It was over early for the Mooretown Flags in front of a big crowd Sunday night at the Pyramid Rec. Centre.
The Cement ‘BB’ Midgets popped in four first-period goals en route to a well-deserved 4-0 victory over the Flags.
It completed a three-win comeback for Greg Smale’s charges. After losing the first two games of the series on home ice, the Cement men won the next three—including two on back-to-back nights in Mooretown--to claim the best-of-five OMHA quarter-final playoff series 3-2.
“We started out hot tonight, and our powerplay got going,” coach Smale said after the game.
“I can’t say enough about the kids. We were down 2-0 and we lost Mason (Mueller) and Adam (Hyatt) to injury. We had to win two down there to get it back here for Game 5 tonight.
“I would say it’s one of the better comebacks in St. Marys minor hockey history. The kids kept battling and fighting back. It was a heckuva effort by this group of boys.”
St. Marys will now play Caledonia in the provincial semi-finals. That series is expected to begin this coming weekend.
“We haven’t seen much of Caledonia,” Smale said Sunday. “We’ve got some banged-up bodies, that’s what a five-game series will do.
“But six more wins will accomplish our goal. That’s what we’re focused on right now.”
Winner 65 seconds in
In Sunday’s Game 5, Rock captain Lucas Spence scored what proved to be the winner just 65 seconds into the contest. Brody Thompson and defenceman Ben Frehner assisted.
At the 4:30 mark of the first period, goalie Ryan Van Dam made a huge stop on Mooretown to keep his team in front.
Just over three minutes later, the Cement men forced a turnover in the neutral zone and Robert Clifford snapped a high shot past Flags’ goalie Nolan Nicholson. Trent Dundas assisted.
A howitzer from the point by defenceman Haydn Favacho put St. Marys up 3-0 on a powerplay at the 10-minute mark. Assists went to Spence and Luke Goris.
After Mooretown hit a post on a powerplay late in the opening frame, Dundas completed the scoring with just 16 seconds left in the frame. Mason Mueller, just back from injury, made a nice play to Dundas in the slot and the big centreman did the rest.
The strong opening 15 minutes by the Rock seemed to take the starch out of the Flags.
The visitors applied some good pressure early in the second period on a powerplay, but they couldn’t close the gap. Van Dam made the stops all night when called upon.
For the most part, the Cement men played a conservative third period and just run down the clock with a strong forechecking effort.
It was definitely one of St. Marys’ best games in the post-season to date.
St. Marys 5 – Mooretown 1
In Game 4 last Tuesday night in Mooretown, the Cement Midgets jumped on the home-town Flags early.
The Rock opened up a 3-0 lead before the game was nine minutes old and went on to post a 5-1 victory, tying the series 2-2.
After losing the first two games on home ice, the Cement men refused to quit. They won games on back-to-back nights in Mooretown to force Sunday’s deciding game.
“A lot of things really came together down (in Mooretown),” coach Smale pointed out. “Everyone just (approached the games) with a really positive attitude. Everyone was up-beat, and I just kept stressing to the boys to win one period at a time.
“After Game 3 (a 3-2 St. Marys victory), the pressure was now on Mooretown to put us away. They had that on their shoulders.
“They probably regret having the three games in three nights. We are in top shape and stress flow practices with lots of hard skating.
“I think the three games in three nights really hurt Mooretown, but that’s what they wanted to do after the (Feb. 14) snow storm. So it’s on them.”
Goals by forwards Zack Smith, Brody Thompson and Luke Goris staked the Rock to their first-period lead Tuesday night.
“We were all over them right off the bat,” Smale said.
Robert Clifford then gave the visitors a 4-0 advantage just 40 seconds into the middle frame.
An awesome breakaway save by goalie Van Dam at the 3:32 mark kept Flags off the scoresheet.
Mooretown also made a goaltending change midway through the period.
In the last minute of the stanza, Trent Dundas missed on a penalty shot after the centreman had been hauled down on a breakaway.
Thompson added his second of the night at 1:45 of the third, giving the Cement men a commanding 5-0 lead.
Flags finally beat Van Dam at the 5:06 mark to complete the scoring.
Three lines contribute
Coach Smale noted that all three lines contributed to the Game 4 win.
“We just played a really good team game,” he said. “And Van Dam is back; he made some really good saves.
“The kids never gave up,” the coach added. “Even when we were down 2-0 (in the series), it never felt like we were out of it. We got the series back home, and we’re hoping to draw a big crowd Sunday night. Now we just have to finish them off.”
•Sunday was the first time a home team won in the series. The Cement Midgets played a very strong, strategic game.
•Sunday’s game was also a physical affair, with lots of bodies flying around, especially over the first two periods.
•Just a handful of St. Marys players who played extremely well in Sunday’s deciding game were defencemen Haydn Favacho, Tristan Connolly and Lucas Spence, and forwards Robert Clifford, Trent Dundas and Brody Thompson.
It may have been Clifford’s best game in the playoffs, both offensively and defensively.