The SMHA Bantam Jr. Warriors, sponsored by
Canadian Tire, beat the Ontario Minor Hockey
Association (OMHA) Champions St. Thomas Jr. Stars 5-1 to
capture the Ontario Hockey Federation (OHF) Championship, hosted by the
Temiskaming Shores Puck Hounds in New Liskeard, ON this past weekend.
The Warriors entered the Championship final sporting a round-robin record of 3-0-1 and earning the top-seed entering the semifinals. The Jr. Stars earned the second seed, setting up a 1 vs 2 final.
Both teams had won their semi-final contests earlier in the day in overtime thrillers, setting up for a long Championship Sunday. The Jr. Warriors used their speed, explosiveness, and tight-checking style to take 2-0 and 4-0 leads after the first and second periods, respectively, before exchanging goals in the final frame to make it a 5-1 final. Goalie Russel Sebben made several key saves throughout the game to preserve the lead and earn the Championship-game victory. Forwards Cole Lewis lead the charge with four goals and was named game MVP. Jonas Schmidt added the other Jr. Warriors goal. Aubrey Carter set up Lewis’ first goal and had several scoring chances in both Sunday games. Minor Bantam call-up, Kaden Brame, who joined the team for a portion of the Alliance Finals and the OHF Championships, saved his best performances for Sunday and was called on to play all three forward positions throughout the tournament, especially on Sunday.
In the semi-final game on Sunday morning, the Jr. Warriors faced the OMHA Finalists and fourth-seed, Barrie Jr. Colts. The Jr. Warriors scored on the first shift of the game, but the Jr. Colts answered with two goals of their own to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. The teams traded goals in the middle frame, setting the stage for the comeback victory. The Jr. Warriors scored the tying goal midway through the period to knot the game at 3-3 and sending the game into sudden death overtime. With just 2:30 minutes left in the first overtime, game MVP, Jr. Warriors Forward Caleb Arent rushed down the left boards and blasted a wrist shot past the Jr. Colts goaltender to send the fans and Jr. Warriors into a frenzy. Goalie Curtis Ball earned the victory, putting in another impressive performance in net. Schmidt with two, including the game-tying goal, and Lewis with the other Jr. Warriors goals.
In the round-robin portion of the tournament, the Jr. Warriors opened the tournament on Friday morning against the Northern Ontario Hockey Association (NOHA) Finalists, Hearst-Kapuskasing Regional Express. The opening period was fast-paced and full of energy with both teams showing their tremendous skill. The Jr. Warriors scored once to take a 1-0 lead and then added three in the middle period and another two in the final frame before the Regional Express spoiled Ball’s shutout bid with just over two minutes to play to make the final score 6-1. Schmidt fired a hat trick and was selected as game MVP, Tyler Wagler added two, and Cole Lewis the game-winner early in the second.
In the second round-robin game, the Jr. Warriors faced the NOHA Champions and Tournament hosts, Temiskaming Shores Puck Hounds. For the second straight game, the opening period was extremely fast-paced, but this time the goal light was flashing red. The Jr. Warriors scored four times on the opening period, while the Puck Hounds answered with two of their own, including a shorthanded marker. On the Jr. Warriors first goal, forward Nole Musselman set the stage by absorbing a Puck Hounds hit along the side wall in the Jr. Warriors zone to send linemate Wagler down the right wing who finished off the play. The Warriors pulled away in the second period, scoring three more times while the Puck Hounds answered with a single marker. Both teams scored once in the final frame, making it the final 8-4 in favour of the Jr. Warriors. Schmidt, with his second-straight hat trick, paced the offence. Lewis added two goals, while Drew Wilken and Nick Houben added singles. Goalie Russel Sebben was selected as game MVP and despite allowing four goals against, made several spectacular saves against a gifted Puck Hounds team.
In Saturday round-robin action, the Jr. Warriors faced the Jr. Stars in the morning game. The Jr. Warriors scored twice in the opening period, which was enough to earn the victory. Sebben used his quick reflexes and steady positional play to hold the Jr. Stars at a single marker. The defensive corps of Wilken, Issac Deline, Zach McCann, Anthony Guzvinec, and Matthew Barber smothered the Jr. Stars by eliminating time and space for the Jr. Stars forwards. Barber and McCann, with two assists in the tournament, played pivotal roles on the power play and penalty-kill throughout the tournament, especially in the two games vs the Jr. Stars. Schmidt and Houben scored for the Jr. Warriors. Lewis, with two assists, was selected as the game MVP.
The Jr. Warriors had already clinched the top-seed for Sunday, so the Saturday afternoon game vs the Jr. Colts would not impact them in the standings. However, the game proved very costly for the Jr. Warriors. Forwards Ethan Scrimgeour went down with a lower body injury that prevented him from taking any shifts on Sunday, although he dressed and led from the bench. Although Scrimgeour didn’t find the back of the net during the weekend, he had several glorious opportunities and was one of the most determined Jr. Warriors forwards making several key plays and logging key minutes against opponents top scorers, along with critical power play and penalty-kill minutes. Jacob Hall suffered an upper body injury and was able to continue playing, but was in noticeable discomfort despite playing a major physical and offensive roll on Sunday. Hall also added eight assists over the course of the weekend. Then, Guzvinec went feet-first into the end boards while chasing down a Jr. Colts forward on a back check, and had to be carried off the ice on a stretcher, suffering a season-ending ankle fracture. Guzvinec picked up three assists in the tournament and was a +8 rating in the Warriors victory over the Puck Hounds. Lewis with two goals and Deline with one, were the Jr. Warriors scorers in the game. Ball earned the game MVP for the Jr. Warriors by turning aside 29 Jr. Colts shots.
Jonas Schmidt was selected as the OHF tournament MVP for the Jr. Warriors, netting 10 goals in six games. As a line, Schmidt, Lewis and Houben, scored 22 of the Jr. Warriors 28 goals, with Lewis also firing 10 goals. Ball and Sebben allowed only 13 goals against in six games and were a powerful goaltending combination. Deline, Wilken, Arent, Barber, and Hall laid several hard hits throughout the tournament to open up room for the Jr. Warriors forwards. With crafty and speedy players like Carter, Musselman, Wagler, Brame, and Scrimgeour frustrating the opposition all weekend and controlling the play much of the time, the Jr. Warriors goal-scorers in this tournament were able to find the back of the net.
Stratford Major Bantam Warriors: G Russel Sebben and Curtis Ball. D Drew Wilken, Zach McCann, Matthew Barber, Anthony Guzvinec, Issac Deline. F Nole Musselman, Aubrey Carter, Cole Lewis, Caleb Arent, Ethan Scrimgeour, Jacob Hall, Tyler Wagler, Kaden Brame, Jonas Schmidt, Nick Houben. Coaching Staff: Coach Colin Schmidt, Assistant Coaches Blair Clarance, Bill Jennings, Pete Nevidomskis, and Paul Carter.