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Wide open hockey makes for exciting finals

With boatloads of extra room, even moreso given the "larger-than-normal" ice surfaces of the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex, athletes competing in the "Skater's Edge 3 on 3 Challenge" had ample opportunity to showcase their skills.

And that they did, all weekend long, with action running both in the south end, as well as Azilda, from first thing Friday morning right through until late afternoon on Sunday.

A number of the championship encounters proved highly entertaining, including the Minor Bantam Houseleague gold medal game, as Mine Source Auction stormed back from a 2-0 deficit, scoring a troika of unanswered goals in edging the Tri-Town Blizzard 3-2.

Jacob Mackey and Kyle Paige lifted the Tri-Town lads to the early lead, before Noah Funnell pulled his team even on a single shift. Coming off a winter of hockey with the McFarlane Peewee Lakers of the SPHL, Funnell connected twice in a span of thirty seconds or so, deadlocking the contest at 2-2.

Cody Lauzon completed the comeback a short while later, netting the game-winning tally, with Mine Source goaltender Jacob Bartolucci coming through with a number of key saves, helping to keep his team in the game through the opening period of play.

"I originally wasn't going to play, because I really didn't know a lot of people on the team, but some of my friends were on, so I joined," said Funnell after the game. Though three on three hockey is generally more well-known for its wide open emphasis on offense, Funnell believes that, as in the NHL come post-season time, defense wins championships.

"There's a lot of man to man coverage, just because there's so much more space without the other two guys out there," noted the well-spoken 14 year old. "There's a lot more stretch passes that you really have to watch for."

Down by a pair of goals after the first twelve minute session, the Mine Source squad made an important adjustment at the break. "A lot of people were trying to do it by themselves, even me," said Funnell. "We had to work through that a little bit."

The Major Bantam rep division followed, with a handful of "AAA" opponents from the Sudbury Wolves and Nickel City Sons going toe to toe, with rosters that also included a large contingent of "AA" talent.

Backed by a solid performance between the pipes from North Bay native Zach Plummer and a three-goal performance from Mathieu Dokis-Dupuis, the Northern Lightning blanked the Sudbury 4th Liners 5-0, capping another come-from-behind story.

Patrick Musico and Chase Kanasawe-Jacko rounded out the scoring for the Lightning, who finished in fourth place in their division, though that seemed to deter them very little as they swept their way through the semi-finals and championship encounter on Sunday.

"We felt pretty confident," acknowledged Dokis-Dupuis, a key contributor for the Sudbury team that returned from the All-Ontario Bantam "AAA" Championships in Timmins a few weeks ago.

"They were all close games in the round robin, we didn't get blown out. We felt pretty confident that we should have beat them in the round robin play, that it just didn't fall on the good side," Dokis-Dupuis continued.

"Today, we lucked out and got the two wins that we needed." While the well-rounded forward, who is certain to draw some attention from OHL scouts next year, has managed to excel both in "AAA" hockey and in three on three, Dokis-Dupuis notes that the two settings might well showcase altogether different athletes.

"There's no contact here, so you change your game a bit," he said. "Three on three is a really good game for small, fast kids. In "AAA", you need a bit more size to play."

Other divisional winners included:

Major Atom Rep - Bar Down Selects

Major Atom Houseleague - Sudbury Titans

Minor Atom Houseleague - Bin Here Bin There

Major Novice Rep - Jr Sons Black

Greater Sudbury Soccer Club