puck and flipped it past a surprised Kings’ goaltender. It was the best example of his hard work throughout the tournament.
Grimsby got one back during a Rock penalty. Peach Kings were then given a shot in the arm when they scored late on a penalty shot. Once again, O’Connell answered the call and the defence held strong to end the game with a 3-2 win.
Centre Scott Munro, who had been strong all tournament killing penalties, and his linemates Tyler Clark and Jared Zufelt had their strongest game of the tourney.
Meet Tigers again in final
This put the Cement men in the Regional final on Saturday night and once more came up against the undefeated Welland Tigers.
The Rock was ready despite being an hour behind schedule. Unfortunately, several mishaps outside either team’s control caused a further 45-minute delay while both teams were on the ice for warm-ups.
In the end, the game started with both nets situated on the crease area. Welland had the most chances, but the locals had several chances in the second period.
The powerful Tigers carried a 3-0 lead into the third and never relinquished it. All in all, the Cement men gave a “gutsy” performance, but dropped a 5-0 decision. Van Dam faced more shots than in any other game.
“We are very proud of our team right now,” stated head coach Ken Schiedel. “They played a very strong tournament and played like a team. We just met a very good team in the final.”
“Our defence was strong the entire tournament–right from both goalies to all five defencemen,” commented goalie coach Ernie Little.
Both assistant coaches Rick O’Donnell and Bob Davis felt that the boys are playing a strong team game right now. “With some fine tuning, we should be ready for a successful (OMHA) playoff run,” Davis summed up.