Stouffville Clippers Major Midget AA Team finished off a tremendous year of
hockey with eight incredible days of excitement, intensity, gamesmanship,
team-bonding and pure fun that they will remember forever.
It’s been a whirlwind for this group of young men over the past eight days. Heading into Game #4 of the York-Simcoe Finals on Sunday March 26th, down 2 games to 1, the Clippers were in a must-win situation against a skilled Richmond Hill team in their home arena. After a very competitive 2 periods, with the game tied 1-1, an unfortunate situation with the Zamboni during the intermission resulted in the ice being deemed unfit to continue. The 3rd period was postponed until the next night…just the 3rd period…at same arena. This was a situation none of the players or staff had ever experience. Different than an overtime period, this was 15 minutes of hockey, with two teams well rested and hungry to win. Three or four shifts per player at full speed. It was the most intense 15 minutes of hockey that you could imagine. With just over 2 minutes remaining, Adrian McCartney scored for the Clippers, who then shut down Richmond Hill for the remainder of the game to prevail 2-1, forcing the deciding 5th game back at the Clippers Complex last Tuesday night.
Game 5 saw a disastrous start for the home team. At the 9 minute mark of the 1st, the Clippers found themselves down 3-0. After a time-out for a chance to regroup, the Clippers began to gain momentum and slowly start to take control of the game. But, the boys just couldn’t put one by the Richmond Hill goaltender. With 4:01 remaining in the 2nd, a pivotal situation changed the game…a full line-scrap. When all was said and done, 2 players from each team were ejected, including the R. Hill goalie that had been frustrating the Clippers. The 2nd period ended with the home side still down 3-0.
The boys knew they needed to dig deep. Nothing much needed to be said by the coaches. They came out pumped. Tyler Ribi started the comeback a minute & twenty into the 3rd. Wyatt LaRoche closed the gap to 3-2 five minutes later. And when Luke Sear scored the tying goal with 4:06 remaining, the near-capacity Clipper Complex erupted. They went absolutely crazy less than a minute later when Matt Hunt scored to put the Clippers ahead 4-3…for good. With a tremendous shut-down effort by the entire team, the Clippers captured the York-Simcoe Championship in style.
But, there was no time to rest. Thursday morning, the players, staff and a group of parents met at Pearson Airport at 6am for a journey to Halifax, Nova Scotia to play in the 40th edition of the SEDMHA International Tournament, one of the largest minor hockey tournaments in Canada. With the York-Simcoe trophy in hand, we left as a group of 36 in total. For the players who had never flown before, and even for the experienced travelers, it was memorable flight in itself. Fighting 90km gusts flying into Halifax, the pilots aborted the landing at the last minute, pulling up hard and we were diverted to Moncton, New Brunswick. After a 90 minute delay on the ground in Moncton, the plane took off for try #2. A bumpy landing for sure, but we made it safely.
Halifax was a blast. With the stress of five competitive series out of the way, the boys played relaxed…maybe too relaxed…but they sure had fun. Overall, great food, many laughs, a major junior game that went into triple overtime, and many, many stories that will probably come out later for sure. And the hockey was great. Five straight wins, including a 7-2 victory in the final over the Halifax Hawks Midget AA team. In the last 5 minutes of the game, the ’00 aged players sat back on the bench with respect and watched & cheered as the ’99 aged graduating players finished out their minor hockey careers in style. It was really nice to watch. Many a tear was shed by the moms and dads of the graduating players.
The boys returned home late Sunday night, two time champions in a span of 8 amazing days. With a 40-13-7 overall record, it was an entire year to remember for this exceptional group of young men. Graduating players include Matt Hunt, Luke Sear, Steele Rodin, Mitch Kelly, Thomas Kroupis, Austin Meiliunas, Kevin O’Boyle and Wyatt LaRoche. We also, unfortunately, have to say goodbye to ’00 Uxbridge players Joel Roberts, Adrian McCartney and Thomas Morgan who will be required to return to the new North Durham Hockey Association after three years of representing Stouffville with passion and class.
However, a very solid core group of ’00 players remain to anchor next year’s Midget AA Team including Sam Atanackovich, Rhys Garlough, Brydon Jewett, Tyler Ribi, Nick Smith, Ben Partridge, Brent Menzies and Kevin Kozik (’01). And with a great group of ‘01’s on their way up, and a solid group of ‘00’s playing Midget A this year, next year promises to be another fun ride.
A huge thanks to the parent group, including the Clipper Sipper’s. You cheered hard, each and every game, and it was noticed by players and staff. And with a very knowledgeable group for hockey dads, you kept us honest…and we, in turn, most likely kept you guessing. But in the end, it was the players that ultimately made it all work.
A heart-felt thank you to the coaching staff – Andy Cartwright, Noel Jewett and Scott Menzies – you guys were amazing. Always present, always there to rely on, never afraid to speak your mind. You pushed the boys hard, and they came to respect it. Thanks to Otto Ribi and his portable skate-sharpener. You were a life-saver many times over. And finally, a sincere thank you to Dolores Kroupis, our team manager who kept us organized, on-budget and full of coffee at all times. Fourteen years working with teams, and the Board. You were a rock.
An incredible year!
Greg Smith, Coach