Laurier Brantford men’s hockey team took to the ice in Oshawa on Thursday and Friday as they took part in their first ever Challenge Cup.
The tournament started off with the Hawks taking on Peterborough’s Flemming College. The game would remain 0-0 until the second period when Captain David Howe made it 1-0 Hawks on a goal set up by Jake Milligan and Tanner Rutland. Clay Chalmers would make it 2-0 in the third, a margin the team would hang on to taking down Flemming 2-0.
In their second game, the team took on top seeded St. Lawrence College. Like their first game, the guys would hang in and keep it scoreless until the second period when Corey Way put the Hawks up 1-0 on a goal set up by Brian Holland with just 1:29 left in the frame. St. Lawrence College would connect with just 29 seconds left in the second and after both teams played a scoreless third period the teams found themselves in a shootout.
Jake Milligan got things started with a goal on the team’s first shot. SLC would tie up the shootout, but after assistant captain Andrew Pawluk scored to put the Hawks ahead, Ben Brenner made a stop on SLC’s final shooter to give the Hawks the win.
In game three, the guys took on Sault College. The Hawks would strike 7:04 into the first period going up 1-0 on a goal by Jake Milligan assisted by Galucci and Chalmers. Dave Howe would give the Hawks a 2-0 lead with assists coming from Way and Pawluk.
The team would get into some penalty trouble, allowing Sault to strike twice and tie the game, but after teams traded goals in the third, Captain David Howe would give the Hawks a 4-3 lead with just 1:08 remaining on the clock to send the guys into the semi-finals.
In the semi-finals the Golden Hawks took on Trent College. The guys came flying out of the gate, scoring just 1:40 into the first period on a goal by Way, assisted by David Howe and Kevin Lampough. The team would keep rolling and would eventually take the game 4-0, advancing to the finals.
In the finals the Hawks met Seneca College. Andrew Pawluk would give the team a 1-0 lead just 17 seconds into the game. The game would remain 1-0 until 4:02 mark of the second when Michael Bondy made it 2-0 on a goal assisted by Way. Then at the 7:44 point of the third, Tanner Rutland gave the Hawks a 3-0 lead. The Hawks were able to hold on and win the final game 3-0 crowning them Ontario Collegiate Athletics Association (OCAA) champions, becoming the first Laurier Brantford team to do so.
Captain David Howe believes that like in their previous tournaments, goaltender Ben Brenner deserves a lot of praise for his great play, including three shutouts in five games.
“Brenner stuck out this tournament as usual, it’s tough to not show respect for a kid who gets three shutouts in the Provincials,” says Howe.
The team won an astounding nine straight games and 13 of their final 14 games. David Howe believes this all really started after the team’s tournament win at home.
“The turning point this season was winning the Brantford tournament,” says Howe, “The guys came together, got the win and we were still hungry for more.”
Assistant captain Andrew Pawluk believes the team’s penalty kill also was also key in the Hawks win.
“Our penalty kill was stellar, especially in the semis when we had to kill an eight-minute penalty,” says Pawluk.
For many veterans on the team, the Challenge Cup marked the last time players like Kelan Herr, Tanner Rutland, Andrew Pawluk, Dylan Parnell, Bruce Moffat, and Paul Galluci would get to don the purple and gold, as they all played in their last games. Captain David Howe believes getting to play alongside these gentlemen was an honour and a privilege.
“I speak on behalf of the team and just say what a privilege it was to play with such great guys,” says Howe, “They are the reason this team came together so quickly and it’s an honour to win the championship with them.”
With the veterans moving on there will no doubt be some big shoes to fill come next year when the team takes to the ice in the fall to retain their Challenge Cup title.