Playing their sixth game in three days, Stratford’s bantam Jr. Warriors had enough left in the tank to knock off the St. Thomas Jr. Stars and capture the Ontario Hockey Federation single-A championship in New Liskeard.
Sponsored by Canadian Tire, the Jr. Warriors went 4-0-1 entering the final against the Ontario Minor Hockey Association champs.
Stratford used its speed, explosiveness, and tight-checking style to take 2-0 and 4-0 leads after the first and second periods before exchanging goals in the final frame. Goalie Russel Sebben made several key saves to earn the victory. Forwards Cole Lewis led the charge with four goals and was named game MVP. Jonas Schmidt added the other Jr. Warriors goal. Aubrey Carter set up Lewis’ first goal and had several scoring chances in both Sunday games. Minor bantam call-up Kaden Brame, who joined the team for a portion of the Alliance finals and the OHF championships, was called on to play all three forward positions throughout the tournament, especially on Sunday.
In the semifinal Sunday morning, Caleb Arent scored in overtime to give Stratford a 4-3 win over fourth-seed Barrie.
The Jr. Warriors scored on the first shift of the game, but the Jr. Colts answered with two goals of their own to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. The teams traded goals in the middle frame, setting the stage for the comeback victory. Stratford scored the tying goal midway through the third period. With 2:30 minutes left in OT, game MVP Arent rushed down the left boards and wired a wrist shot past the Jr. Colts goaltender. Goalie Curtis Ball earned the victory. Schmidt scored twice, including the game-tying goal, and Lewis added a single marker.
In the round-robin portion of the tournament, the Jr. Warriors opened with a 6-1 win over Northern Ontario Hockey Association finalists Hearst-Kapuskasing.
Schmidt fired a hat trick and was named game MVP. Tyler Wagler added two goals, and Lewis buried the winner early in the second. Ball’s only blemish was a goal against late in the third.
Stratford improved to 2-0 with an 8-4 win over NOHA champions and tournament host Temiskaming Shores.
Jr. Warriors forward Nole Musselman set up Wagler for the first goal. Schmidt, with his second-straight hat trick, paced the offence. Lewis added two goals, while Drew Wilken and Nick Houben had singles. Sebben was selected as game MVP and made several spectacular saves.
Stratford used a strong defensive game to edge the Jr. Stars, 2-1.
Schmidt and Houben scored in the win. Lewis, with two assists, was named game MVP. Sebben earned the victory and had plenty of help from the defensive unit of Wilken, Issac Deline, Zach McCann, Anthony Guzvinec and Matthew Barber. Barber and McCann, with two assists in the tournament, played pivotal roles on the power play and penalty kill throughout the tournament.
The Jr. Warriors had already clinched the top seed for Sunday, so their win Saturday afternoon against the Jr. Colts didn’t impact the standings. However, the game proved very costly for Stratford.
Forward Ethan Scrimgeour went down with a lower body injury that prevented him from taking any shifts on Sunday, although he dressed and led from the bench. Scrimgeour was one of the most determined Jr. Warriors forwards in multiple roles.
Jacob Hall, who had eight assists on the weekend, suffered an upper body injury and was in noticeable discomfort in a physical and offensive role Sunday.
Guzvinec went feet-first into the end boards while chasing down a Jr. Colts forward on a back check, and he had to be carried off the ice on a stretcher after suffering a season-ending ankle fracture. He picked up three assists in the tournament.
Lewis with two goals, and Deline with one, scored for Stratford. Ball earned game MVP by turning aside 29 Jr. Colts shots.
Schmidt was selected as tournament MVP, netting 10 goals in six games. The line of Schmidt, Lewis and Houben scored 22 of Stratford’s 28 goals, with Lewis also scoring 10. Ball and Sebben allowed 13 goals in six games.
In the midget single-A division, Stratford went 2-3 at provincials in Woolwich.
The Warriors opened with a 3-2 win over New Liskeard before losing to Elmira (3-0) and Centre-Wellington (5-2). Stratford rebounded with a 2-1 win over Lorne Park before bowing out following a 6-1 defeat to Centre-Wellington.
Carter Lewis led the offence with three goals five points, while Jared Lesouder added four assists.
Eric Roes had a pair of power-play goals, and Callan Ferguson netted a shorthanded marker.
Jarod Fleming and Carson Knott each picked up a win in net.