ALBERTON -- The Atlantic Minor Midget AAA championship tournament’s gold medal game bore a couple of similarities to the deciding game of the P.E.I. Midget AAA championship series 11 days earlier: Same two teams, same final score.
The Island champions and hosts of the Atlantic tournament, the Western Regals, downed the Mid-Isle Matrix 4-2 before a packed house at the Jacques Cartier Arena here Sunday afternoon.
Brendan Smith scored the insurance goal into the empty net with 28 seconds remaining in the third period to relieve the pressure that had been building.
It was his first goal of the tournament and admittedly, an easy one, but, “it felt pretty good, though,” Smith said. “It tool a lot of pressure off. We were all nervous, but after that, we knew we had it.”
The Regals had celebrated a fourth goal three minutes prior to Smith sealing the deal, but that goal was subsequently ruled off with the referees determining it was gloved into the Matrix net.
With the pressure off, emotions boiled over with one second remaining in the game. The Matrix took exception with a spirited scramble in their goal crease and two fights ensued. Emotions were still high during the post-game handshake and another fighting major was issued to each team. Over the entire game, the Matrix took nine minors, three fighting majors and five 10-minute misconducts. The Regals were assessed four minors a double minor three fighting majors and six 10-minute misconducts.
Regals coach Brett Corcoran played down the finish, preferring to focus on the celebration taking place on the ice around him. “It’s just emotions boiled over after playing each other 13 times.”
Smith admitted he had confidence in the team heading into the Atlantic tournament.
“I knew if we played good we’d win,” he said. “We play good as a team.”
Jason Gallant scored twice for the Regals, including the game-winner. That was his “biggest goal by far,” he said. “It’s a good feeling,“ Gallant said of the victory. “It’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever had in my life and it will probably be one of the best feelings I’ll ever have.” Gallant was named the Regals player of the game. The Matrix player of the game award went to Liam O’Connor whose first period goal had given his team a 1-0 lead.
Jake Arsenault scored with 1:38 remaining in the first period for the Regals to tie the game at 1-1. Earning assists in the Regals win were Brandon Williams (2), Brendan Shea (2), Curklan Fraser, Thomas Fraser and Brett Aylward.
Spencer Francis scored the Matrix second goal midway through the second period Earning assists for the Matrix were Matt Craig, Jacob Stewart and James Murphy.
Goaltenders for the championship game were Avery Arsenault for the Regals and for the Matrix Sean MacPhee.
Team Nova Scotia, the Bedford Blues, was awarded the tournament bronze medals following a 6-1 win over Team Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John's Marshalls, in a game that was significantly closer than the score would suggest. The Blues led 4-0 after the first period and were up 5-1 heading into the third.
“We stuck with our game plan,” Blues captain Connor Sheehan said of their success in limiting penalties. “Throughout the whole tournament the boys ran into penalty trouble, but we did a good job to stay composed this game," he said.
Aaron Alexander’s goal at 9:54 of the opening period stood up as the game-winner but it was defenceman Austin Page who became the sentimental hero of the Nova Scotia fans when he made it 6-1 midway through the final period on a two-man powerplay. “We had a bit of fun at the end,” acknowledged Sheehan. “We changed some guys up. We had Austin Page there who hadn’t scored a goal all year. We put him up front and he got a goal.”
“So we had a bit of fun at the end and just enjoyed our last minutes together,” Sheehan commented.
Also scoring for the Blues were Shannon LeDrew (2), Reid Wheeler and Brandon Rose. A second period goal by the Marshalls Luke Tremblett spoiled Brendan Cregan’s shut-out bid.
The start of the five-team tournament on Thursday was delayed due to the lingering effects of last Wednesday's blizzard. Many members of the Nova Scotia team and the New Brunswick team, the Saint John Warriors, found themselves stranded in New Brunswick for part of the day on Thursday waiting for the winds to subside so that the Confederation Bridge could reopen to vehicle traffic. The tournament schedule had to be revised but by Saturday, everything was back on track.
Standings at the end of round robin had the Regals in first place with four wins and eight points, the Matrix in second with three wins and six points, followed by the Marshalls with three points from a win, two losses and a tie, the Blues with two points from a pair of ties and the Saint John Warriors earning one point for a tie.
At the tournament awards banquet Saturday night at the Rodd Mill River Resort, TJ Shea of the Regals was named tournament MVP and his team mate, Brandon Williams was named top defenceman. Cody Miller of the Matrix received the top scorer award and his goaltender, Sean MacPhee was named top goaltender. The only award that didn't go to the Island teams was the top forward award. That went to the Marshalls’ Grant Nolan.