Just in case five championships in a row wasn't enough already, it's pretty safe to say that the 2001 edition of the New Jersey Colonials effectively cemented their AYHL legacy with a sixth straight title after they dispatched of the Connecticut Wolf Pack in the Bantam final yesterday afternoon.
For the Colonials, the focus will now shift to the Atlantic District Championships where they will aim to punch their ticket to the USA Hockey National Championships in Anchorage, Alaska. The best-of-three series to earn that right will run from March 12-14 in West Chester, Pa.
Shifting focus to Ontario, it was a Sunday that had no shortage of entertainment as the stakes were high across the board.
Kicking things off in the GTHL, the Vaughan Kings walked away with a 3-1 win in what essentially broiled down to a must-win game for the team after dropping the opening two games of the series against the Mississauga Reps. The Kings gameplan has become very clear as they aim to shutdown Reps superstar Jamieson Rees, which is something they did rather effectively yesterday, holding him to a lone assist and limiting his offensive zone touches heavily.
For Vaughan, Nicholas Porco continued a string of strong viewings by opening up the scoring - although it could have been more as a changeup shot found the post later in the game. While his play can be up and down, Nicholas Robertson also made a strong impact on the game and created the game-winning goal by forcing a turnover behind the net and serving a nifty behind-the-net pass up on a platter for Matthew Guglietti to bury.
Up in Aurora, York-Simcoe's strong playoff run looked to be churning along as they were holding a 3-1 lead over Whitby after two periods of play, looking to take a commanding 4-0 lead in the series by closing the game out. Of course in the OMHA, 20 minute third periods are a lot of hockey and the Wildcats used them wisely to not only mount a comeback, but potentially change the momentum of the series after they notched five straight goals to head home with a 6-3 win.
As is so often the case, Whitby's offense was led with their scoring-by-committee approach as the team may lack stars but makes up for it with a highly structured style of team play. Jacob Di Danieli wound up being a difference maker in the end with Sebastian Geraci and Brock Haley also being the main thorns in the side of the Express.
Alex Newhook has - simply put - been on fire of late and that continued to be the case in this one, although he was held in check later in the game and was knocked off his game with Whitby's chippy style of play. Called up from the 2002-team, Quinton Byfield had a goal for the Express and while it was only a limited viewing, looks like he would be more than ready to leap up to play full time for the '01 team next season if that's an option he wishes to pursue.
Saving perhaps the best for last, the Alliance semi-final series between Cambridge and Waterloo will fittingly go the distance as Game 8 is set for 7:30 p.m. this evening in Waterloo. Facing elimination yesterday, Waterloo responded with a critical 3-1 win as David Anderson's lone goal wasn't enough to propel Cambridge to a victory.
With the series tied at seven points apiece, tonight's game will decide things one way or another as the game will go to overtime in the event of a tie. With both teams sitting at 18 goals for (and against) for the series, this one has been everything it was projected to be - and then some.
After the opening stage of the playoffs across the board was somewhat underwhelming, it's fair to say there won't be many complaining about how it's shaping up now.
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