The Midget Kings bring home the first Tournament championship of the year for PECMHA.
On Friday December 2nd the Ainsworth Funeral Home Midget Kings made the long trek to Parry Sound to play in the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame Classic Midget Tournament.
Game 1 pitted the Kings against the Penetang Flames. Whether it was the long drive or the excitement of the Corey Algar Invitational Mini Stick Showcase Friday night in the hotel, the team came out flat and quickly found themselves down early. Algar on an unassisted effort would tie the game before the end of the first period however the Flames would get 2 goals in the third to take a 3-1 lead. Cole St. Pierre from Braedan Kelly and Ethan Ashley would get the Kings to within a goal, however despite a furious late rally the County boys were unable to get the equalizer and would fall 3-2. To compound matters the team lost Hunter VanVlack to a tournament ending shoulder injury early in the first period.
Saturday morning the Kings faced the strong home side from Parry Sound. Again the Kings gave up an early goal and found themselves having to battle back from behind. Ben Clarke made a number of big-time saves while his teammates tried to find their legs but eventually the Shamrocks built a 4-0 lead. Andrew Ward from Chase Eaton and Kelly would get the Kings on the board late however the 4-1 loss put their backs firmly against the wall.
Facing a must win scenario in Game 3 the Kings took on the unbeaten St. Mary’s Rock. The first period saw a number of chances at both ends but the game remained scoreless until the final minute when the Rock would open the scoring. Chase Lavender moonlighting as a forward would get the Kings on the board early in the second from Riley Young and Trevor Miller. A minute later St.Mary’s restored their 1 goal lead and the Kings trailed until the 2 minute mark of the second stanza when Ashley scored an absolute beauty from Wyatt Gilbert and Miller. This seemed to fuel the boys and Andrew Ward would put them ahead just before the end of the second from Miller and Andrew Foster. Turns out Ward was just getting started as he would complete the hat trick with 2 third period goals from Kelly and Eaton and Ashley and Kelly literally carrying the boys to a 5-2 victory and at least a chance at the quarter finals Sunday morning. After some tense scoreboard watching the Kings snuck into the next round and a quarter final date with the #1 seed Listowel Cyclones.
Sunday morning’s game was everything you’d expect in an elimination match up as both sides were flying and traded numerous scoring chances. There was no scoring until early in the third when the Cyclones finally slipped one past Kings’ goaltender Carter Whitteker putting the County boys behind for the 4th straight game. The Kings remained undaunted however and continued to pressure the Cyclones and were rewarded when with just under 5 minutes left in the period Walker DeRoche banged in a loose puck to even things at 1. Young and Eaton drew assists. Despite a couple of great chances neither team were able to pot the winner in regulation so off to overtime they went. The tournament format saw teams play 2 minute periods of 3 on 3 sudden death with no substitutions during the 2 minutes. Both sides had odd man rushes that led to scoring opportunities but after no scoring in the first 90 seconds it appeared as though a second OT period would be necessary. However DeRoche had other ideas and the Rosehall Rocket would pick the puck up just inside his own blue line before racing up the ice and snapping the winner over the shoulder of the Cyclones goalie with 30 seconds to spare in the first OT frame.
The exciting OT victory setup a semi-final match-up with the Dunnville Mudcats. For the first time in the tourney the Kings would get on the board first as Wyatt Gilbert after getting a pretty pass from Cole St. Pierre would race in alone and deposit a beauty past the Mudcats goaltender. After Dunnville tied it at 1 that combo along with some help from Ashley would put the Kings back up 2-1 before the end of the first when Gilbert converted a gorgeous 3 way passing play. The second period would see no scoring despite the Kings having numerous chances at extending their lead. Whitteker took over in the third making big save after big save until Eaton allowed the Kings supporters to breathe a sigh of relief when he scored an empty netter at the buzzer with help from Ward.
The final saw the Kings again face the host Shamrocks with redemption on their minds after the 4-1 pasting they had received on Saturday. Perhaps energized from the 2 big wins earlier in the day the County squad came out flying and were rewarded 5 minutes in when St. Pierre opened the scoring from Gilbert and Ashley. 2 minutes later the same trio would send the large hometown crowd into a state of shock this time Gilbert being the triggerman with his third of the day from St. Pierre and Ashley. Sensing the 2 goals may be enough the Kings reverted into a bit of a defensive shell. Having already earned the “Mr. Parry Sound” moniker from a stellar performance at a bantam tournament up north 4 years prior, Whitteker was more than up to the task of preserving the victory. The host team managed to get one past him 3 minutes into the third but time and time again the Shamrock shooters were left shaking their heads as the third year Kings netminder came out of nowhere to keep pucks out of what appeared to be a wide open net. With just under 2 minutes left Parry Sound would pull their goalie however the Kings defensive zone coverage clamped down and victory was preserved.
The long trip home was certainly much sweeter having secured a victory in what very well could be the last tournament for the 7 third year players on the Kings roster. The coaching staff is confident this will help propel the squad to a strong finish to the regular season and a lengthy playoff run.