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Minto 81’s close in on league title with win in overtime

The Minto 81’s are a win away from becoming the first champions of the Ontario Elite Hockey League since it was rebranded and gained affiliation with the Ontario Hockey Association.

Adam Kawalec’s unassisted goal at 3:04 of overtime lifted the 81’s to a 4-3 victory over the Tavistock Braves Friday at the Palmerston and District Community Centre Complex.

That win gives Minto a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven final.

The 81’s had won the opening game of the series 3-1 at the Tavistock and District Recreation Centre last Saturday and followed that with a 6-5 win in Palmerston last Sunday.

Minto never trailed in Friday’s game as they opened the scoring with a pair of goals 34 seconds apart in the final five and a half minutes of the first period.

Tavistock cut the gap with a goal in the final minute of the first before the 81’s restored their two-goal lead in the eighth minute of the second period.

However, Tavistock battled to force the overtime with a power-play goal 53 seconds after Minto’s third goal and the tying goal with 1:52 to go in regulation time.

Brenden Clayton, Caleb Warren and Blair Butchart scored in regulation time for the 81’s while Riley Cribbin collected two assists and Jacob McEachern, Kyle Heintzner, Warren and Klayton Hoelscher each had one assist.

Drew Gerth, Callum Christner and Devin Kropf tallied for Tavistock while assists went to Trevor Sauder and Geoff Killing.

The OEHL is the OHA’s senior A loop and previously operated as the Western Ontario Athletic Association’s senior AA men’s league, but didn’t have OHA affiliation.

This season the league had 11 teams with expansion squads Erin Outlaws and Georgian Bay Applekings joining WOAA holdovers Minto, Tavistock, Creemore Coyotes, Durham Thundercats, Lucknow Lancers, Milverton Four Wheel Drives, Ripley Wolves, Saugeen Shores Winterhawks and Seaforth Centenaires. Three teams (Elora Rocks, Tillsonburg Thunder and Petrolia Squires) jumped to the Western Ontario Super Hockey League.

Tavistock won the WOAA senior AA title in its first year with that ranking, 1995, and its final season last year. The 81’s won the title in 2000 and 2003 as the Palmerston 81’s and 2014 to 2016 as the Mapleton-Minto 81’s.

The 81’s finished the regular season in third place at 13-6-1 (W-L-OTL), one point ahead of fourth-place Tavistock (13-7-0).

Minto defeated second-place Creemore 4-1 in one semifinal while Tavistock beat first-place Ripley 4-2 in the other.

Fourth game of the championship series is set for Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Tavistock.

If a fifth game is necessary, it’s to be played next Friday at Palmerston starting at 8:30 p.m.


  • Guelph Sports Journal