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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Score, win, and repeat for a Sliver Stick Championship

Pictured above are: Back Row: Parker Deshaies, Luke Market, Ethan Brockman, Tyler Vriesema, Josh Bleau, Brayden Hurley, and Parker Wuerch. Middle Row: Evan Heath, Isaac Gelinas, Kadyn Ellis. Cody Chauvin, Eddie Hickson. Front Row: Keegan Carswell, Mitchell Hickson, Riley Zanier, and Dominic De Zorzi. Coaches: Jarrod Dent, Mark Ellis, Bryan Hickson, Brian Wuerch, and Mark Bleau.

submitted to EFP

The Essex Ravens PeeWee Minor team competed in the International Silver Stick tournament, January 10 to the 13, in Newmarket, Ontario. The slate of teams participating was formidable, having finished with gold or silver medals in one of the many Silver Stick qualifying tournaments held earlier this season.

The tournament kicked off Thursday night against the Oakville Rangers. The Ravens controlled the entire ice surface for most of the match, much to the chagrin of the Oakville players. Essex held a two goal lead late into the third period when the Rangers pulled their goalie for the man advantage, eventually breaking through with only twenty-seven seconds left in the game. The game ended in a 2 - 1 victory for Essex.

Friday morning pitted the Ravens against the hometown Newmarket Redmen. Essex jumped out quickly to a 3 - 0 lead, only to see the resilient Redmen claw their way back to even, tying the game at three. Though the Ravens may have bent, they did not break. Regaining the momentum, Essex scored the go-ahead goal in the third period, and held off any further attempts by Newmarket, winning the game 4 - 3.

The afternoon game that day was the toughest of the round robin. Both Essex and its playdown rivals, the St. Thomas Junior Stars, were undefeated after two games. The game started out in a flurry, and Essex quickly found itself down three goals by the end of the first period. As the Essex nerves settled, so did the play on the ice. The Ravens limited the Star’s chances, but never fully recovered. The 5 - 1 loss was difficult, but it would serve as motivation for the boys from Essex for the remainder of the tournament.

The final round-robin game was against the Big Boy Hockey Club from Michigan. Determined to forget the loss from the previous day, Essex threw shot-after-shot at the Big Boy goalie and gave little opportunity to its opponents. The game ended in a 5 - 0 win for the Ravens.

Although reaching the semi-finals is an accomplishment in itself, the Essex Ravens wanted more. Finishing second in Pool B, Essex was slated to play the top seeded team from Pool A, the Orillia Terriers. The game began as expected, with equal play across the ice. Essex tallied the first two goals and Orillia scored the third. A trading of goals in the third period had the Ravens maintain the lead and win the semi-final game 3 - 2.

The St. Thomas Junior Stars were the Raven’s final opponent for the championship. The defeat in their previous matchup did not diminish the determination of the Essex team, but actually fuelled their fire even more. Following the puck drop, Essex quickly settled into the game, forcing turnovers and limiting opportunities, however, St. Thomas was the first to strike on a loose puck in front of the Essex net. The Ravens’ players replied, a few minutes later, with a goal of their own and the first period ended, 1 - 1.

The second period was a display of a coaching chess match, as each team negated the others’ attempts through line matching and defensive strategy. St. Thomas took the lead again, but the Ravens responded less than a minute later, tying the game, 2 - 2, to end the period.

Time ticked away slowly through the third period as the tension continued to rise. Each shot became more important, each pass had to be a little sharper, and each mistake could cost a team dearly. Near the six minute mark of the third, St. Thomas made one of those mistakes. Essex capitalized on a turnover near the Star’s blueline, broke away towards the net, and lifted a shot over the goalie’s blocker arm. The tie had been broken and Essex took the lead for the first time in the game.

Emotions were running high for both teams as St. Thomas fought its way into the Essex zone, pulling the goalie for an extra attacker, with just under two minutes remaining. The Essex team played as a unit to stymie the attempts of St. Thomas. The game on the ice became more physical as the Stars received a major penalty on a dangerous hit. The expectant fans counted down the remaining seconds and, as the final buzzer sounded, pandemonium broke out amongst the Essex players, who flooded the ice to gather together as Silver Stick champions, winning the game, 3 - 2.

It was an amazing feat to see this team of determined hockey players defeat the OMHA champion St. Thomas Junior Stars. This group of Essex Ravens players captured their second International Silver Stick championship, 2016-2017 and 2018-2019, in true heroic fashion. Their dedication to their coaches and each other is a testament to their hard work and friendship. They truly are an amazing group of kids. The team now turns their attention to the playdowns. The matchup against Erie North Shore is set for the upcoming days. Go get ‘em Ravens.

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