COLLINGWOOD - St. Marys Rock emerged as the winners at a Regional Silver Stick qualifying tournament here over the weekend and now look forward to the International playdowns for Silver Stick in Pelham in January.
With a tinge of regret, the Rutherford Group-sponsored team had to miss school on Friday and travelled to Collingwood for a morning game against Saugeen Shores Storm.
Bench boss Jay Armstrong was hoping for sharp play despite the hour and goalie Hunter Bodenham certainly answered that call. Scoring early always helps the cause and towering centre Colin Allman’s slap shot had the Storm defencemen cringing and the twine bulging.
The tone set, the Rock played well both in both ends, with strong powerplay and penalty-killing units. Newly-minted winger Sean Rae got to show off a blistering slap shot of his own on a well-executed 2-on-1 at the end of the period.
Play was a bit rough in the second but Brandon Edgar, in keeping with the season, was giving as well as receiving. Stephen Williams scored the only marker of the second on a nice pass from behind the net by Kevin Armstrong.
In the third, it was Armstrong’s hard wrist shot from the hashmarks that scored the only point. Crisp line changes by doormen Barry Stone and Pete Frehner kept the legs fresh throughout and the Rock had the good start they had hoped for.
Following check-in at the hotel, the evening match-up was with Midland Centennials.
This team would put up more than a fair-to-middlin’ effort but it was burley winger John Sterkenburg who sent a sharp wrist shot toward the Centennials net and it trickled in.
Soon afterwards, Eric Stone’s forechecking paid dividends in a turnover and he capitalized on a five-hole zinger to go up 2-0. Midland gained one back before the close of the first period, but it was the second that got a little feisty.
Eventually, the opposition tied the score on a multi-rebound scramble in the crease. The third saw the lead returned on a hard point shot by Will Thomson that found its way. Ben Frehner, in particular, was sharp on the blue line through the third as Midland mounted numerous attacks.
Very late in the period, a failed clearing effort led to a deep turnover and a tying goal, so the Rock settled for a 3-3 tie.
Face former SMMHA goalie
Next up was the Saturday game against the host Collingwood Blackhawks, featuring former Rock Kurtis Gibson, son of long-time SMMHA faithful Don Gibson, in net.
Cole Campbell must have had a good sleep as he was a forechecking force in the first period, energetically forcing several turnovers. It was the Blackhawks, though, who started the scoring on a rebound put-in on the glove side.
Leveling the score soon after was centreman Nolan Pearson, who sniped a quick shot over Gibson’s glove side. That would prove to be the last tally as these two teams seemed to play a pretty balanced game, and both settled for the 1-1 tie.
Team more energized
Saturday night’s semi-final saw a more energized group than Midland experienced the day prior. Bodenham came up with a huge save early on to set the tone; the Midland goalie was not so fortunate. Remco Scheele squirted the puck free from a scrum at centre ice and Pearson streaked around the defence and broke in for a flashy first goal of the game.
Linemate Armstrong added a goal with a blue-line wrist shot that fooled the goalie to end the period. Picking up where he left off, Armstrong added another, a shorthanded tally, early in the second.
The Rock rolled to a 4-0 cushion, with Allman tallying as well. At the other end, Bodenham pulled off several acrobatic saves to keep Midland from gaining any traction at all.
In the third, Jordan Balfour trapped the puck on the blue line and fed Allman for his second of the game, and the Rock cruised into Sunday’s final with the 5-0 win.
Home-town team Collingwood emerged as the other finalists and the Rock were determined to be a little ‘inconsiderate’ as guests to their hosts.
Jittery and nervous play early cost a goal on a defensive flub, but defensive coordinator Mark O’Keefe calmed down his charges. At the other end, Pearson fed Allman in the slot for the tying goal on a big wrist shot from the high slot.
Netminder Bodenham sharp
Bodenham was playing a spectacular game in the blue paint and allowed his gunners to play with confidence. Play was pretty even until midway and then the Rock began to roll.
Right after a Pearson goal was awarded and then rescinded, Armstrong made it a sure one to go up 2-1. Stephen Williams found Stone in the slot and he sailed a hard wrister over the blocker of the Black Hawks’ netminder.
Immediately after, Bodenham scooped a trickling puck off the goal line, defender Jake Little came up with a clutch stick check and then drew a retaliatory penalty from the frustrated Collingwood winger. On the ensuing PP, Kurtis O’Keefe lofted a point shot past the other Kurtis for a 5-1 lead.
Injured James Armstrong skated on for a five-second shift, just long enough to skate to the slot and drive a slap shot home. Colin Allman finished it off with a crowd-pleasing breakaway and deke goal for the final nail.
Final score: St. Marys 6, Collingwood 1.
As important to coach Jay Armstrong and Ken Williams as the outcome though, was the opposition, the refs and even the hotel staff complimenting the team for their respectful play and behaviour while in this tournament.
Team sponsor John Rutherford was very happy to attend the final and congratulated the boys on a job well done at the banner-awarding ceremony.