On Monday, December 28th, the North Central Predators Minor Bantam team headed out to St. Catharines to participate in the Vic Teal International Tournament.
The first team the Predators faced was the Clarence Mustangs from New York state. The Predators opened on the right foot by scoring early: at the 9:23 mark left in a 10 minute 1st period, Tristan Stewart (Perkinsfield) scored with an assist by Evan Lade (Bracebridge). However, just 5 minutes later Clarence tied the game. With just 1:58 left in the 1st period, Lade scored for the Predators assisted by Jack Campbell (Bracebridge), to close 2-1 at the end of the 1st. Less than two minutes into the 2ndperiod, the Predators added to their lead with a third goal. This time it was Tristan Rogers (Orillia) who tallied for the Predators with an assist going to Benoit Chin (Perkinsfield). Six minutes later Rogers again scored, this time assisted by Denny Benson (Rama) and David Wilkie (Orillia). Three minutes later Clarence answered back with another goal making it 4-2 at the end of the 2nd period. The 3rd period put the finishing touches on the game. The Predators scored again early at the 14:39 mark with a goal by Jake Shaw (Coldwater) assisted by Brandon Washer (Essa). Just over a minute later Chin put one in the net assisted by Rogers. And less than three minutes later, Marty Lawlor (Orillia) scored assisted by Shaw. This was followed by two further goals, first by Spencer Daniel (Orillia) assisted by Shaw, and then by Lade assisted by Washer. With only 1:42 left in the game, Clarence again made their presence known with their 3rd goal, leaving the score 9-3 for the Predators at the end of the game.
The second game of the day proved a little different than the first game. The Predators were playing the Orchard Lake Pirates from Michigan. The Predators scored early in the 1st period with a goal by Washer assisted by Rogers. Four minutes later Chin tallied assisted by Stewart and Jacob Busch (Midland). Just 31 seconds into the 2nd period, the Predators again came knocking with their third unanswered goal scored by Stewart from Busch and Campbell. Another goal at the 12:54 mark of the 2nd period by Riley Vogels (Gravenhurst) assisted by Lade put the Predators in the lead, 4-0. However, Orchard Park rallied, and with just 18 seconds left in the period, scored their first goal. In the 3rd period Orchard Park continued to put up a stubborn battle. While Vogels assisted by Rogers again scored for the Predators with 10 minutes left in the game, Orchard Park answered back with two more goals and then, with just 23 seconds left in the game, Orchard Park scored again. The game ended in a 5-5 tie.
Tuesday, December 29th, saw the Predators awaken to play the Syracuse Nationals. The team knew they had to do well in their two games on Tuesday to advance to the playoff round. The Predators and Nationals battled back and forth throughout the 1st period, but it ended in a scoreless tie. The 2nd period also was end-to-end until, finally, Syracuse opened the scoring with only 4:56 left in the period. The Predators answered back just a minute later with a goal by Wilkie assisted by Lade, and another goal 28 seconds later by Lade assisted by Wilkie. In an extremely close game, Rogers cemented the victory with an unassisted goal at the 4:15 mark of the 3rd period. The final was Predators 3, Syracuse 1.
The fourth and final game of the round robin would mean first place ... or something less. The Predators drew the West Seneca Wings in their final game. It was a close game until the 13:20 mark of the 2nd period, when Busch scored assisted by Rogers to put the Predators up 1-0. That goal was quickly followed by another goal from Busch unassisted to end the 2nd period 2-0. Starting early in the 3rd period, tallies by the Predators came from the stick of Lawlor assisted by Daniel and Shaw, from Washer assisted Busch, from Chin (unassisted), and from Stewart assisted by Benson and Shaw. The Predators played a strong defensive game, not allowing any West Seneca goals, to make the final score 6-0. This put the Predators into 1st place in their division.
The Monroe County team were the next opponent for the Predators, in the semi-final game on Wednesday. Again, there was no scoring until very late in the 1st period when Stewart opened the scoring for the Predators with a goal assisted by Busch and Chin. In the 2nd period, the Predators fought on with goals from Rogers assisted by Daniel and Busch, and then by Daniel assisted by Rogers and Washer. Just 25 seconds into the 3rd period the Predators opened it up with a goal by Shaw assisted by Vogels and Lawlor. Another unanswered goal by Daniel assisted by Rogers and Wilkie with just 50 seconds left to play, and the game ended with a 5-0 win for the Predators and advancement to the Championship round.
The Predators once again faced the strong Syracuse Nationals in the final. In the 1st period the Predators opened the scoring with a goal by Vogels assisted by Shaw. This was quickly followed by another Predator goal, this time off the blade of Busch with assists from Wilkie and Rogers. After one full period of back and forth play in the 1st, Syracuse opened the scoring in the 2nd at the 14:52 mark. The Predators answered back five minutes later with a goal by Campbell assisted by Lade. This was quickly followed by a second goal by the Syracuse team. Both teams continued to battle hard throughout the 3rd period with end-to-end play. Both teams played fast and hard hockey and the score remained at 3-2 for the Predators until, with just eight seconds left in the game, Chin put the puck into the empty net to cement the win for the Predators, with a final score of 4-2.
The Predator team played hard and fast throughout the entire tournament. There were strong performances by the two goaltenders, Connor Christanson and Lee Kwiecien. As well, defensemen Mitchell Salter, Denny Benson, David Wilkie, Jack Campbell and Brandon Washer kept scoring chances by the opposing team to a minimum, thus allowing the forwards — Lade, Shaw, Daniel, Stewart, Lawlor, Vogels, Rogers, Chin, and Busch — along with the defense to take advantage of scoring opportunities.
Well done Minor Bantam Predators!