The Stratford Bantam Warriors,
sponsored by Canadian Tire, won the Alliance Bantam A Championship on Sunday vs
the London Jr. Mustangs Purple. With the victory, the Warriors took the
best-of-seven series 4-1 and will now compete for the Ontario Hockey Federation
(OHF) Championships as the Alliance Hockey representative.
The Warriors hosted the first two games of the series at the William Allman Memorial Arena, winning both games by scores of 4-2 and 3-2, respectively. Goalie Russel Sebben went the distance in game one, facing 18 shots and making several high-quality saves to preserve the Warriors lead and earn the win. Cole Lewis, Jacob Hall, Nole Musselman, and Jonas Schmidt, shorthanded, scored the Warriors goals. Musselman’s marker stood as the series-opener winner.
Curtis Ball earned the win in game two turning aside 24 of 26 shots, including several in the final minutes of the game with the Jr. Mustangs pressing for the equalizer to secure the 3-2 victory. Schmidt with two, including his second shorthanded goal of the series, and Lewis scored the Warriors goals. Schmidt’s second goal stood as the game-winner in game 2.
The Jr. Mustangs hosted the next two games at the Medway Arena. The Jr. Mustangs jumped out to an early 1-0 lead only 1:30 into the game by converting an early opportunity. The Warriors battled back to knot the game at 2-2 headed into the second period intermission, but the Jr. Mustangs converted twice in the final period to take the game 4-2. Sebben made several key saves in the game, turning aside 18 of 22 shots he faced. Nick Houben and Nole Musselman, with his second of the series, scored the Warriors goals in the game.
In game four, the Warriors used their speed to carry much of the play in the opening period, but trailed 1-0 at the end of the frame. In the second, the Warriors scored four unanswered goals to take a 4-1 lead into the second period intermission. The Warriors allowed only four shots on goal in the first two periods, including a 17-1 shot advantage in the second period. Sebben shut the door in the third period to earn the win and give his team the opportunity to take the series back home. Schmidt scored twice, with singles from Houben and Tyler Wager. Schmidt’s second goal stood as the game-winner in game 4.
On Sunday back at the Allman in front of a very supportive pro-Warriors crowd, the Warriors controlled the play in the opening period but neither team could find the back of the net. Warriors Defenseman Matthew Barber opened the scoring in the second period with a power play marker off a laser-shot from the top of the left circle, with Hall and Schmidt adding assists on the goal. The Warriors scored two more times in period, including a breakaway goal from Lewis off a great feed from Houben and Schmidt. With only 1:35 left in the second, the Warriors converted another power play goal, this time from Wagler, assisted by Zach McCann and Barber. The Jr. Mustangs added a power play marker of their own in the period as well, to make it a 3-1 score headed into the final period. Lewis converted a beautiful two-on-one opportunity 5 minutes into the final frame off a Schmidt feed, with Houben starting the play with a great chip feed to Schmidt coming out of the Warriors zone. The Jr. Mustangs added a goal late in the third, but Schmidt added an empty-netter to seal the Warriors victory. Ball was back between the posts for the Warriors and stood tall, turning aside 23 of 25 Jr. Mustangs shots to earn the series clinching win. Wagler’s power play marker stood as the game-winner in the series finale.
The balanced attack that has become a staple for the Warriors all season continued in the Alliance Finals. Hall and Schmidt added 5 assists, Barber with 3, Lewis and Houben with two each, and singles from McCann, Drew Wilken, Ethan Scrimgeour, Anthony Guzvinec, Issac Deline, Caleb Arent, and Aubrey Carter.
The Warriors now head to Temiskaming Shores (New Liskeard, ON) for the OHF Championships, from April 11-14. Other teams at the tournament include the St. Thomas Jr. Stars, Barrie Colts, Hearst-Kamuskasing Regional Express, and host-team Temiskaming Shores Puck Hounds.
NOTES: Sebben and Ball combined for a GAA of 2.40 in the series and both turned in great performances throughout the series; Forward Caleb Arent sat out the final three games of the series with a suspension and will miss the first game of the OHF Championships; Kaden Brame, up from the Minor Bantam team, suited up for the Warriors in games 2-5 and will finish the season with the team and another Minor Bantam Affiliate player, Goalie Thomas Sheldon, has also joined the team and will finish the season with the Warriors; the Warriors have an 18-5-2 record since the beginning of December, including a 9-0-1 record at the William Allman Memorial; many Stratford hockey fans will recognize the name New Liskeard, with former Stratford Jr. B Cullitons, including former Captain Shane Stewart, Kurt and Kyle Flaxey, and Jason Forget making their way from New Liskeard to Stratford; in the series finale, the Warriors had great local support from other Minor Hockey teams, including the SMHA ’07 Minor Peewee team (Alliance Champions) and ’03 Minor Midgets, as well as some Listowel Minor Hockey players in attendance to support Arent and Wilken, two Warriors players from Listowel.