Bantams Reach Silver Stick Semis in Grueling 3-day Tourney!, News, Bantam (Grand Valley Minor Hockey)

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Bantams Reach Silver Stick Semis in Grueling 3-day Tourney!
Submitted By Sean Cassidy on Saturday, November 24, 2018
The Grand Valley Bantam Twisters met some fierce competition as they battled their way through Friday’s games, Saturday’s qualifying game, and Sunday’s Semi-Final match against the best-of-the-best. The Twister’s parents also endured a hard-fought battle on the roads with an equally grueling 354 KM round trip drive down to Aylmer which they showed true grit completing 3 times in three days for a total of 1062 hard fought KM’s logged over the tournament. Coach Darryl Bell commented that the parents showed true heart, and clearly gave it 110% over the weekend. Coming from a hard-nosed, old-school coach like Bell, this was no small compliment, and the Bantam parents should all be very proud of themselves for achieving such high accolades.

In the qualifying game on Saturday night the Bantams knew it was do or die and they had to win by a minimum margin of 4 goals to qualify for Sunday’s festivities. Coach Jamie Peeling later commented he was never in doubt that his team could achieve such a substantial margin of victory against the formidable home team that was in their way – the big, strong, and fast Aylmer Flames who were well rested and hungry to show off for their loud, raucous, and partisan hometown crowd. As soon as coaches Bell and Peeling stepped into the arena and saw the intimidating environment they would face, they knew they had to do two key things to secure victory:

  1. They needed to offensively throw caution to the wind and put as many pucks on the Aylmer net as possible.
  2. They needed the best defense and goaltending possible to keep as many pucks out of the Grand Valley net as possible.

In summary, they knew they needed to score and, at the same time, keep the puck out of their own net. It was an audacious, ambitious, and aggressive game plan but, if it was humanly possible,  this group of players supported by their highly knowledgeable and experienced veteran coaches was just the group that could pull this off.

The players clearly bought into what the coaches were selling right from the first puck drop. D. Peeling was a veritable wall in the net and was solidly supported by his defense, consisting of A. Cunningham, O. Thompson, C. Leskey, and C. Cassidy who all, to a man, played sensational games.

Too much happened in this miracle on ice to cover in detail, and some of the highlights include:

  • C. Barber opened the scoring with a stupendous unassisted individual effort to break the ice and followed up with three more goals to finish the game with an astounding 4 goal performance.
  • O. Thompson monitored the goal differential closely on the bench and knew the Twisters had to add more and jumped from his D position into the rush numerous times to contribute with two glorious goals, one of which was an end-to-end rush deking out the entire team and going bar-down with a rocket of a wrist shot. The referee later commented this was one of the best goals he had ever had the privilege of experiencing first-hand.
  • C. Bell must have been watching Bob Gainey and Guy Charbonneau videos because, in addition to a nice goal, he played one of the best defensive games ever witnessed on Aylmer ice and was, literally, all over the rink breaking up rushes and preventing Aylmer from generating an offensive rhythm.
  • Q. Agar was a play-making machine and was setting up scoring opportunities, reading the play, and appeared to look like Wayne Gretzky as the puck followed him around the ice. He ended up the game with an awe-inspiring 5 assists!
  • I. Jongkind took Coach Peeling’s instructions to heart and threw everything on net as he patrolled up and down the ice dominating the play. He ended up with two assists and could have had the third assist on several more goals as he played an outstanding game.
  • C. Cassidy was at his crafty best as he eluded the giant Aylmer players with his vanishing moves and pulled a Denis Savard Spin-a-Rama as he fed the puck to C. Barber who finished the play with authority.
  • C. Leskey used his size to his advantage as he continuously neutralized Aylmer’s larger players and politely, but firmly, warned them to be careful around his teammates and not dare take any unwanted liberties. At one point, he wound up for such a howitzer of a slap shot that the crowd gasped and the whole Aylmer team visually seemed to wince as his shot unfolded. It was clear Aylmer conceded dominance proportional to the size of this magnificent windup.
  • A. Cunningham also used his size to his advantage and his shot to strike fear into the heart of the Aylmer goaltender. There is no question that several of his blasts helped soften up the goalie and make it easier for his team to succeed. He also worked with C. Leskey to subdue the hard-charging Aylmer forwards, and Coach Peeling was very astute in his line combinations ensuring one of the two bruising D men were always on the ice for every shift.
  • J. Martin was at his best when the chips were down, and his team was at their most vulnerable. The Bantams ran into penalty trouble in the third period and were down to only two players left on the bench. J. Martin was one of those two heroes, and he ferociously checked, skated, and successfully killed off the penalties in dramatic fashion.
  • D. Peeling, as he did throughout the entire tournament, was an absolute wall in the net and read plays, anticipated passes, and already had Aylmer’s top sharpshooters frustrated in the first period. His cat-like reflexes and apparent ability to read their minds got into the heads of the Aylmer team and, by the third period, it almost appeared as though they were entering a state of apathy prior to shooting the puck.

The game ended 7-3, the Bantams had done what they set out to achieve and paved the way with their tremendous upset of the heavily favoured home-team by a wide enough margin to qualify for the semi-finals on Sunday!

Sunday rolled around after another 354 KM drive and the Bantams immediately knew they were in tough against the heavily favoured Embro Edge Bantams. But that didn’t stop them from making a game of it and, for most of the game, there was a one goal, or less, differential. D. Peeling played his best game of the year facing 48 shots, turning most of them aside, and kept the Twisters in the running.

However, after the previous evening’s dramatic game and late arrival home, the Twisters simply didn’t have enough gas left in the tank and let the game slide away in the last half of the third period to the well-rested Embro Edge. After the game, each of the Embro coaches approached the bench and personally commented on what an incredible game D. Peeling had played and what heart all of the Bantam Twisters showed against their well-oiled machine. Even with the addition of the valuable AP's A. Kellam, who played a superb checking game, and A. Bryan, who roofed an incredible goal to tie the game at 1, the Bantams just could not turn the game around as the final minutes ticked away in the third.

In the end, the Bantam’s placed third in the Aylmer Regional Silver Stick. While they would have preferred to win it all, there is no question that the heavy pressure and adversity they faced in such a concentrated time-period helped them gel as a team and recognize that they can play with any team in the league and are well poised for a strong second half of the season.

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