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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Silver in the Silver Stick for PeeWee Minors

submitted to EFP

The Essex Raven PeeWee Minor hockey team was in Owen Sound the first weekend of November for a Silver Stick Regional Qualifier tournament.

The team took to the ice for game one, on Friday morning, against the Innisfil Winterhawks. The Ravens players pressured their opponents, and controlled much of the play, tallying all three goals in the lopsided 3 - 0 win.

That same afternoon, at the home of the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack, the story would not be the same. The West Mall Lightning, of the GTHL, skated end-to-end with Essex. The defence and goaltenders held strong, for both teams, as two and a half scoreless periods passed by. Each team looked for the slightest opening to try to gain an advantage, and it was not until the final two minutes of the game when the first goal was scored. West Mall took a 1-0 lead into the final minute and Essex, with the extra attacker, could not find a chance to tie the game. The Lightning added an empty net goal as insurance.

The Ravens’ next opponent, on Saturday morning, was the Oakville Rangers. The team was a real competitor with two of their players towering over the Essex lineup. That fact did not discourage the Essex boys in the least. With a tenacious effort, Essex was the first team to score a goal mid-way through the second period. Oakville responded a few minutes later, tying the game at one. Again, Essex jumped ahead, scoring two more goals throughout the period. The Rangers never gave in and scored late in the third period. But it was Essex that closed out the match, with a hard fought 3-2 victory.

Essex faced the hometown Owen Sound Jr. Attack for the final round robin game. A win for Essex would secure the number one spot in Pool B, a loss could send the Ravens home early. The pressure did not affect the boys as they jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Strong play all over the ice kept them safely ahead for a final score of 3-1.

As the top seed in pool B, the Ravens were matched up against the Center Wellington Fusion, the second place finishers from pool A. The Fusion pressured the Essex defence early, tallying 15 shots in a period and a half compared to only a handful by the Ravens. Yet, no goals were allowed by either team.

Essex stepped up its determination and put shot after shot on the Center Wellington goalie, but were unable to score. The game went into a five minute four-on-four, and a five minute three-on-three, before it moved into a shootout to determine a winner.

After the first three shooters, for each team, the tie continued with both teams scoring once. An Essex goal by the fourth shooter meant that one more save and Essex would make the finals. The Fusion player skated in from center ice and raised a shot. A quick adjustment by the goalie, a puck off the shoulder and a handful of seconds passed by as the victory for Essex sunk in. The Essex team flooded the ice as the win put Essex into the final.

In the final, Essex, once again, faced the Oakville Rangers. Oakville jumped out to an 2-0 lead before Essex replied, to make the game 2-1. A second goal for Essex was called off as the Ranger goalie covered the puck in the net and quickly pulled it out. It may have been seen by the fans and their cameras, but not the referees. The ensuing face off and break away resulted in a penalty shot awarded to Oakville. The shooter put the Rangers ahead 3-1. Essex scored late in the second period to keep the game close, but Oakville capitalized on a couple of takeaways and an empty net goal within the final two minutes of the third period to put the comeback win out of reach.

The coaches and parents are extremely proud of all of the players as they gave everything they had, game in and game out, to play the best that they could. With the threat of elimination tailing them, the Ravens never cracked under pressure. A true sign of the dedication to each other as teammates. The boys of the Essex Raven PeeWee Minor team continued to surprise and upset their big city rivals with teamwork and friendship both on and off the ice.

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