Storm loses, but finishes season as winners after OMHA finals
By Darren Lum
When the Highland Storm Midget boys’ team came up just shy of winning the OMHA Midget CC provincial final against the Twin Centre Stars this past Sunday at the A.J. LaRue Arena in Haliburton, they were reminded of their efforts by loved ones who joined them on the ice following the medal ceremony to congratulate them and to mark the occasion with photos.
It wasn’t that there wasn’t disappointment among the team for the 2-1 loss, but there was recognition of their efforts and ability to execute when they needed to in order to be among the few hockey teams left to play in the province this spring.
After the game, coach James Reilly praised his team for winning the LJ “Larry” Belisle Trophy for finishing as a runner-up to the Stars, who won the series 3-1-2.
“I told them that they battled to the very end game, six and only came up one goal short and that they should be proud of themselves for the effort and commitment they demonstrated throughout this season and that facing this adversity will only make them stronger and better prepared for the future,” he wrote in an email.
Reilly said the difference in the final came down to discipline.
“It is hard to win a championship game while sitting in the penalty box and not playing at full strength,” he said.
In the third period when down 2-1, the Storm were short-handed for much of it, including close to five accumulative minutes of being down a pair of players (five on three advantage for Stars) with a little more than six minutes left in the game. Although the Storm didn’t allow a goal, the team was hard-pressed to find the equalizer.
In the end, the playoff series was decided by just four goals (12 goals allowed by the Storm and eight for the Stars).
What stood out in the final for Reilly was “what it took to develop a team to carry this far and what it takes to win. If one thing is not right or complete in your game and the opposing team is doing everything right it usually ends up successful for the opponent,” he said.
Captain Shawn Walker was visibly disappointed and initially didn’t want to say more than just, “We gave it our all.”
However after a few minutes of photos with loved ones and teammates, Walker shared his thoughts on the season, his teammates and the final series.
He admits the team had its challenges in the regular season, particularly at the start, but finished strong.
“Once playoffs got closer we started to get deeper, more focused and more serious. Still had fun, obviously. Once playoffs came we were down two in the first round, dug deep and came back. Went on a high note from there. Third round right to the finals. Good start [in the final playoff series winning two]. Give credit to Twin Centre for not quitting. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way. We played amazing. I’m not saying we didn’t play good, but I think we played amazing. Puck didn’t go our way and [the trophy] ended up in their hands. Team did [play] strong. I’m proud of them all. It’s my last year. Always love them. They’re brothers to me. They’re like family,” he said.
Walker finished the interview by acknowledging the support from the fans.
“The fans this year from Haliburton were great, showing up to a playoff game with a full barn. We want to thank everybody and say thank you for that. Supporting us right to the finals straight to game six,” he said.