HAMILTON - Stratford Royal Lepage Hiller Realty Minor Peewee Warriors rode into the Steel City Tuesday night, needing one point to clinch the eight-point series, playing at the Chedoke blue rink where the Huskies lost only two games all season.
Warriors skated to a deserving 3-1 victory over the home team to capture the Alliance Bristol championship.
Huskies escaped a lethal powerplay late in the first period when good puck movement between Jared Lesouder, Mitch LaFay, Aly McLeod, Callum McMann and Josh Dowling was superb, creating multiple scoring chances that were thwarted by the stellar Hamilton goalie.
But the Warriors finally struck first when a determined Raymond Horan took a pass from Adam Monteith high in the Huskies’ zone and fired a shot on net, then drove to the net and potted his own rebound with 12:26 remaining in the second frame. They continued to dominate play into the dying minutes of the period without a second goal when a defensive lapse lead to a dreaded late-period goal against with 1:46 left on the clock.
However, Warriors responded 31 seconds later when Noah Rusen-Steele dropped a pass to LaFay, who fired a low drive that Kaden Eybergen found and deposited into the back of the net.
The goal went right to the Warriors’ legs as they turned up the heat, winning many important puck battles and positioning themselves on the right side of the battles, making it hard for Hamilton to mount much of an answer.
Then, with 10:06 remaining in the game, McLeod out-muscled her man along the boards inside her blue line, then found a seam through the neutral zone for Lesouder, who roared in and fired the third Stratford goal over the goalie’s glove hand.
Defencemen McMann, Dowling, Bryce Lee, Alex Cassone, Cohen Lesouder and Tyler Pogson stepped up huge as the minutes ticked away making it difficult for the Huskies’ forwards to generate chances while Mason Petrie and Adam Windsor continued their tenacious pursuit of the puck.
Starting goalie Carson Knott was steady as a rock and shone brightly with two minutes left in the game when he robbed a Hamilton forward who pounded a rebound toward the open corner with his left pad, putting an exclamation mark on the victory. Back-up on the night Ryan Bell was credited with three victories in the series at home.
The win completed a Cinderella-like playdown run that had the fourth-place Warriors win hard-fought series against the fifth-place London Bandits seven points to three, then the first-place Waterloo Wolves six points to four winning the deciding game in Waterloo, in overtime, before beating the second-place Huskies nine points to five.
Overall, this Warriors team exemplified the saying, “if you think first class, you will be first class” winning and losing throughout the season graciously, noted head coach Steve LaFay.