No quit in Hawks against Thunder
By Darren Lum
You can’t get much closer to the Kawartha Championship title final than an overtime semi-final 4-3 loss to the best team in the high school hockey league.
It was an amazing feat for the Red Hawks senior boys‘ hockey team to just get to the overtime, as the team overcame an early three-goal deficit against the Thunder of St. Mary Catholic Secondary School, who went up 3-0 in the first period.
Coach Jason Morissette was proud of his team for its resiliency against a formidable opponent.
“I told the players ... it’s been a while since I can say I was as proud of a team coming from where they started, knowing that we didn’t even know we’d have a program this year because our numbers were so low in people coming out wanting to play high school hockey. To see them grow and [have] success against that kind of team that’s one heck of an accomplishment for these players. So, again, the only A team in the actual [Kawartha] tournament. All the other A schools [who played] against St. Mary [this season] were losing this year by five, six, seven goals,” he said.
“It’s only positive. I could not say anything, but say I’m proud of them and that a lot of them have learned a lot and they have improved a lot and no matter what they’re doing a lot of the things they’ve learned will help them. I hope that more players will come out next year to help us grow and move the program where we can. Get that one extra goal [to move on] next year. Move on to COSSA and who knows beyond that,” he said.
There was fight in the Hawks, Morissette said, that translated to the ice.
“My team came to play and they didn’t give up and they didn’t want to end their season. They wanted to move on to the finals. You know, the truth is, yes, the score doesn’t demonstrate at the end because we did not win, but I still believe if you look at the whole game we did outplay the St. Mary’s team,” he said.
Lucas Haedicke scored the first goal in the first and the team’s third goal to tie the game and finished with a pair while linemate and Hawks leading scorer Braeden Robinson scored the second. Assists came from Isaac Little, Ty Mills, Tyson Clements, and Dylan Keefer with two.
The close game was a byproduct of the Hawks execution on both ends, enacting the team’s system and staying out of the penalty box.
They exhibited great discipline, giving up only three minor penalties for six minutes in the semi-final.
“We knew very well that if we took foolish penalties and made bad choices that this team had great firepower to make that really dangerous for us,” he said.
As an example of the Thunder’s quality, they advanced to the Kawartha title final game and destroyed their next opponents, beating the Holy Cross Hurricanes 9-2. Both of these teams advanced as Kawartha representatives to the AA COSSA tournament in Belleville.
The Hawks compete level with the Thunder was notable and pushing them to overtime was exemplary.
Morissette said this game “puts an exclamation mark” to his team’s season when it comes to his players’ development and ability to put it all together and peak for an important game.
He added the team’s core players were leaders for the team.
They were Haedicke, Robinson, Desi Davies, Isaac Little, Paul Turner, Jacob Mitchell, goalie Carson Sisson, and Dylan Keefer. Several will graduate, but Morissette said the post-season experience will serve his returning players well. The coach pointed out how impressed he was by players such as Haedicke, who showed he was as good, if not better than some of the Thunder players.
The Hawks were helped by the Kawartha first round playoff bye to the Kawartha Championship, which was the result Campbellford forfeiting a week before.
It provided the team’s injured players to get healthy and allowed other players rest, but it also included an opportunity for the team to learn and prepare to employ a specific game plan for the Thunder on the NHL-sized ice in Cobourg. The Hawks’ home ice rink at the A.J. LaRue Arena is shorter in length and width. Morissette said even though the team prepared for the Thunder, the three goals allowed early were in part due to the team’s adjustment to the larger ice dimensions.
Among the players who benefited from the bye week and could play in the semi-final game was the Hawks’ leading scorer Robinson, who had an upper body injury in the team’s last regular season game.
The game was a reminder for Morissette and showed how a rural hockey team can compete with the best from a larger centre with more facilities.
“[Robinson’s] an example of a number of players that have really developed and gained confidence and they realized, yes, these players down in an urban area like Cobourg with all the big ice and, you know, they got walking tracks, they got gyms, they got facilities. They have a lot of resources. We had a number of players skating right with them.”