Underhill's Farm Supply AE peewees host Collingwood Saturday, 6:45 p.m. in Game 3 of OMHA finals
An estimated crowd of 200-plus cheering fans watched the Tillsonburg Underhill's Farm Supply AE peewees defeat Mount Brydges in Game 6 of the OMHA semifinals.
And the AE peewees are hoping to see at least that many this Saturday at 6:45 p.m. at the Tillsonburg Kinsmen Memorial Arena when the Tornadoes host the Collingwood Blackhawks in Game 3 of the OMHA finals.
"We'd certainly like to see the community come out," said Underhill's assistant coach Mike Ryksen. "It (Game 6) was actually quite loud and quite raucous. It was probably one of the more memorable minor hockey games that I have ever been a part of... and the boys really seemed to feed off it. They did very well."
Season highlights for the Tornadoes included winning the Regional Silver Stick championship in Ayr, Dec. 8-10, and going to the International Silver Stick in Pelham, Jan. 11-12.
The AE peewees lost in the finals of their home Bob Tansley Memorial tournament, Nov. 3-5, then won the Niagara-on-the-Lake tournament over the Christmas break, Dec. 27-29.
"It was back to back for the Peewee AE team," Ryksen noted. "We also won that last year and there were four or five kids back on the team this year."
A successful post season brought them to the finals - they are one of the top AE peewee teams in the OMHA.
"It has been a pleasant surprise for us as coaches," said Ryksen. "Through a lot of hard work by our kids... here we are. We always tell our boys on our team, you're in the top one percentile or your age group. In your age group, there's not too many people who can say they've actually done this once in their lifetime."
It was a tough road to the finals, however. Tillsonburg got past Lincoln in five quarter-final games, taking the six-point series 7-4.
"It was a tough series," said Ryksen.
The semifinals against Mount Brydges actually went beyond the typical five games.
"Again, another good team - it did indeed go the distance," said Ryksen. "That series was a little different because there were close games, and also blowouts on both sides."
Tillsonburg knotted the series at 3-3 with a convincing 4-0 win, but lost 6-1 on home ice the next day.
Facing elimination, the AE peewees won a 2-1 overtime thriller to force a sixth game.
"Then we dominated Game 6 back here for the series win," said Ryksen, recalling a 5-1 victory.
"Our path to the final hasn't been easy, it's been filled with a lot of hard work."
That hard work also led to a successful run in Southern Counties playoffs, which included a stretch of 10 games in 10 nights. The Underhill's AE peewees face off in Paris Thursday night in the SCMHA semifinals, and if they win the Tornadoes will play Saturday morning for the Southern Counties championship in Cayuga.
"We may end up playing two pretty big games on Saturday," said Ryksen.
The OMHA finals opened last weekend in Collingwood, and so far, the Blackhawks have had the upper hand.
"Collingwood has a very good hockey team," said Ryksen. "Not unlike us. We probably have not played our best game against them, yet."
Collingwood won 5-0 Saturday and 3-0 Sunday. Tillsonburg needs to win on Saturday, March 24 (6:45 p.m.) to extend the series. Game 4, if necessary, is Sunday, March 18, at 4 p.m.