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Monday, April 15, 2024
March Break Classic: U18 Wolves fall in final after Valley East storms back
The NOTL U18 Wolves celebrate Austin Leboudec's goal to put NOTL up 1-0 versus Valley East in Sunday's final. But Valley East came back with five goals of its own to win 5-2. Dave Van de Laar

Richard Wright
Niagara Now/The Lake Report

If hockey games were only a period-and-a-half long, the Niagara-on-the-Lake U18 local league 1 Wolves would be champions of their home tournament.

Unfortunately, you gotta play the entire three frames to make it count. After a terrific start to the U18 gold medal game Sunday at Meridian Credit Union Arena, the bottom fell out, resulting in a 5-2 win for Valley East from Sudbury.

“That first period-and-a-half was some of the best hockey our team has played all year,” admitted coach James Cadeau.

Coming out of the dressing room to open the game, the Wolves were easily the better team on the ice. They out-skated, out-checked, out-chanced and just looked a whole lot more interested than their opponents.

It took until early in the second for the hard work to pay off. Skating to a 0-0 draw after one, the Wolves’ Austin Leboudec broke the scoreless tie with a hard wrist shot from high in the slot just 39 seconds into the middle period.

For the next three or four minutes, the visitors continued to look a little taken aback by the Wolves’ aggressive play.

With only five shots on goal in the entire first period and bits of the second, they finally snapped out of it midway through the period.

What happened next was five straight goals on some great cross-ice finds and hard work at the net from Keenan Theibert, Dylan Dodge, Owen Gatchell, Marc Smith and Cole Gauthier to break the game open and give Valley East the championship.

NOTL’s Thomas Munera added a late goal in the third to round out the scoring.

“Yeah, we could have picked up a couple guys in front of the net and played a little more defensively,” said Cadeau.

“But when you’re in a high-intensity game … in your hometown, it can be tough. They played with their hearts. I told them, ‘You have nothing to hold your heads down about.’ ”

After his team’s start, Valley East coach Dave Wylie wasn’t sure when they would show up but was confident it would happen.

“We have come from behind before and had challenges all season,” he said. “We just buckled down and took care of some small things and worked as a team.”

“We had a team meeting before the game. Our previous game was more of an individual effort. We expressed our feelings and had a good chat about what we as coaches were expecting for this game and it finally came about,” Wylie said.

This is the second tournament win of the season for Valley East. Earlier in the season they won a tournament in Lively, just outside Sudbury.

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