Varsity Hawks give it their all on the ice
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | March 23, 2015
Despite being eliminated after the first round of this year's OFSAA A/AA division tournament in Pembroke, the Red Hawks varsity boys hockey team has every reason to be proud of the season that was.
"I think we had a remarkable year," said head coach Ron Yake, noting the team's big wins including the Kawartha division championship and COSSA A/AA championship.
"We played very well, both of those times in our season," he said.
With those wins, the team headed to OFSAA in Pembroke on March 9 to face the best high school hockey players from across the province. Their journey started with a banquet, but on Tuesday morning the team got down to business in their first game against the Denis O'Connor Chargers of Ajax.
The Hawks started off on the right foot by earning a 3-1 victory.
On Tuesday they faced Robert F. Hall Wolfpack of Caledon East. The game started off as a "barn burner,"
according to Yake, because of how the action moved back and forth.
"It was certainly a very tight game. We had our chances to score another one or two goals ... throughout the whole game," he said.
The Hawks lost 4-3 to the Wolfpack, who would go on to capture the silver medal in the final game against London South on March 13.
Later that afternoon the Hawks were eliminated from the tournament in another close 4-3 loss, this time to F.J. Brennan Cardinals of Windsor.
"It [the game] was close as well," recalled Yake. "They had one or two very skilled players that made the difference for their team. Our team worked very hard and had many good chances."
Although the competition was fierce at OFSAA, the trip was an experience that players like Curtis Ballantyne and Chris Hall won't ever forget.
"Not many people are able to say that they went to OFSAA for hockey," said Hall, a fourth year veteran on the team.
Hall said having home-ice advantage makes a difference.
"It's different because it's not your home rink and you're used to your home rink. That makes it easier in a sense," he said.
The varsity Hawks finished third and they won the bronze medal at last year's tournament. This year they were one of eight teams eliminated in the first round.
"We were definitely hoping for a better outcome than that," said centre Ballantyne, who has been with the team for three years.
Ballantyne scored two goals in the game against the Chargers and one against the Wolfpack.
This was the fifth time that the varsity team has advanced to OFSAA.
"It's quite an accomplishment. We have a very competitive league and generally whoever comes out of our league and COSSA has a good opportunity to do well at OFSAA. It's always something to cherish," said Yake.
For veterans like Hall, a Grade 13 student, it's a way of ending their high school hockey career on a high note. However, that doesn't mean it's not going to be hard to say goodbye.
"[It's] sad, because high school hockey is always great hockey to play and it's always a ton of fun," he said.
Yake thanked the more experienced players on the team for mentoring the up-and-comers and setting a good example.
"Whenever someone is with the team three years or more, they're the leaders of the team and I always say to the guys at the start of the year, 'Watch what your veterans do ..." he said.
Yake will be back with the coaching staff again next year and hopes to continue the winning tradition.
The Hawks finished their regular season at the top of the Kawartha league with 10 wins and one loss.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.