Long Road to Silverstick Championship, News (Mitchell Minor Hockey)

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Midget Rep - Long Road to Silverstick Championship
Submitted By Chris Vogels on Sunday, November 18, 2018
The annual Regional Silverstick Tournament Championship is never an easy one for anyone to capture.  As our Mitchell Meteors would demonstrate, even a slow start out of the gate doesn't have to get a team down.  If they can regroup and refocus, it is still possible to take the longer, more difficult road to Sunday afternoon's game.

The Larry Hudson Chevrolet-Buick-GMC Meteors took part in the Regional Silverstick Tournament in Wingham/Blyth over the past week beginning with a game Tuesday night.  It looked as though the boys had mailed it in early tonight as they were sluggish out of the gate and found themselves down 3-0 to Hanover Barons before the game was 10 minutes old.  This would be a feisty one and see many infractions called on both teams thoughout the match.  In the second period things would level out and the boys settled down.  However it wasn't until after the flood in the third period that Zach Dow would break the seal and pot a couple of nice goals to make the game closer. There were many chances generated but it seemed nobody could find the handle and bury them. Crossbars, posts and good pressure - but too little too late and Mitchell would run out of time & lose the opener 4-2.  

In the second game on Thursday night against Goderich Sailors, our boys would enter knowing they would have to come out stronger - and they did.  Eidt set up Dow early to open up the scoring in the opening frame.  Once the second period began, the Meteors continued to bring the pressure and significantly outshot the Sailors without much to show for on the scoreboard - other than a favourable shot count, more crossbars, posts and uncapitalized chances.  Eventually Logan Harmer would double the lead midway thought the frame by ripping a pass from Gettler from netminder James Vink.  Despite the Meteors' pressure, Goderich did not give up and just before the end of the 2nd, the Sailors cut the lead in half going into the break.  The mood changed in the third when Goderich buried a quick one which seemed to set our boys back on their heels for much of the remainder of the game.  While we did generate some great scoring chances, there were also some significant breakdowns and chances became more balanced.  Mitchell would head home fortunate to have survived the Sailors' pressure and take the tie when they had really been looking for a win. In addition, not only did they lose the lead, but they would see Eidt relegated to the stands and become their key master and official stick-waxer for the rest of the tournament.

After the first two games were complete, the Saturday games were posted and Mitchell found themselves seeded 9th out of 11th positions - meaning they would have to play extra games and take the more difficult path to their goal.  Now it was time to win - or go home again from this tournament without the championship banner.  So they had some great group chats overnight and came together with a plan to right the ship into the right direction.  Now it was win or go home.  Saturday morning would be early and the Meteors were matched up against the 8th place Walkerton Capitals in the smaller Blyth arena.  The lines were slightly shuffled and Horan moved up from D shifting McLean into Eidt's spot on Dow's wing.  It seemed to be magical as the new formed line would generate all the points in this game.  Dow started the scoring late in the first with the other two setting things up.  He would add an identical goal to Mitchell's lead in the final minute of the opening period with McLean and McCorkindale getting credit again.  Walkerton would break Kari's shutout bid early in the second, but Zach converted Cal's pass into a rocket where Drew would tip the puck past the Capital's netminder to restore their two goal lead later in the frame.  Minutes later Mclean cleaned up a loose rebound off Dow's initial shot (shorthanded) and sent the Meteors to the flood up by three.  The third period would see more solid defensive plays from the D men (McMann, Gettler, Richardson, Heitima and Vink) and crisp passes to break out of their own end.  Kari shut the door and the forwards had quality chances off of posts crossbars and solid Capital goaltending too.  The 4-1 final score would set up a rematch with the #1 seed Hanover Barons later in the day.

