Bantam AE Season - From Face-Off to Playoffs, News, Bantam AE ('99-'00), 2013-2014 (St. Thomas Minor Hockey)

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Bantam AE Season - From Face-Off to Playoffs
Submitted By Harry Cosgrove on Wednesday, March 26, 2014
What a season! I was just recounting all of my previous coaching experiences and I can truly say that this one has been the most challenging so far.

The season started off with the knowledge that we would be two skaters short and that everyone who attended our tryout would make the team.  There were only 13 skaters and 2 goalies.  No need for cutting players, watching to see which player fits best with others, who is going to play defence and forward.  These were the guys, take it or leave it.


With that said, we had two goalies, four very capable defencemen and the rest we could organize into 3 forward lines. Not a big deal.  We taught them our simple defensive system and they took to it right away.  We played two exhibition games against the London Bandits MD team consisting mostly of Major aged players and lost both but then they reeled off 7 wins, 2 ties and 2 losses in their first 11 games of the regular season.  Both of those losses came in back to back games against a strong Ilderton goalie, but all-in-all a strong start to the season.


We then played back-to-back tournaments (St Thomas and SSE Wild) with poor results. This would be a common theme unfortunately as the boys never seemed to be able to step up and win the big games.


When the team did return to league play, they dominated once again by winning five games, tying Ilderton and losing to Strathroy before the end of the calendar year.  It was clear that the Shamrock Bantam AE league was a four horse race with us, Strathroy, Dorchester and even Ilderton all pulling away from the rest of the pack.


It was at this point that the injury bug struck and hit hard losing one player for the balance of the season, another for an extended period which would send the boys into a bit of a tailspin.  Already being short two skaters to start the season meant some line juggling, moving of players into unfamiliar positions and more ice time to others.


We played in the North London Blue & White tournament to open 2014 and began with a 5-1 win over the Hamiton Hub Spitfires.  Unfortunately, the boys followed that up with a 4-2 loss to Dorchester which left us in a win to advance situation versus the West London Hawks.  A team who we lost 5-0 to back on November 15th in our home tournament.  The boys fought back late in that game to defeat West London by a score of 3-2 and advance to the semi-finals.  Again though, the boys left their “A” game at home and we lost to the tournament hosts North London Natioanls by a score of 7-3.


The regular season was winding down and with only 2 games left to play, one versus Dorchester and one versus Mooretown, the boys would have to win both to capture first place in the league over either Dorchester or Strathroy and they were going to have to get help from other teams to do so. The team lost the first game to Dorchester by a score of 2-0 and then beat Mooretown by the same score and ended the season in 3rd place behind Dorchester and Strathroy. Our record was 13-4-3 with the only four loses coming to Ilderton, Dorchester and Strathroy.  Two ties versus Dorchester and one against Ilderton.


Playdowns began at the end of January and we had to face the Merritton Bulldogs from St Catharines.  A team who was relatively close to us in terms of My Hockey Rankings but with one player away on vacation and yet another still suffering from injury our team would have to work extra hard in order to come away with their wins.  Game 1 was a heartbreaking 2-0 loss at home followed by a disappointing 5-2 loss in St Catharines and the Bulldogs wrapped things up with a 2-1 win in St Thomas.  Not the way we had planned it, but again, the team was battling adversity the best way they could.


Being knocked out of the OMHA Playdowns means a couple things, one of which is that you have to wait around to play another meaningful hockey game.  So, at the end of February the team set out for Detroit and the Motown Cup.  With a combination of rust and being challenged to win big games when it counted, the team stumbled to a 2-2 tie versus the Johnstown Jets from Pennsylvania, and a 4-1 loss versus the Trenton Thrashers from Michigan.  The boys needed a win to advance to the final and despite a strong push near the end of the game the boys lost 3-2 to the eventual tournament winners from Tecumseh.


Heading back home for the Shamrock A Pool finals meant waiting for a loser of the OMHA Playdown round between the top two Sharmrock teams, Dorchester and Strathroy.  In an almost shocking turn of events Dorchester beat Strathroy in overtime of game 5 by a score of 1-0 to advance in their Playdown run which meant we would then face Strathroy.


Game 1 of the finals was played in Strathroy and the team skated to a 3-1 loss. Game 2 was played back at home and the boys played inspired hockey beating Strathroy for the first time since October 3rd by a score of 5-2.  Home ice for Strathroy meant another 3-1 win and they were one win away from clinching the championship.  The series shifted back to St Thomas for Game 4 and our boys fell behind 1-0 immediately after a missed scoring opportunity at the other end.  The team seemed determined not to let this get them down and quickly responded with 4 unanswered goals going into the second period flood.  A little over-confidence led to Strathroy putting up 2 goals late in the third.  They pulled their goalie for the equalizer but our team kept the Rockets at bay and held onto the 4-3 win setting up Game 5 back in Strathroy.


Right from the opening face-off you could tell this was going to be an intense game.  Strathroy came out skating hard and being physical but the team refused to let this bother them.  The first period saw both teams trade scoring opportunities and it seemed that neither team wanted to make any mistakes.  The second period was physical as well and unfortunately we lost another player to injury.  Down to 7 forwards, some serious line juggling began.  The play was quick at times, scrambled at other times, one team would control the play and then the other.  It was a hard fought period and while both teams had scoring chances I have a biased opinion that we had more and better opportunities.  Yet, no one scored and we were tied at 0-0 after two periods.  The boys returned to the changeroom to wish our player good luck as he left to go to the hospital to get his shoulder checked out.  The boys still seemed pretty loose and ready to take on the third period.  Again the play was back and forth but then just over a minute into the third Strathroy struck to make it 1-0.  The boys seemed to be devastated.  All this effort, with no result yet.  There had to be a break somewhere and just over 5 minutes later a break came in the form of a fortunate goal by Josh Hare.  We were back in the game.  Again, chances were traded but with 4 minutes remaining Josh struck again to put us in the lead 2-1.  The clock seemed to run much slower as we watched.  Unfortunately with just over 2 minutes remaining #14 for Strathroy struck again to tie things up.  The last two minutes were almost frantic but no one scored.  A ten minute, sudden death overtime would have to be played.  Our 7 forwards, 4 defence and solid goaltender mustered up all they could and set out to try to win this thing.  I counted at least 5 glorious scoring opportunities during the overtime, but again we could not put the puck in the net.  Then it happened.  With just over two minutes remaining in overtime #14 from Strathroy sealed our fate with his third goal of the game.  It was a heart-wrenching loss and the boys were understandably upset.


To summarize, I believe these boys did the best they could give their circumstances.  Playing most of the season with a limited roster, dealing with injuries, and losing players at key times certainly didn’t help.  Our final record was 18 wins – 21 losses – 4 ties.

I want to thank Rob May our Manager / Trainer for his efforts this year.  He was a busy guy both on and off the ice and did a fantastic job to be on top of everything.  I also want to thank Andrew Wood and Thomas Cosgrove for helping out at our practices and finally to my Assistant Coach - Ryan Gray who has been with me for the past three seasons.


Ryan and I are packing up our whistles and calling it a day, but I hope that this group of players carry on with hockey for as long as they can.  It’s a great past time and I can truly say I have fully enjoyed all of my coaching experiences over the years.  It would have been great to go out with a win but I do know that all of the boys gave everything they had right until the end and that is all a coach can ask for.


Good luck to all next year and enjoy your summer… (if it ever gets here)

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