WINDSOR, N.S. - It took grit, will and determination, something the Avon View Avalanche Boys Hockey Team demonstrated with abundance as they captured the 27th Annual Birthplace of Hockey High School Championship.
It was the first time the team has won the tourney since 2004.
The championship game 4-1 win came over the Glace Bay Panthers, who had won the 2014 and 2016 tournaments.
But the Avalanche, even though they were playing their fifth game of hockey in four days, started strong and never let up.
“Our forechecking to begin the game was relentless and it paid off,” Avalanche head coach Mark Tye said following the championship game. “Ideally a hockey coach would like to bottle the kind of play the Avalanche demonstrated over the weekend and let it loose every game throughout the regular season.”
In the opening period, Avon View had three excellent chances to score and they concluded with a goal by Ryan Coleski on a pass from Zack Eldridge before the game was three minutes old.
The Avalanche held a 2-0 lead after one period as Will Caines followed through on a beautiful set-up from Cole Boutilier and Matt Benedict snapped a wrist shot to score.
Before the opening period concluded, Keighan Turnbull missed in close as the Avalanche were on the power-play for the final 1:32 of the opening period.
The Avalanche’s strong fore-checking continued after they had a goal disallowed due to a kicking motion. Hayden Burgess missed a perfect opportunity all alone in front of the Panther net with less than five seconds to play in the second period.
The Avalanche saw their lead shrink to 2-1 in the opening 42 seconds of the third period after a Glace Bay shot deflected off an Avon View defensemen’s leg and into the net.
Ethan Salsman proceeded to make a great rush down the ice and tried to ram it home, but even with a rebound, it was denied a second time.
The pressure was then alleviated by tournament MVP Dan Lord, who was positioned well to snap a wrist shot home for a 3-1 with 4:34 to play in regulation.
He then capped it off after Glace Bay pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker with 1:23 to go, but it did not pay off for the Panthers, as Lord streaked in on a breakaway with 50 seconds remaining to score into an empty net for his second of the game.
“(Lord) competes night in and night out and (his) work ethic is exceptionally strong 100% of the time,” Tye said. “(Our) goaltender Joe MacDonald absolutely gives you a chance of winning every time he is in net.”
Avon View 1 - Horton 0
The Avalanche made it to the championship game with a thrilling 1-0 semi-final win over the Horton High Griffins, who had finished in 2nd place in the Chook Smith Division.
Jack Sheehan, on the blast from the point with 2:13 remaining in regulation, gave the Avalanche the win. The opening 20 minutes of the game was sluggish, but both teams more than made up for it in the final 25 minutes.
The goaltending by Seth Routledge in the Horton net and Joe MacDonald for the Avalanche was something to behold. With less than 10 seconds to play in the first Keighan Turnbull, on a great pass from Lord, was robbed blind by Routledge.
In the second period defensemen Blake Rogers of the Avalanche had a tremendous end-to-end rush with the Avalanche playing short-handed but he was denied as well.
Just prior to the goal by Sheehan, MacDonald made the save of the year on Horton’s Carter Parsons.
Parsons was bearing in and seemed to have an open area to dump the puck home, but the pad save by MacDonald was one that will be hard to top for the duration of this hockey season.
Parsons was so caught off guard with the save that he went to MacDonald and put his glove on his shoulder to seemingly say, ‘How did you do that?’
Avon View 5 - Woodstock 3
The New Brunswick school had zero losses entering this game, winning their opening two, but Zack Eldridge slid home a rebound early in the game to begin Avon View’s scoring.
Woodstock then tied it going in 3 on 1 before Dan Lord, on a great passing play, let go of one of those snap wrist shots to put the Avalanche back in front 2-1. Salsman put the Avalanche up 3-1 on a high shot that beat over the New Brunswick goaltender’s shoulder.
The Thunder came right back, with one of their players being left untouched in front of the net, and it was 3-2. Salsman then scored his 2nd of the game on an Avalanche power-play with 2:24 to play in the second and the Avalanche led by two goals again.
Woodstock on the power-play scored their third of the game to pull to within a goal at 4-3 before Lord, all alone in front of the Thunder net, scored his second and final goal of the game for the 5-3 win.
Avon View’s only loss came Friday night against Cole Harbour when they were blanked 3-0, making the Woodstock game a must win for playoff positioning.