Novice Girls strike gold in Wingham!, News, Novice Girls, 2017-2018 (Saugeen Shores Minor Hockey)

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Novice Girls strike gold in Wingham!
Submitted By Shawn Nelson on Tuesday, March 27, 2018
With the regular season behind them, the Port Elgin TD Novice Girls Storm took to the road to meet their shore line rival for what would be their last meeting of the season, in the WOAA Novice Girls White Division year end tournament.  The season series between these two teams was split two games a piece and both squads were looking to take the last game as a win in Wingham.

Their last showdown of the season was anything but dismal.  Both squads battled hard up and down the ice until Grace Phillips put the Storm up by one, half way through the first frame.  The intensity increased through the second frame but tremendous goaltending on both sides paired with tight, error free defense saw the Storm carry their lead through a scoreless second period.  

As the third began, the Storm started to show signs of fatigue and the Kinucks pounced on an opportunity to tie the game two minutes into the final frame.  Not to be outdone, the Storm rallied taking the lead back with 5:13 left, as Grace Phillips put another goal past the Kincardine netminder. The Storm continued to play with the lead until the final 30 seconds of the third when a Kincardine speedster broke out and tallied her second of the game, knotting up the affair at 2.  The final buzzer sounded and the game ended as the season did, 2 a piece.

Saturday morning came fast through the night as players (and parents) had to be back in Wingham to play an 8am bout against the highly touted Mount Forest Rams.  Rams took all four regular season points from the Storm with scores of 6-0 and 5-1. The Storm were prepared for a tough battle and hoped to take an early lead.

Just as it was planned in the dressing room, the Storm started the game on fire taking the play to the Rams and striking first as Gwen Doherty broke out of her own end with puck and carried it in for the first tally of the game and the first ever lead over the Rams.  Rams, not interested in playing second fiddle to the Storm quickly responded with two their own and led 2-1 in the blink of an eye. The Storm started the second period fighting for their playoff lives, desperately trying to gain ground against the Rams. In her classic clutch style, Phillips leveled the score sheet on a pass from Meghan Ronhold before adding another marker later in the second, putting the Storm back in the driver's seat before the second intermission.  The late night and early morning travel times compounded by a talented opponent erased the Storm lead less than 3 minutes in the third. Hearts sank as the Rams took the lead back from the Storm less than two minutes later. A minute after that, the final nail in the coffin... As the Storm finished the game with an extra attacker on the ice, the tournament final looked out of reach as the Rams took the game 5-3.

Just down the highway, the Kinucks earned maximum points against the TCD Rebels making the uphill climb to the final even steeper for the Storm.

As the sun came up on Sunday, the TD Port Elgin Storm found themselves back on the road to face an always improving TCD squad.  In order to maximize their chances for a trip to the Big Dance on Sunday afternoon, the Storm would have to win all three periods against a TCD team that had beaten them just a month before.  The Rebels positional play always makes them a difficult opponent.

Knowing that their playoff chances depended on having a strong showing against the Rebels, the Storm came out of the gates very cautiously.  The TCD defense continually turned away the Storm attacks and left forwards boxed out from the net and unable to produce. At the halfway point of the first, a clearing attempt found its way onto the stick of Fariha Sirdar.  The stay at home defender made no mistake as she ripped her point shot straight through a crowd and into the back of the net. The goal would hold up to be the game winner as Jaelyn Nelson got her first shut out of the tournament.  Penelope Tedford would add two more to the Storm total, followed by Victoria Buckland, Laila Johnson, Grace Phillips and Gwen Doherty.

The TD Port Elgin Storm completed their task of winning all three periods but their tournament fate was now in the hands of the Rams as they had to keep the Kinucks out of the win column.  Minutes passed slowly while the Storm awaited the results… The convenor finally made his way down the hall to announce that the Rams had shut out the Kinucks, 3-0, punching the Storms ticket to WOAA Novice Girls White Division Final.  

With the stage set, the TD Port Elgin Novice Girls Storm prepared to face the Mount Forest Rams, the team that had come back to beat them 5-3 just one day before.  Despite being underdogs, the Storm ran through the halls of the Wingham arena with confidence as they warmed up for their first final ever. The music blasted in the change room as they confidently prepared for one of the biggest matches in their young careers.  

The game was fast paced and very physical, not your typical novice girls game to say the least.  Players bumped, collided and battled for every inch of ice. The Storm struck first as Gwen Doherty was sprung from her own end, burying the puck behind the Rams goalie.  The Rams battled back trapping the puck in the Storm end for much of the second period. Forward Eve Lawrence continually dropped back to assist the defense against the Rams attack.  Storm defender Olivia Beirnes battled hard clearing the crease of rebounds and Rams forwards. Storm attackers, Lilah Wolfe and Adara Nelson, battled hard to clear the puck to relieve pressure make line changes, yet the Rams continued to press.  The Storm entered the second intermission with the same one goal lead they surrendered just one day before to the same team.

Once again, Mount Forest was on the offensive right off the draw.  The Storm battled to take the puck to the Rams net but were having little success against a collapsing defense. Five minutes into the 15 minute third, the Rams took the puck deep into the Storm zone.  As players crashed the crease, the goalie held her ground, and an overzealous fan sounded a fog horn in the arena causing confusion on the ice among the players. A Rams forward capitalized on the opportunity and forced a puck past a bewildered goalie.  Controversy ensued as an irate bench staff argued that the goal should be nullified due to the spectator interference. The ref refused to reverse the goal. The Storm were right back to where they were the day before… Tied in the third after leading the club that has had their number all season.

Deadlocked at a goal each, the Storm had their backs against the wall.  Centers were gassed and looking for line changes whenever they could. Defenders were in constant puck battles along the boards as the Rams seemed to have endless energy, hemming the Storm in their own end.  The third period dragged on as the Storm were on their heels for most of it. Finally, the buzzer sounded to end the third. Next stop, 4 on 4 sudden death overtime.

A brief intermission allowed the girls to regain their composure and focus on the task at hand… Scoring the next goal.  To start the final frame, Grace Phillips lined up for the face off, Tori Gruberbauer to her right and Gwen Doherty and Laila Johnson positioned on the blue line.  Phillips won the draw getting the puck into Rams territory. The Storm pressured but were unable to keep the puck in the Rams end. Mount Forest battled at their blue line and started to break out towards center ice when Johnson used her body, sliding on her knees to break up the Rams drive just as they crossed over the red line.  Doherty pounced on the loose puck carrying it deep down the right boards. After losing the puck in corner, Phillips and Gruberbauer freed it while Doherty moved to the slot. As the score sheet reads, Phillips to Gruberbauer to Doherty… She shoots… She scores. The TD Port Elgin Storm, after being outshot 19-9, had won the WOAA Novice Girls White Division Championship in overtime.

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