Every game was close in the 2013 Tillsonburg Twisters Ringette Tournament’s four-team U10 division.
And every game in the two-day tournament was important.
Tillsonburg Lions finished the three-game round-robin undefeated with a 2-0-1 record. Sunday morning’s 6-4 win over Elora-Fergus was a critical victory.
“We needed to win today in order to move on,” said Tillsonburg Lions U10 coach Steve Craig. “Every game was a must-win or tie to get into the championship game. Dorchester, who we beat yesterday had a win and a loss for three points, but if we lost today we would have had three points and so would Oshawa. Then it would have went down to plus-minus and we may or may not have gotten in.”
Sunday morning’s win not only propelled them into the final against the Oshawa Storm, it gave them a boost in confidence.
“I think that win today also made the girls realize they were good enough, not only to go to the final, but to actually win. They were quite pumped.”
Lauren Court gave the Twisters a 1-0 lead on a power play early in Sunday’s U10 final. But Oshawa went ahead with two late first-period goals.
Claire Craig found the back of the net 19 seconds into the second period to knot the score at 2-2. Oshawa regained its one-goal lead, and the Lions Club Twisters had to come from behind once again scoring with 5:32 left to play in regulation. Kylie Barnard buried the game-tying goal.
“We were trying to get some shots on their goalie (Emma Francois),” said coach Craig. “They had a very strong goalie, so we were really trying to focus on getting shots to the net from far out – not getting in too deep – and not shooting right into the goalie’s chest.”
Tied 3-3, Tillsonburg started a 15-minute sudden death overtime period on a power play, and it took Sydney Court 32 seconds to score the winner with a wrist shot from the slot.
“It got to the point where we were able to straighten out our lines (going into OT). It was the first shift and Sydney netted it, which was great because the suspense was good enough at that point.”
Tillsonburg Lions 4, Oshawa 3
Twisters scoring: 1. Lauren Court; 2. Claire Craig (Kylie Barnard); 3. Kylie Barnard (Claire Craig); 4. Sydney Court.
“It was a very close game,” nodded coach Craig. “It was back and forth throughout our two games with them. Our first game ended in a tie (4-4) and this one was tied (3-3), so we went into overtime.
“They (Oshawa) had a short bench. They were starting to run out of gas, but our girls were starting to turn it on in the second period. It was definitely a hard-fought battle.”
One of the keys, he said, was being a bit more focused in the second half.
“Great shots on net, great passes and plays, used the defence… and it was our first tournament win of the year.”
The U10 Lions also got MVP-caliber goaltending from Emily Verhoeve, who played all four tournament games in net. Verhoeve, a skater rather than goalie for 70 per of the season, was the team MVP in their first two games – and a real difference-maker.
The Storm, who had eight players dressed for the championship game, were led by former Tillsonburg Ringette player Keely Browne, who scored Oshawa’s two first-period goals. On the Storm bench was Sean Browne, former coach and Tillsonburg Ringette executive, who helped support the tournament with U9 and U10 Storms.
“Keely has played with many of the girls on this team,” Craig noted, “and if she was still in town, she would have been playing with these girls.
“I’ve worked with Sean – we coached together – and we did the three-on-three summer ringette. He’s definitely missed because he was very, very active.”
Tillsonburg Lions 4, Dorchester 2
Twisters scoring: 1. Sydney Court (Lauren Court); 2. Gracyn McNinch (Claire Craig); 3. Sydney Court (Bella Bennett); 4. Claire Craig (Gracyn McNinch, Sydney Court).
Tillsonburg Lions 4, Oshawa 4
Twisters scoring: 1. Bella Bennett; 2. Maxx Schnekenburger; 3. Maxx Schnekenburger; 4. Claire Craig.
Tillsonburg Lions 6, Elora-Fergus 4
Twisters scoring: 1. Kylie Barnard (Gracyn McNinch); 2. Gracyn McNinch (Kylie Barnard, Maxx Schnekenburger); 3. Kylie Barnard (Claire Craig); 4. Sydney Court (Maxx Schnekenburger, Gracyn McNinch); 5. Claire Craig (Kylie Barnard, Aleashia Pilkey); 6. Sydney Court (Maxx Schnekenburger, Lauren Court).
The Lions U10s, playing in the Western Region ringette league, are unofficially ‘mid-pack.’
“We were seeded in the lower half since Christmas, and since then we’ve been doing very well. Our girls seem to be gelling in the second half of the year.”
Craig pointed out Saturday’s 4-2 tournament win against Dorchester, a team that’s ahead of them Western Region standings.
“I can definitely see the improvement in all the girls. And there’s been a few that have made huge strides, like Gracyn (McNinch) and Bella (Bennett). Some of the girls have made big improvements this year.”
The U10 Lions can look forward to two more tournaments before finishing the 2012-13 season with Guelph Regionals in March.
“We have one in Paris in February and one in Niagara Falls, the beginning of March.”
Craig is assisted by Becky Turrill and Ross Luscher, and Tim Ramer is team manager.