Saturday afternoon's rematch of game 1 would see the boys get their chance to revenge their poor play in game 1 and show the Hanover Barons what they could really do.  The first period would see Dow open the scoring once again with assists to Richardson and Mclean just over a minute into the game - setting the tone early.  L Harmer would take a nice pass from Catalan and Horan only 3 minutes later to bring more confidence to the bench and the quick tempo of the game was set.  The second period would see no scoring but plenty of pressure from all three lines, fantastic defensive plays from the defense and Vinker was sharp in net making some outstanding saves to keep the wicket rubber free.  The fast pace continued into the third and Dow would pot his 2nd goal (unassisted) in the dying minutes.  Moments later Catalan would take a nice bank pass up the boards from Vogels and make a nifty move inside the blue line to free himself from the Baron defender just enough to hit the empty net and close off an exciting 4-0 win - sending them to semi-finals Sunday morning.

After a short break between games, the #2 seed Twin Centre Stars would be the Meteors' next hurdle.  Knowing it was going to be another tough game, Mitchell had to stick to their plan and the coaches appeared to be just as nervous as the players.  Right from the drop of the opening puck drop the pressure was even at both ends and netminders were fantastic, defencemen were calm and forwards pressured the puck in and around both nets with quality chances at either end.  The opening 8 minutes whizzed by with no penalties, few whistles and no goals until once again Zach would open the scoring with credit going to both Richardson and McCorkindale late in the first.  The second and third periods would see this change and special teams played important roles.  Mid-way through the 2nd Logan, would double the score with a beauty wrister cleaning up Ray's initial shot and the 2nd assist going to Declan.  After the intermission, Mitchell continued to play great hockey.  Seeing the net empty at the other end, there was a scramble around Kari and with 39 seconds left in the game, the Stars would end his shutout bid and put incredible pressure on the Meteors.  However, the Mitchell boys never broke stride and finished out the period to capture their 2-1 win and a berth to the Finals where they would see a common Silverstick Opponent there - #4 seed Listowel!

Over the years, teams tend to find themselves up against a familiar opponent whom seem to always cause them grief.  This would not be the first Silverstick game where these two teams would meet up.  However, Mitchell had always found themselves short on goals at the end of the past games.  Determined to change this fact, nerves would have to settle down and everyone would have to yet again come to play despite this being their 6th game of the tournament.  All of the players were banged up, bumped and bruised - but the young men were pumped for this game (the last Silverstick opportunity for many of these boys).  This game was intense for the entire 3 periods with quality chances from so many angles and players.  Once again Mitchell opened the scoring - this time it was McLean and his magical scoring touch continued as he tipped McMann's point shot past the Cyclone goalie midway through period number one.  However, the Cyclones were not going to simply lay down and hand things over.  Early in the 2nd period they would tie things up and set the score back to even.  However, less than 4 minutes later Vogels bumped the puck loose in the corner and R Harmer drove to the net and snuck it in the short side to restore the one goal lead - with plenty of time left in the game.  Other than the standard minor infractions in this game (and another TMM penalty for Meteors), this game was a clean & mostly friendly - yet competitive match throughout all three frames. With the clock winding down in the second and the boys looking forward to a brief rest while the Zamboni took the spotlight, Declan Catalan took a perfect feed from L Harmer and worked his magic that he had been working on at every practice - to execute a beautiful deke 5 hole to put Mitchell up by two going into the final period.  Seeing that these boys had already taken the long road to the Championship game, they knew it would be tough to hold the lead there.  Despite more fabulous effort from all lines and positions, Listowel would capitalize on a rare breakdown to get one back with 4:17 remaining. Trying to remain calm and hold the slim one goal lead, Mitchell would see a few more chances of their own and the excitement would continue.  Just as a Cyclone forward seemed to be breaking away up the middle for one more chance at Vink, Getty came flying out of nowhere to stifle that opportunity in the dying moments.  And then Rauser - not one to ever give up, took one last diving wedge shot from his own blueline to bury an empty netter with 7 seconds remaining and lock down the Regional Silverstick Championship.

These boys worked together to get over the tough opening games and every one of them should be proud.  Kudos to sharp scoring snipes, defensive toughness, solid checking, slick puck movement, persistent back-checking team determination, post-ringing and grinding from all of the boys.  Our Netminders shared the duties and both of them stepped up to the challenge when they were called on and made many highlight saves many times in these games.  

Congratulations Mitchell Meteors Midget 2018 Regional Champions!
Good luck at International in Forest in January.
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