There are two very different ways of looking at the outcome of the Fort Frances Minor Hockey Association’s Midget ‘A’ final last Thursday night at the Ice for Kids Arena.
It was either a very gutsy performance from the OPP or a meltdown by the Legion.
The Legion, the league’s top team during the regular season, had built a 3-1 lead through two periods and seemed in complete control of the game.
But a pair of third-period goals by the OPP tied the game and forced overtime.
Dan Chapman then ended the game in abrupt fashion—scoring a power-play marker with time winding down in the extra frame to give the OPP the narrow 4-3 victory.
“I was quite impressed with the way my boys played,” OPP coach Don Howells enthused.
“We were a little short-handed on the bench but they put a lot of heart into the game and we won,” he added. “They played their hearts out. They all did. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
“I have an excellent hockey team.”
But while Howells was celebrating an unlikely win in the season finale, Legion coach Ron Kellar lamented the missed opportunity.
“First of all, congratulations to OPP,” he said. “[But] it’s a disappointing loss for us, especially after getting a 3-0 lead. We fell asleep and gave up some breakaways that led to goals for them.
“We gave them all the momentum and it caused us to start taking penalties.”
Adding to the frustration was the fact the Legion did a superb job of minimizing the impact of Chapman, a highly-skilled offensive threat, until overtime.
“We kept Danny Chapman in check up until overtime when, the league MVP in my eyes, finally got away from us in a power-play situation,” Kellar noted.
But Kellar’s biggest frustration stemmed from an issue off the ice.
“It’s hard for me to believe that in the three years I’ve been coaching Midget players, there seems to be a lack of support from parents in terms of coming out to watch their children play,” he remarked.
“At this age, the kids are here for the love of the game. It’s great to see that.”
The Legion got off to a quick start when Ben Klyne sent Justin and Jason Rose in on a two-on-one just minutes into the opening period.
Jason Rose held onto the puck and wired a shot that beat OPP goalie Theren Holden high to the stick side.
The OPP’s defensive woes continued as, moments later, Mike McKay stole the puck and waltzed in on a breakaway. Holden stopped McKay’s initial shot but Nathan Calder was there to slide a backhander home to make it 2-0.
The Legion had several quality scoring chances in the waning minutes of the first period—including a one-timer from Jason Rose—but Holden stood tall.
The Legion continued their assault early in the second as Matthew Smith scored quickly to give his team a commanding 3-0 lead.
But the OPP would pull to within a pair before the period expired.
Alex Shoemaker’s point shot hit some traffic in front of the Legion goal and ricocheted onto teammate Neil Roy’s stick. Roy skated through the Legion crease and slid a backhander home.
The OPP continued their improbable comeback early in the third while short-handed.
Roy intercepted an errant Legion pass and found himself on a breakaway. He fired a wrist shot glove side to pull his team to within a goal.
Faron Morriseau then tied the game with just over five minutes left on a play Dave Ellis surely would like another shot at.
Ellis tried to carry the puck out of his end but was stripped by Morriseau, who broke in on goal and made a good move to his forehand before burying the puck into the back of the net.
The Legion almost salvaged the victory in regulation time when Justin Rose intercepted a pass and sped in on a breakaway with less than a minute to go.
Rose beat Holden but hit the post to keep the score leveled at 3-3, forcing sudden-death overtime.
Both teams had early scoring chances in the extra session but the turning point came at 2:07 as Justin Rose was sent off for slashing.
Chapman won the ensuing draw in the Legion zone, circled around the net, and stuffed home his wrap-around attempt to give the OPP the 4-3 come-from-behind win.