OFSAA medal match in Ross Royals’ future

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

CAMBRIDGE – The Ross Royals are letting their defence speak will be playing for a medal at the OFSAA provincial high school girls’ AAA hockey championship tournament Friday at the Hespeler Memorial Arena thanks to a break in pool play and their tight-checking defence.

“We’ve got the six girls, the three pairs (of defencemen) playing really well together,” Ross coach Ted Wilson said. “They are very confident at locking the opposition down and at clearing the puck. Defence has been the key to our victories, for sure.”

“Our plan has always been that as soon as they get the puck, take it away,” Ross captain Aniela Breen said. “Give them no time, no space and we’ve definitely been executing that really well.”

The Royals’ defence was even better Thursday than it had been on the opening day of the tournament when Ross had a win and a tie.

“They found out (Wednesday) that everybody that’s at this tournament is a champion,” Wilson said. “The key was the defence always moving the puck up and always not getting fancy and circling back in the zone, but going north all the time as the expression goes. They kept it simple and kept it up the boards.”

“As soon as they have the puck, we need it gone,” Breen said. “We need it off of them. Defence before offence, always.”

The 10th-seed Royals split their games Thursday on the second day of the three-day tournament as they lost a pool-play match 2-1 to third-seed Brooklin Bears and they won their quarter-final 3-2 over fourth-seed Eastview Wildcats of Barrie.

A power-play goal by Madison Hubble five and a half minutes into the third period gave Brooklin its win over the Royals.

Hubble had also scored late in the second period for Brooklin while Claire Kelterborn connected for Ross late in the first period. Courtney Phillips assisted on that goal.

Abbey St. Aubin and Madison Wight had assists for Brooklin. The Bears took four minor penalties, one more than Ross.

Despite that setback, the Royals advanced to the playoff round as the second-place team in Pool C. They gained that spot when the 16th-seed Sacred Heart Huskies of Stittsville defeated fifth-seed Chatham-Kent Golden Hawks 4-1 in the other Pool C game. The results left Brooklin first in the pool at 3-0-0, Ross second at 1-1-1, Sacred Heart third at 1-2-0 and Chatham-Kent fourth at 0-2-1.

The Royals were feeling a little bit dejected when they left the ice after the loss as they didn’t know the result of the other Pool C game, but were cheering wildly by the time they reached their dressing room after being told that Chatham-Kent had lost. A win by the Golden Bears by more than a goal would have put Chatham-Kent into the playoff round and sent Ross home.

Any thought that the Royals would be happy just reaching the quarter-finals disappeared early in the game against Eastview when Olivia Sarabura fired a shot home less than five minutes into the game.

“I think because of the big break we got this morning, the girls said ‘Okay, we’re here for one reason – to win it – and we’re here because we deserve to be here,’” Wilson said. “They’ve been playing their hearts out and they play with tremendous confidence and great team play. The girls think the world of each other and its manifesting itself on the ice.”

Sarabura added a second goal on a breakaway while the Royals were killing off a penalty midway through the second and Avery Lomax netted a power-play goal three minutes later.

Breen assisted on two of the goals while Kelterborn and Annie Lambkin each had one assist.

Eastview started a comeback attempt when Jenna Mowat scored with 23 seconds to go in the second period. Carley Peterson cut the gap to a single goal three and a half minutes into the third, but the defensive play of the Royals kept Ross ahead.

Kennedy Lynch, Gracyn Emmerton and Britney Zack collected assists for Eastview.

Ross took six minor penalties in the game while Eastview took seven.

Eastview had finished first in Pool D at 3-0-0 while the other three teams in the pool – sixth-seed Peterborough St. Peter Saints, ninth-seed Notre-Dame Alouettes of Sudbury and 15th-seed Holy Cross Crusaders of Kingston – each finished with 1-2-0 records. The difference between goals scored and goals allowed broke the tie and put St. Peter into the quarter-finals.

The Royals are getting a little extra incentive for the tournament from their low ranking. They were seeded 10th despite finishing as silver medalists in tournament in Toronto and Waterloo, the only tournaments they participated in this season. The Royals are attempting to become the first CWOSSA squad to win the OFSAA girls’ hockey AAA (or AAA/AAAA) title.

“We thought that was low,” Wilson said. “We thought maybe sixth or seventh, maybe fifth even. I thought fifth, sixth or seventh and we thought getting seeded 10th was a little low, but that having been said, if you’re going to win this thing you’ve got to beat everybody anyway so in what order you beat them, I don’t think it matters in the end.”

“I was expecting maybe fifth or fourth, but not 10th,” Breen said. “When I saw 10th, I thought ‘Really?’ They’d never seen us, obviously.”

Other teams advancing to the quarter-finals were first-seed Medway Cowboys of Arva, the defending champions, and seventh-seed St. Maximilian Kolbe Mustangs of Aurora who were both 2-0-1 in Pool A and 11th-seed St. Martin Mustangs of Mississauga (3-0-0) and second-seed Lawrence Park Panthers of Toronto (2-1-0) in Pool B.

In the other quarter-final matches, Medway edged Lawrence Park 3-2, St. Maximilion Kolbe slipped by St. Martin 2-1 and Brooklin blanked St. Peter 3-0.

The semifinals are set for Friday at 8 a.m. with Ross playing Medway and Brooklin battling St. Maximilian.

“We’re in the top four of the province now,” Wilson said. “It’s an amazing feeling.”

“We just have to start right from the beginning and get on them right away, not give up any messy mistakes and not mess up at all,” Breen said.

Winners advance to the gold-medal match at 1 p.m. while the losers are to play in the 11 a.m. bronze-medal match.