Wellesley Township hockey fans had plenty to celebrate as the local Twin Centre Stars midget team were crowned the Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) champions.
Locked in a fierce series against the Highland Storm of Haliburton in the final leg of the Midget CC division, the boys of Wellesley narrowly managed to recover from a three-game deficit to take the series, and the championship title.
The win was a substantial accomplishment for the young team, which began its season without enough players to ice a full roster. The team would have folded outright had it not been for the efforts of parents and members of the Twin Centre community.
“In August, there weren’t enough boys to have a rep team,” explained head coach Tom Carere. “There weren’t enough players that wanted to try out for a rep team. So there were some other parents and some people that were generating some interest, sending out emails, trying to keep it going.
“Eventually, we were able to get a team, a full roster.”
It took six games between the Twin Centre Stars and Storm for the winner to be decided, with the final championship-winning game being held in Haliburton on Sunday.
The series began on a troubling note as the Twin Centre Stars lost their first two matches to Haliburton, by 1-0 on March 16 at home, and then 2-1 the following day on the road. A total of six points, or three wins, was needed to decide the winner, putting the Stars just one more loss away from finishing the season in second place.
But rather than win or lose at their third meeting (March 23), the boys instead drew the middle lane – tying the game 3-3. That left the Highland Storms with five points – just one short of the needed six to clinch the victory.
“We felt the first two games were really close,” said Carere. “We lost by one goal in both games, and we felt that those games could have gone either way, and we could have won those games. So we still had confidence, we still thought ‘OK we’re in this. We can beat this team.’”
Three games into the series, the Stars were down five points to one, but it was at this point that the team rallied.
“I think we had the psychological edge at that point, and we were relentless and kept at them,” said Carere. “The kids played hard, we were able to adjust.”
The next three games saw the Stars put up win after win, starting March 24 with a 4-1 landslide. The momentum now on their side, the Stars went on to pick up another 2-0 win on Saturday this week, before taking the game to Haliburton on Sunday, where they pulled through with a 2-1 victory.
“Some people refer to that as a reverse sweep,” said Carere with a laugh.
With the final win on Sunday, the Wellesley Township team finished the series with a 7-5 point difference, making them the OMHA provincial champions of the Midget CC division.
“It’s amazing. Obviously, it’s on a bucket list for the kids to win a championship,” said the coach. “I know it was on my son Josh’s bucket list: he wanted to win OMHA championship. So that’s fantastic.”