The Cement ‘BB’ Major Midgets are back, and they own a four points to two lead in their six-point OMHA quarter-final playoff series with Tillsonburg Tornadoes.
In front of a big crowd Sunday night at the Pyramid Centre, the Rock skated to a deserving 3-0 victory to move to within one win of the provincial semi-finals. The Cement men scored a goal in each period, and goalie Andy O’Connell earned the shutout and was solid throughout in the pivotal third game of the series.
Game 4 goes tonight (Feb. 20) in Tillsonburg, starting at 9:15 p.m. If necessary, Game 5 is Sunday in St. Marys at 7 o’clock.
Two for Swan in Game 3
In a fast-paced, hard-checking Game 3 Sunday, centre Greg Swan provided the early offence for St. Marys.
Swan opened the scoring at 2:58 of the first period from defenceman Lucas Spence. The goal would stand up as the game winner.
With just over five minutes remaining in the second period, centre Scott Munro had a glorious chance while killing a penalty. He forced Tornadoes’ goalie Patrick Tanner to make a huge stop from point-blank range.
Shortly after, O’Connell made a nice glove grab to keep the Rock in front, while the two teams played four aside.
Undisciplined penalties got Tillsonburg in trouble late in the middle frame. The visitors were nailed with three consecutive penalties, and Swan made them pay at 13:17 when he connected with a high shot from the slot. Braiden Weston and defenceman Jamie Gibson assisted on Swan’s fourth of the series.
With a 2-0 lead, the Cement men did a great job of forechecking in the third and keeping Tornadoes hemmed in their own end. The home team played a smart, disciplined 15 minutes of hockey, taking just one minor penalty in the final period.
Centre Bayley Boyes also tacked on an insurance goal at 8:08, finishing off an original two-on-one break. Assists went to linemates Mike Stover and Rhett Lucas.
“We worked hard and it was a good team effort,” coach Ken Schiedel said. “When we pressure them, they make mistakes.”
Assistant Bob Davis said “tenacious” forechecking was a key to the win.
“We never let them get started,” Davis said. “We moved our feet, we kept our man in the high slot, we cycled the puck, and we drove to the net. Those are the four things we did really well tonight.
“We’ve played excellent in back-to-back games these last two nights,” he added.
And goaltender O’Connell also received praise from the coaching staff.
“Andy played great tonight,” goalie coach Ernie Little said. “He reminded me of his grandfather (Brian O’Connell).”
Different team shows up
After their mediocre performance in the series opener, it was a different Cement Midget team that showed up in Tillsonburg Saturday for Game 2 of their quarter-final.
This time, the Rock came ready to play and were firing on all cylinders. Tenacious forechecking by all three lines kept Tornadoes off balance all game. The locals showed their speed time after time, with several two and three-way passing plays.
Goalie Ryan Van Dam stood strong in the net and was helped by a confident and solid defensive corps. Play was fast and physical, with several penalties to both teams in the first period.
The Cement men finally got on the scoreboard late the first period. It was one of several beautiful passing plays starting with Kyle Spence working to get the puck to Braiden Weston. Weston created the first of three excellent scoring plays when he then found Greg Swan in front and Swan made no mistake.
Early in the middle frame, Swan put the puck on Robert Clifford’s stick and he found the mesh. St. Marys went up 3-0 just 40 seconds later when Weston fed Swan for a second time.
Tornadoes called a time-out at this point to try and regroup. It stopped the barrage of goals, but not the Rock’s aggressive attack. Tillsonburg did get on the scoreboard late in the second, before the break.
The third was all Rock as they controlled the play in the offensive zone and were able to clear their own defensive zone regularly. Weston made his third set-up pass early in the period to Rhett Lucas, who made it 4-1. St. Marys had several near misses as the period wore down, but that would be the end of the scoring.
“I was very pleased with the team effort and our aggressive forechecking tonight,” head coach Schiedel said. “We took away their time and space, and never let them really get on track. It was a solid effort by the entire team.”
First-period goal stands up
In the series opener last Wednesday night at the PRC, a first-period goal stood up as the game winner as Tillsonburg played a strong defensive game and claimed a 1-0 victory.
The teams came out and set a good opening pace, with Tornadoes–a good-sized club–electing to take the body every chance they could.
The only goal of the contest came at the 10:35 mark, with the teams playing four aside. Tillsonburg’s Kyle Sinden was the marksman.
Early in the second period, goalie Andy O’Connell made a couple of difficult close-range stops to keep St. Marys in the game.
Late in the middle frame, the Cement men applied good pressure on two consecutive powerplay chances, but couldn’t convert.
With 3:11 remaining in the third, O’Connell again came up big with a game-saving stop. The Rock goaltender was pulled for an extra attacker in the final minute, but the locals didn’t threaten.
The Tillsonburg defence showed good poise with the puck, and didn’t make a glaring mistake in their own end all night. The Cement men, meanwhile, appeared to be a little out-of-sync the entire game. They didn’t play with their usual confidence.
Tornadoes’ goalie Patrick Tanner earned the shutout. The visitors took five of the eight minor penalties.
“We seemed to struggle with our focus in this game,” Rock assistant coach Rick O’Donnell said. “We were never into a good flow like we usually are.
“I think the effort was there, but it was not very efficient or productive. I know we can play better.”
• Tillsonburg eliminated New Hamburg and Caledonia in earlier playoff rounds.