Cardinals crowned at Father Mac Memorial Tournament
by Randy Pascal
St Charles College boys hockey coaches Rob Zanatta, Darren Michelutti and Casey Thompson will be the first to admit that the
2018-2019 edition of the Cardinals is not the most talented the trio have seen in their tenure at SCC.
Yet it was this hard-working group that managed, last weekend, to accomplish something no prior version of the Cards had done.
Taking part in a 26-team event in Niagara Falls, the Cardinals laid claim to the championship banner of the Father Mac Memorial Hockey
Tournament, in honour of Father Tony McNamara, beating the host St Michael Mustangs 7-5 in the final.
Ironically, with points doled out for period victories and such in preliminary round play, the local entry was fortunate to even advance to the playoff
round, accumulation 12.5 points in their first four games, just one point better than both the Korah Colts from Sault Ste Marie, and the Sir
Winston Churchill Bulldogs from Hamilton, and sliding into the eighth and final quarter-final spot.
The locals kicked things off with a 5-0 win over the Lakeshore Catholic Gators from Port Colbourne, dropping to 1-1 with a 3-1 loss at the hands
of the St Francis Phoenix (St Catharines), with Matty Belanger pulling the trigger for the SDSSAA crew.
Things remained tight as St Charles played to a 4-4 draw with the Holy Name Greenwave from Ohio, with Brendan Weber, Jordan Faught, Tayler
Bedard and Matty Belanger lighting the lamp once each for coach Zanatta and company.
Needing a win and some help to advance, the Cards stopped the A.N. Myer Marauders (Niagara Falls) 5-2, the offense led by two-goal performances
from both Belanger and Evan Lamarche, with Joe Guzzo rounding out the scoring.
A quarter-final match-up with St Francis allowed for a little northern retribution as St Charles tripled the Phoenix 6-2, thanks to a very balanced
attack. Faught, Belanger, Bedard and Lamarche were joined by Braedan Gobbo and Keenan Osawabine on the scoresheet for the winners.
The make or break game, however, would come in the semi-finals, when the Cardinals received the "best goaltending display seen by this coaching staff"
in the past decade, upsetting the Dennis Morris CHS Reds 4-2.
With his team clinging to a 3-2 lead in the final minute of play, puckstopper Kam McCue came through with several key saves and one of the most
unbelievable stops in program history, leading to an empty-net marker by Belanger, who completed his hat-trick into the vacant cage.
Riley Bridge also scored once for the Cardinals, who moved on to the championship final despite entering the playoff round as the lowest seeded
team, in eighth place.
The St Charles attack was firing on all cylinders in the gold medal encounter, as Joe Guzzo paced the team with a three goal effort and Jordan Faught
added a pair. Bridge and Belanger closed out the scoring parade, the latter rewarded as the Tournament MVP thanks to a stretch of hockey in which the
skilled Cardinal forward racked up nine goals and seven assists in seven games.
In local action earlier this week, the St Benedict Bears kept their hopes alive for a berth in the second half Division "A" grouping, doubling
the Espanola Spartans 8-4. Jordan Pincivero and Aiden Klem scored two goals each for head coach J.D. Eaton, with Lukas
Gigliotti, James Way, Jeremy Houle and Ben Cacciotti all adding singles.
Regan St Amour and Kennedy Sintal snipped two goals apiece in a losing effort for the Spartans. The second half of the Monday double-header
at Carmichael Arena produced one of the best games of the year, as the Lo-Ellen Park Knights netted a pair of goals just ten seconds apart with
under five minutes to play, coming from behind to eke out a 3-3 tie with the Bishop Carter Gators.
Tallies from Blake Cornthwaite and Owen Hall, with a pair, sandwiched around a reply from Parker Anderson, had vaulted BAC into a
3-1 third period lead, before Hayden Lahaie and Anderson, with his second, pulled the Knights even.