By Larry Moko
There was plenty of excitement at the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference boys’ hockey final and Will Curwen of the St. Mary Crusaders created much of it.
The Grade 11 defenceman scored a tie-breaking goal in the third period to spark St. Mary to a 4-3 win over Burlington’s M. M. Robinson Rams at Morgan Firestone Arena on Wednesday. With that victory, St. Mary punched its ticket to the Ontario high school A/AA championship tournament later this month in St. Catharines.
Curwen also took a minor penalty with 58 seconds left in the contest and that led to some tense moments. Robinson pulled its goaltender in favour of a sixth attacker – creating a six-skaters-on-four advantage. Jacob Wright ultimately scored for the Rams with seven seconds remaining and, if that wasn’t enough, Robinson blasted a shot on the rush just wide of the net before the final buzzer.
“I got unlucky with the penalty kill there at the end,” Curwen said. “They buried one. But we kept a fourth goal out.”
On Curwen’s marker which gave St. Mary a 3-2 lead, the Crusaders won a faceoff draw in Robinson’s end. The puck then came back to Curwen at the point.
“I just ripped it,” he said. “It hit the back of their guy’s leg and it went in.”
The Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic league champions opened the scoring in the first period on a goal by Owen Goodbrand.
St. Mary made it 2-0 in the second period on a one-timer shot by Matt Stone.
However, Robinson replied with a pair of goals – by Aidan Wilkins (power play) and Mark Easter — before the second intermission.
The Crusaders made it 4-2 with just over three minutes left when Jack Restori cashed in after pouncing on his own rebound.
“It sounds crazy, but it’s good to have a close-game experience like this before you go to OFSAA,” St. Mary coach Jason Kokoski said. “It gets the young guys used to the pressure a bit more.”
Curwen, who also plays AA rep for the Flamborough Sabres, says he’s excited about the opportunity to participate in his first OFSAA tournament.
“It’s been a dream since I was in Grade 9,” he said. “We have speed and we have size. I think we can hang with the top teams at OFSAA.”
Curwen’s older brother James played for the Crusaders when St. Mary twice advanced to provincial high school championship tournaments — winning silver in 2017 in Fort Frances and making it to the quarter-finals in Collingwood the following year.
“I know he’s going to want me to win this one for him,” Will Curwen said.
Kokoski and the rest of the St. Mary coaches are anxious to see how their young team – only one player with OFSAA experience — performs at this year’s four-day championship beginning March 25.
“It will be a good test,” he said. “These guys are really close. They are friends. It will be an amazing trip for them.”
St. Mary has won four consecutive HWCAA titles but lost last year at the GHAC semifinal level to Burlington Notre Dame and did not qualify for OFSAA.
Source: Marnie Jadon