This past weekend saw four of Canada’s top ball hockey teams competing in the Ontario Ball Hockey Federation (OBHF) Men’s A 2018 National Qualifier. The tournament ran all weekend long in New Tecumseth, Ontario, and hosted the Metro Orangemen, Niagara War Pigs, Vaughan Redwings, and the New Tecumseth Xtreme in an all out battle for the top spot, each hoping to move on to next year’s Nationals being held in Winnipeg. What we saw was some truly excellent ball hockey, and an example of the level of play that rises to the surface when a group of sincerely devoted players come together to clash in a sport that they love. They pulled no punches, and it was really exciting.
To kick off the tournament, the Niagara War Pigs played the Metro Orangemen. This was a heated match, and while both teams played exceptionally, the Orangemen managed to take the win with a final score of 5-3. Following this game, the Vaughan Redwings faced the New Tecumseth Xtreme. This game saw a lot of back and forth, and in the end the teams ended up tying with a score of 3-3. While a tie is not usually the outcome anyone is hoping for, this set the stage for a weekend of intense ball hockey. None of these teams were going to concede easily.
Moving into Saturday, the Niagara War Pigs faced off against the Vaughan Redwings. This was another high-octane match, and a very close game, but the War Pigs seemed to take Friday’s loss as a wake up call, and kicked themselves into high gear. They ended up taking the win, squeaking by with a score of 3-2.
The second game of the day was between the Orangemen and the Xtreme. The Orangemen managed to keep their streak alive, and took their second win with a score of 2-1.
Following their game against the Xtreme, the Orangemen played a very even game, earning an eventual tie against the Vaughan Redwings with a score of 4-4. This earned the Metro Orangemen the top spot in the tournament, and an auto-bye to the final on Sunday.
The last game of the day was between the Niagara War Pigs and the New Tecumseth Xtreme. The War Pigs fought hard, but couldn’t keep up with what the Xtreme were throwing at them. The Xtreme won the game with a score of 3-1, earning them the second seed heading into the games on Sunday. The final seed was between the Niagara War Pigs and the Vaughan Redwings. The tie-breaker went to the War Pigs, as they had the greater wins of the two teams.
This is where the real action began. The day started with the semi-final game between the War Pigs and the Xtreme. With their loss against the Xtreme from the day before as their inspiration, the War Pigs came out swinging. They managed to score early on, and kept a one goal lead for the first twenty five minutes. With just five minutes left in the game, the Xtreme managed to tie it up with a goal off a lucky bounce. The game remained at a tie until the buzzer, forcing overtime, during which the Xtreme gained some momentum and dominated. They were throwing absolutely everything they had at the War Pigs, but the Pigs’ goalie, Jeff Hartwell, played amazingly, and managed to stave off the Xtreme’s onslaught of attacks. After ten minutes there was still no winner, which led to a shootout with five players on each side. Still, after the first five shooters, the game remained tied, now at a score of 3-3. The Xtreme went first on the seventh shot, and missed. At this point you could all but taste the tension. Andrew Jegg – who scored the game winning goal for the Great Britain Heritage Team in their first game against team USA – was up for the War Pigs. He made his way down the floor, and managed to bury a shot behind the netminder, finally putting an end to the game, and earned the War Pigs a spot in the final later in the day.
The final game saw a rematch between the Niagara War Pigs and the Metro Orangemen. The Orangemen managed to score right away on a power play. Not long after, the War Pigs tied the game back up to 1-1 and dominated the rink for the following ten minutes. The War Pigs brought the score up to 2-1, but then ran into some unfortunate penalty troubles. The Orangemen capitalized on all the power play opportunities they were given, and scored three goals while the War Pigs had someone in the penalty box. This ended up dictating the way the rest of the game would go, and the Orangemen scored two more goals after their power play streak. The Orangemen won the final with a score of 5-2, earning them a spot at the Men’s A Nationals being held next year in Winnipeg.
Congratulations to the Metro Orangemen for their success at this weekend’s tournament. The Orangemen have had a tremendous year, having lost only two of their games played. We’d also like to congratulate the Niagara War Pigs’ goaltender, Jeff Hartwell, who was named best goalie of the tournament after his sensational play, especially during the Semi-Final game against the New Tecumseth Xtreme.
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