Bantam’s Dramatic Come From Behind Tie in Collingwood, News, Bantam (Grand Valley Minor Hockey)

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Bantam’s Dramatic Come From Behind Tie in Collingwood
Submitted By Sean Cassidy on Sunday, December 02, 2018
Last Tuesday night our cell phones were buzzing with weather alerts, travel advisories, and the whiteouts were so fierce our eyes were buzzing from the strained drive home from work. However, we knew the Bantam Twisters were riding a high from their monumental Silver Stick Tournament in Aylmer and back to back victories against the Shelburne Wolves.

The message came through from Coach Bell at 5:03 PM, “Game on in Collingwood, Drive Safe.”

Enough said, the coach had spoken, and the Bantam parents knew what they had to do – safely deliver their star hockey players to the Central Park Arena in Collingwood. The players would take care of the rest. After the game, Coach Bell reflected, “I knew it was a tough night for driving, but with the performance the parents put on during the Silver Stick driving marathon, there was never a doubt in my mind this was an achievable goal.”

Collingwood is one of the top teams in the league, and this was going to be the Twister’s fiercest test yet, and they were potentially tired from the workmanlike dispatching of Shelburne the previous evening. The moment they hit the ice the Twisters knew they were going to be tested as the Collingwood Blackhawks lived up to their reputation of being one of the fastest most dynamic teams in the entire league. Collingwood was riding the momentum of defeating the top team in the league at their previous game and did not want to let the Grand Valley Twisters stand in the way of their quest to reach number one status in the league.

It was a see-saw battle punctuated by impressive goaltending from D. Peeling. Collingwood dominated the play for the first two periods which often saw the Twisters hemmed in their own zone for extended periods of time. In fact, by the conclusion of the second period, D. Peeling has already faced 37 shots, many from dangerous locations in the slot.

The Bantams had difficulty dealing with the Collingwood defense who played the game with reckless abandon and pinched at every opportunity, dumping the puck back into the Grand Valley end, sending the tiring Twisters D men back to try again. Thankfully, D. Peeling’s spectacular play kept the Twisters within reach as the goaltending machine turned shot-after-shot away from the net.

The second intermission proved to be a pivotal point as Coach Darryl Bell, and Trainer Jamie Barber, came up with a strategy to deal with Collingwood’s aggressive play. Coach Bell told his troops, “wingers, you need to stay high, don’t get sucked into the corners, and cover your points – if the puck comes to you, your job is to get it out over the blue line.”

Jamie Barber added, “Centre-men, you need to support your wingers and give them an outlet to pass to. Give them an option to get the puck out and avoid the hard-charging Collingwood D. We need to beat them at their own game.”

This sage advice proved to be the turning point as the Bantam Twisters took their coaches’ advice to heart and began to execute. Slowly but surely, the wingers and the centre-men started to manage the Collingwood press and made them pay for their lack of caution.

Collingwood was clearly not used to dealing with a team that was able to change strategies on the fly and the third period slowly began to evolve into more of an even game as the Twisters started to apply pressure of their own.

Coach Bell decided to roll 2.5 lines supported by two centres, C. Bell and C. Barber. Bell and Barber were true workhorses in every sense of the word as Collingwood’s speed and sustained forecheck attempted to tire them out. However, it didn’t tire them out, and Collingwood didn’t anticipate dealing with two centre-men with elite level conditioning like this. In fact, C. Bell and C. Barber seemed to get a second wind from Coach Bell’s impressive strategic adaptation, and this new success the team was enjoying breathed new life into their tired lungs.

While it didn’t show on the scoreboard, these two centres logged massive minutes, set up plays, broke up plays, and played a full 200’ game on the larger Collingwood ice surface.

The Twisters D men also had an impressive game digging in the corners often for extended periods and ensuring that the slot was as clear as possible in front of D. Peeling. This hard work paid off for O. Thompson as he continued his impressive goal scoring streak with another one of his trademark highlight-reel goals to open the scoring for the Twisters.

C. Cassidy, C. Leskey, and A. Cunningham played their most physical, but clean, games of the year and slowly wore down the hard forechecking Collingwood forwards and eventually beat them at their own game.

Several of the spectators commented with the analogy that it was much like Muhammad Ali’s “Rope-a-Dope” strategy he used to defeat the bigger, more powerful George Foreman at their Rumble in the Jungle in 1974. Ali covered on the ropes for the first seven rounds and let the monstrous Foreman punch himself out and then pounced on the tired bigger man in the eighth round and knocked him out. This is precisely what the Twister’s D did as they began to pick up speed in the third period and take the game to the tiring Collingwood forwards. It must be noted, this strategy can only be effective in hockey if you have absolute confidence in your goaltender, as the Twisters do in D. Peeling.

C. Leskey played his best game of the year as he was often forced to physically move the Collingwood players out of the slot and enforce the physical side of the game and ensure that unwanted liberties were not taken with his team. There is no question Collingwood took note, and their forwards turned away earlier when they saw big number 17 step over the boards.

It was a breath of fresh air to have N. Lyons back in the line-up, and she perfectly executed Coach Bell’s instructions as she covered her point and ensured the puck didn’t remain in the Twister’s zone any longer than necessary. Y. Haroon and J. Martin followed N. Lyons lead and upped their game in the third as they began to press the Collingwood D and give them a taste of their own medicine. Q. Agar was dealing with a lower body injury, but he too followed coaches’ orders and pressed the Collingwood D.

Then it happened, A. Bryan continued with his streak of scoring big important goals as he broke the ice and struck a wound into Collingwood’s game plan with a magnificent goal at 7:32 of the second period, assisted by Cunningham and Bell. This was precisely what the Twisters needed to keep their hopes alive of remaining in this game.

E. Jordan proved to be the sparkplug the Bantam’s needed as they began to press their “Rope-a-Dope” strategy in earnest in the third and he fearlessly skated up and down his wing foiling Collingwood’s set plays and neutralizing the cherry picker they often set out by the red line.

Everything came together at 6:29 of the third period as A. Kellam was rewarded for all his hard work with one of the biggest goals he has scored all year. It was simply a marvelous goal, and even in the Collingwood arena, the GV fans drowned out the hometown crowd as Kellam buried the tying goal!

Coach Bell later stated, “I had a gut feeling about getting Kellam on this ice for this shift, he was really pressing the play hard and taking the game to Collingwood, he was due to score, and his grit paid off with the key goal of the game.”

The last two minutes proved to be the tensest that spectators from both teams can remember from any game they have seen. The Twisters got hemmed a final time in their own zone, and D. Peeling looked superhuman as he kicked out six straight saves, and C. Cassidy helped him out by pulling a puck off the goal line that the referee waved off as it dribbled perilously close to ending the Twister’s hopes.

The game ended with C. Cassidy executing an impressive double pinch to keep the puck in the Collingwood zone, and Coach Bell chuckled, “He used those size 6 feet to his advantage and trapped the puck in twice to keep us in the Collingwood zone for the last 20 seconds.”

In the end, the game ended with an incredible 3-3 tie and was one of the most exciting games ever witnessed on Collingwood ice. Both teams played well, executed their strategies, and D. Peeling was the player of the game facing an unbelievable 51 shots to secure the tie.

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