The Twin Centre Bantam Rep hockey team ended their season on Apr. 7 – an incredible stretch of 71 games including regular season, playoffs and tournaments – but after the success they enjoyed this season, you could forgive them if they didn’t want it to end.
The team capped off a tremendous year by winning their league championships against their arch-rivals, the Tavistock Titans, in a close four-game series.
This season was one to remember for the coaches and players as the team also captured first place in tournaments in Ridgetown and Aylmer, won both the Regional Silver Stick Tournament in Kincardine back in December and the International Silver Stick Tournament in Port Huron in January, and managed to make all the way to the OMHA semi-finals before bowing out to the eventual champions from Ennismore.
Their most recent victory, the league championship, certainly didn’t come without a fight though.
After tying game one 2-2 on a late goal by Tavistock, Twin Centre rebounded by shutting out the Titans 3-0 on the strength of goaltender Bradley Reitzel’s 23rd shutout of the season.
They fell flat in game three, however, surrendering a 4-3 decision to set up a one-game final for the championship on home ice.
The team rode the strong play of captain Mark Lebold (two goals) and the goaltending of Reitzel to a 4-3 win in that game to claim the league championship.
“I think some of the good things that we did this season was play as a team – it was a collection of some good talented players, not a collection of individuals,” said head coach Callum McKee of his team’s enormous success over the course of the year.
He said that balanced scoring and solid defence in front of Reitzel was another major contributor. The team boasted six 20-goal scorers, with three tallying 30 or more by the end of the year.
“There was no big number-one for us, our goalie is very strong there is no doubt about that, but when you come to the rest of the team we all worked together,” he said, adding that all the 30-goal scorers were spread out over all three lines, making it difficult for their opponents to keep their scoring in check.
McKee said that losing in the OMHA semifinals to Ennismore – who went on to win the provincial championship in three straight games over BCH – definitely gave them some extra motivation to come back and win their league championship.
It’s a good thing, too, because next season’s team will have a very different look than the championship squad of 2011. Many of the older players on the Bantam team this year will be moving up to the Midget level next year, and leaving the first-year players behind, said the coach.
“Some of our guys will be going into their first year of Midget and playing against second and third-year players, so it will be an entirely different matchup,” he said.
But despite the uncertainty for next year, they are just enjoying their achievements for now.
Even the coach admitted that their overall success this year was a pleasant – and somewhat unexpected – surprise.
“Knowing the kids and what they could do, I would have said (we would rank) in the top four, maybe – but not at number one. They played very well.”