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Wildcats have a reason to celebrate

The U13 Woolwich Wildcats LL2 defeated the Centre Wellington Fusion 1 Team 5-4 in the playoff finals held Mar. 27. Front: Timothy Callaghan. Middle row: Gabriel Callaghan, Ryan Ramage, Noah Johnston, Andrew Diebolt, Nicolas Shantz-Schlegel, Owen Dally, James Ferguson, Max Staines. Third row: Grayson Kelly, Nolan Beaty, Ezekiel Schwartz, Wade Holland, Tyler Bauman, Ryder Bauman, Zev Silverberg. Coaches: Mike Callaghan, Domenic Silvestro, Nathan Holland, Andrew Bauman. [Submitted]

Two Woolwich Minor Hockey teams are celebrating successful seasons. Both the U11 A and U13A teams took home Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) championships at last weekend’s tournament in Whitby.

“We’ve got a great group of 15 kids who showed up to play every day,” said U11 coach Dave Weiss.

After not playing for two seasons, the championship capped off an undefeated year with the team finishing with a record of 51-0-2.

“This has basically been two years coming for these kids, so to do something like this …” said Wiess.

The team outscored their opposition 23-1 in the five-game tournament, including a 5-1 win over the King Township Rebellion in the championship final.

“We did well [in the first game] but did not compete like we could; from there, we just kept competing more and more. Each game got a little bit better, which led right into Sunday, where I can honestly say I think our team put together the best game of the year,” Wiess said.

While Wiess expressed disappointment that Ontario Hockey Federation no longer hosts a provincial championship for U11, he said he is proud of the team for what they accomplished.

“I’ll remember this for the rest of my life, as will they, I’m sure. The looks on their faces said it all.”

The U13 team also had a successful year with only two losses and three ties.

“We’ve had a fantastic year,” said coach Mike Brito.

The team’s tournament started off with a 1-1 draw against the Riverside Rangers.

“Riverside certainly was a big one for us. The last time we were actually playing hockey right before COVID shut us down, they put us out in the semi-finals quite handily. So that was something that was certainly on the boys’ minds going into this weekend,” Brito said.

“And I think at that point that I really started to understand and believe that we could play with these guys.”

The two teams met again in the tournament final, with Woolwich taking a 6-2 win. Next up for the Wildcats is the OHF tourney in Cochrane on April 22-24. While they will be playing against the best teams in the province, Brito’s players look to keep doing what made them successful all season.

“This was certainly one of our goals at the beginning of the year. We sent a lot of goals here, and we’ve scratched most of them off our list along the way. We haven’t changed – we kind of set a goal at the beginning of the year as a team and we knew that we wanted to work towards it. We just kept coming to the rink and the kids kind of gave it their all and so I don’t think that we really change anything,” he said

“We believe in the 15 kids that we’ve got and we know that we get a strong group of kids inside our dressing room and we rely on all 15 of them. It’s not like nine of them get to play and six get to sit there and watch – all 15 of them contribute to our success. I think that one of our strengths is that we worry about ourselves and control what we are able to control. We spend very little time worrying about the person on the other side of the ice.”

For a team not able to play any games last season due to the pandemic, making it to the OHF championship is a the culmination of a two-year wait, Brito said.

“I’m certainly proud of the boys. They’ve been through a lot in the last couple of years and it would have been easy to be discouraged and maybe lose some of the love for the game. But if anything, it’s been the complete opposite,” Brito added.

“They obviously were rewarded for the hard work and we got one more thing to take care of and we’re going to practice hard for the next couple weeks to get ready to see what we can do.”

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