Goalies never stop learning, even when they are 2013 Lower Lakes Female Hockey League Peewee C silver medalists.
Tillsonburg Horvath Auto Lightning goalies Alyson Moylan and Amelia Skinner recently had a chance to improve their skills in a goaltender clinic at the Tillsonburg Community Centre.
“I learned how to get across the crease faster and stay in position,” said Skinner.
“The four stations helped,” said Moylan. “No rebounds. And positioning – you had to imagine the ice with no paint on it and figure out where we had to go…”
“And I always thought the main idea of being a goalie,” said Skinner, “was just to stop the puck, but it’s actually…”
“To control the puck,” nodded Moylan.
A week earlier the Horvath Auto peewee girls won silver medals at the Lower Lakes Female Hockey League Championship Tournament, March 22-23, in Mississauga.
“We did really well,” said Moylan. “I think the whole team played really good.”
“I think they team played awesome,” said Skinner.
Tillsonburg had a bye in the first round of LLFHL regional playoffs, then beat Mitchell 2-0 in a best-of-three semifinal series, winning 5-0 (Feb. 24) and 7-1 (March 2).
The two West Region finalists – Milverton and Tillsonburg – both qualified for the Championship Weekend. They did not need to play a final series, and elected not to play it.
“We used the time to play exhibitions against teams a little closer than Milverton, to keep our skills honed,” said coach Mike Skinner.
The Lightning had two practices and three exhibitions in the week-and-a-half leading up to the Mississauga tourney.
“We purposely scheduled exhibition games against Peewee B teams (Woodstock and Ingersoll), a level up from us, to get us playing a little harder.”
The No. 2 West Region seed played its first Championship Weekend game Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. against the East’s No. 1 seed, Ennismore Eagles, who were clearcut winners of their LLFHL division.
“We hadn’t seen them at all, but going by their stats… 94 goals for, 17 against… they were clearly outgunning opponents in their division. Ours was 43-21. You see that kind of stat, and you’re a little bit nervous going in not knowing what to expect. But the girls were ready for it – they certainly rose to the challenge.”
Tillsonburg came out flying against the Eagles. Lightning captain Jayden Simmonds scored twice in the first two-and-a-half minutes en route to a 4-1 victory, backstopped by goalie Amelia Skinner.
“I was surprised – and happy,” she said. “It really built the team’s confidence.”
Simmonds’ two early goals set the tone. The game settled down, and Tillsonburg added two more in the second. Ennismore scored its only goal late in the third.
Simmonds finished Friday’s opener with a hat trick.
“They were not ready for a fast start, we caught them completely by surprise,” said coach Skinner.
Horvath Auto Lightning 4, Ennismore 1
Lightning scoring: 1. Jayden Simmonds; 2. Jayden Simmonds (Sydnie Horvath); 3. Bella Gardner (Erika Poredos); 4. Jayden Simmonds.
The Lightning were back on the ice Friday evening for a 6 p.m. game against Milverton, who got the West No. 1 seed by finishing three points ahead of Tillsonburg (12-6-4) in league play.
Michaela (Mikki) Cooper scored a hat trick for Tillsonburg, her first of the season, in a 3-1 victory. Lightning goalie Alyson Moylan played a strong game in net for the win, which was enough to propel Tillsonburg into the gold medal game.
Horvath Auto Lightning 3, Milverton 1
Lightning scoring: 1. Michaela Cooper (Alison Steinhoff); 2. Michaela Cooper (Alison Steinhoff); 3. Michaela Cooper.
Moylan returned between the pipes Saturday morning and Tillsonburg beat Otonabee Wolverines 5-2.
“She played stellar again,” said coach Skinner.
The Horvath Auto peewees scored three second-period goals to take a commanding 4-0 lead.
“We had five different scorers,” said Skinner. “A total team effort.”
Horvath Auto Lightning 5, Otonabee 2
Lightning goals: 1. Madison Locker (Erika Poredos, Bella Gardner); 2. Alison Steinhoff (Taylor Jamieson, Emma Couwenberg); 3. Erika Poredos (Bella Gardner, Sydnie Horvath); 4. Jayden Simmonds; 5. Bella Gardner (Emma Couwenberg, Sydnie Horvath).
Milverton and Ennismore also played Saturday morning in a game with gold-medal implications. Milverton had to win, Ennismore only needed a tie. Milverton was eliminated with a 2-2 tie, setting up a Tillsonburg-Ennismore gold medal game Saturday afternoon.
Scoreless in the first, Ennismore took a 2-0 lead in the second. Ennismore killed off a tripping penalty, and it indirectly led to their first goal when Mackenzie Evans came out of the box, took a breakaway pass behind the Lightning defence and scored on Skinner. Three minutes later Ennismore was up by two.
Bella Gardner scored for Tillsonburg with 2:34 left in the same period.
“The third period was back and forth, a lot of great scoring opportunities – some shots off the iron,” said coach Skinner, who called a timeout with 1:07 left to play. “Both teams were playing at their peak.”
The Horvath Auto peewees pulled their goalie for the extra skater. Ennismore added an empty-netter with five seconds left to win 3-1.
They would have liked gold, but were happy with the LLFHL silver.
“The team played excellent,” said coach Skinner. “They worked hard all year to get here. They really pulled together as a unit.”
Five of the peewees will graduate to bantam next year.
“There’s room for some more Peewee B girls,” said Skinner. “I honestly believe this team can compete a B level, maybe even a BB level.”
The 2012-13 peewees made a choice at the beginning of the season between B and C.
“It was the right decision, absolutely. We had a good mix of girls, we averaged it out, and we finished the season right where we should have been… but ready to move up.
“We went C based on the fact we had a couple atom players on the team and some girls who weren’t really comfortable on their skates yet. But I can’t say that now. There are no weak links on this team – this team is capable of playing at B or above. And anybody who wants to play hockey in Tillsonburg can be part of it.”