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Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018
Cards relentless in their pursuit of an OFSAA berth
by Randy Pascal

It was midway through the season before St Charles College Cardinals boys hockey coaches Rob Zanatta, Darren Michelutti and Casey Thompson thought they might be on to something special.

Last week in Sault Ste Marie, they were treated to the culmination of a campaign in which early expectations may have been somewhat subdued.

The Cardinals will make their first trip to OFSAA in three years after posting an undefeated 4-0 mark at the NOSSA championships, capped off by an impressive 3-0 smothering of the Superior Heights Steelhawks.

After opening tournament play with a 4-3 win over that same opponent, the St Charles lads kept things rolling with a 5-3 triumph over the Chippewa Raiders from North Bay.

Bryceton Lalonde scored twice to show the way for the winners, with Tayler Bedard, Callum Roque and Joe Guzzo adding one goal apiece, while Jonathan Stetch, Aydan Poudrier and Will Petrie replied in a losing cause.

But it was in game three, a 6-2 thumping of the Korah Colts that things really came together. "It was almost like our city championship," noted Michelutti. "We started off slow, then we progressed as the tournament went."

"The first Superior Heights game wasn't our team, but game two, we found our legs a little bit more and in game three, we really hit our stride. Korah was supposed to be in the final, and we beat them 6-2, a pretty dominant performance by us."

A two goal performance from Matthew Belanger helped to propel the Cards, with Tanner Webkamigad joining Roque, Lalonde and Bedard on the scoresheet as well. Only Noah Naccarato and Tyler Albert managed to solve St Charles netminder Brody Davidson.

Belanger was right in the mix in the final as well, scoring twice, with Mike Morrier adding the remaining tally in support of the shutout goaltending of Riley Ouellette. Callum Roque was recognized as tournament MVP, while Lalonde added three assists to his stat-line.

"We definitely knew we had a shot heading into the NOSSA championship," said Michelutti. "We didn't see any of the teams heading into it, but we had heard a lot. With our speed, playing the way we can, we were definitely considered one of the favourites heading in."

"I think every kid in our dressing room knows that we are a team built on speed. We wanted to be relentless, all year - that's kind of the word that we used," he added. "We wanted to forecheck hard and make sure that teams know that every shift, we're coming at you hard."

"We're not a physical team. We use our speed, we use our team smarts, and there is not let up from our team." The Cardinals have garnered the #9 overall seeding for the OFSAA "A/AA" tournament in Collingwood, joined in their pool by the Henry Street Hawks from Whitby (#4), the Nelson Lords from Burlington (#6), the St Joseph's Jaguars from Renfrew (#16) and the Iona Dolphins from Mississauga (#17).

Play commences on the morning of Tuesday, March 20th. "I see a lot of similarities from our team of about four years ago, with Ryan Liinamaa as captain and Jacob Leore leading the way," said Michelutti.

"That team got to a quarter-final and lost 2-0. I honestly believe this team could medal at OFSAA. It's a matter of putting it all together at the right time."

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