PARKHILL - The Searles Chevrolet 'BB' Novices discovered at the Regional Silver Stick tournament here this past weekend that it is possible to play one of your best games of the year despite getting shut out.
In going winless in three valiant attempts, the highlight game was undoubtedly the Saturday afternoon contest against LaSalle Sabres, an AA-calibre team who wound up losing to London in the tournament final.
Searles out-played the Goliathian opponents in every facet of the game except the scoreboard, which read 1-0 at the final buzzer.
"Going in, we knew we were going to face three teams from centres significantly larger than St. Marys (London, Windsor and Woodstock), but that is something beyond our control," coach Reid Dundas said.
"We played our best hockey and returned home another notch better in every respect. We could not have been more proud of the effort put forth and the class with which our team performed.
"It was a credit to our players to hear from the tournament convener that our battle with LaSalle was the best game of the tournament."
Woodstock 3 St. Marys 1
Despite the bubble-burster with LaSalle ending just three hours earlier, Searles played with strong legs and determination, dominating the Navy Vets in every category except in putting the puck across the goal line.
Tristan Connolly won a battle along the boards in the second period to free up the puck to a hustling Brandon Kittmer, who fed Trent Dundas for his team-leading 36th goal of the season.
Defencemen Haydn Favacho and Zack Jacobs reached a new height of calmness and confidence, while Johnny Olar gave a solid effort between the pipes. April Clark pinballed her way to being named game MVP.
LaSalle 1 St. Marys 0
Searles Novices' melioration was never more evident than this fast-paced affair, despite being kept off the scoreboard for the first time all season.
Robert Clifford and Eric Gras continually thwarted the Sabres' offensive charges, while St. Marys created several chances themselves, with opportunists Lucas Spence and Mason Mueller leading the way.
But LaSalle's clogging defence and stingy goalie never relented, chalking up their second of four shutouts over the weekend.
Netminder Jordan Kats stood on his head to keep Searles in the game, easily justifying his game MVP award.
London Thunder 8 St. Marys 2
This contest was much closer than the score indicates as the speedy Thunder exploded for four goals over the final four minutes to break it wide open.
After London took a 2-0 lead, Jaxon Valcke stole the puck behind the London net and spoon fed it to Nate Smith to halve the lead with his 21st goal of the campaign.
Even though Searles played their strongest during the second period, the Thunder managed to score twice and take a 4-1 advantage into the third.
Clark battled a couple of giants and Rhett O'Hara swiftly re-directed her pass to a streaking Dundas, who bulged the twine to make it 4-2, but that was as close as the Rock would come.
Dundas deservingly won the game MVP award.
Upcoming- Searles Novices' record now stands at 12-11 and they face a busy week on the road, taking on Dorchester Tuesday and then heading down to Forest on Thursday.