Six different Tillsonburg Hogarth Insurance Atom AEs found the back of the net in the Underhill’s Farm Supply Bob Tansley Memorial Hockey Tournament championship game Sunday in the Kinsmen/Memorial Arena.
"It's balance, that's what it's about," said coach Eric MacFadden following a 6-3 victory over Hespeler. "Our team is well balanced and they play as a team and win as a team."
But it admittedly doesn't hurt to have a goalie for whom the lowest goals against average is a self-imposed law.
"It's fun to like rob people and stop pucks," said backstop Tristin Zeller.
"He's good," added teammate Nick Behman. "Awesome."
Zeller was solid throughout, but arguably at his best during the first period, when Hespeler had the early jump.
"Our goalie keeps us in it until we find our legs," credited MacFadden.
Zeller's best stop was a sprawling left pad save on a Hespeler one-timer that preserved a 1-1 tie with 5:07 to play in the second. The other big save of the game came courtesy of forward Ethan Scaman, flashing a little guest leather of his own.
"It was going to go top shelf and Ethan grabbed it," credited Zeller. "Epic."
Scaman was equally familiar - and loquacious - at the opposite end of the ice, putting Tillsonburg ahead for good on the power-play at the 41-second mark of the third period, answering a game-tying short-handed effort just 15 seconds previous from Hespeler's Rylan Truax.
"Well, I got under pressure quite a bit," Scaman explained. "I was a little nervous because in a past game they tied it up by pulling their goalie. I just felt I had to work as hard as I possible could."
Scaman picked up the puck inside the face-off circle to the right of the Hespeler net, curling around the face-off dot itself, before unloading a low, hard shot inside the far (right) post.
"I saw number 77 and number four coming at me," Scaman recalled. "I just decided to rip it."
Kaden Bailey added the back end of a quick two-goal combination just 1:07 later, finding a seam down the left wing and finishing with a beauty of a shot, inside the left post on the short (stick) side.
The teams traded goals (Nathan Holman from Braxton VanRybroeck for Tillsonburg; Cole Mathews for Hespeler) down the stretch before VanRybroeck wrapped up the victory with an empty-netter on assists to Nathan Holman and Bailey.
Hespeler's Cameron Sidaway had opened scoring at the 4:16 mark of the first, a marker answered with 6:42 to play in the second. Tillsonburg's Brayden Castellani did the legwork on the goal, driving to the net for the initial shot which allowed teammate Brady Rangel to cash a two-foot rebound. Liam Hicks gave the Hogarth AEs a 2-1 lead with 2:31 to play in the period, skating out of a scrum (assisted by VanRybroeck) and down the left wing before finishing with a high, hard shot to the top, right corner. Truax's short-handed effort squared accounts at two briefly, before Scaman and Bailey lifted Tillsonburg into a two-goal lead.
"Scoring is spread out throughout the team," said MacFadden. "We don't have one superstar, scoring is kind of balanced throughout, which is good."
Tillsonburg opened the tourney with a 6-0 win over the Listowel Cyclones, breaking open a one-goal game with four unanswered second-period markers. Jack Soares, Scaman, Castellani, Rangel, Holman and Hicks had a goal apiece with assists to Scaman (2), Griffin Vincent (2), VanRybroeck, Holman, Rangel, Behman, Hicks and Eric Turrill. Zeller picked up the shutout.
A subsequent 2-2 draw with Hespeler was a bittersweet experience, given Hespeler scored twice in the final 1:48 to salvage the split. Rangel and Holman scored Tillsonburg’s goals, with assists to Scaman and Lyle Collins.
Tillsonburg got back on its collective skates with a 7-0 shutout victory Paris, backstopped by Zeller. Bailey paced the attack with a hat trick and an assist, Scaman had a pair of goals and assists, Castellani a goal and two assists, VanRybroeck a goal and Evan MacFadden (3), Behman and Soares contributed helpers.
The Hogarth Insurance Atom AEs advanced to the final with a 3-0 semi-final shutout victory over Listowell, Zeller’s third of the tournament. Scaman, Holman and Castellani netted a goal apiece for the winners, assisted by Rangel (2), Hicks, Soares and Bailey.
“We won ‘cause everyone passed, shot and skated real fast, forward and back,” said Behman.
“The team played well throughout the entire tournament,” added Turrill in summation.
The tournament championship is Tillsonburg’s second in two tries, notable roadmarks on what to date, has been an undefeated season featuring just three ties. MacFadden and company hope to keep the good times rolling, given in part Silver Stick regional qualifier action is right around the hockey corner on the first weekend in December.
“We’re kind of gearing up for that, trying to perfect our game a little bit,” the coach concluded.