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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
Sports: NOTL U18s gear up for provincial finals
NOTL's Noah Whyte (#47) fires a shot at the Port Colborne net during the Niagara league final. NOTL is in Kingson this weekend for the provincial finals. DAVE VAN DE LAAR

It wasn’t the finish the coaches or players hoped for but it was a good reminder that you need to play three full periods of hockey if you want to contend for a championship.

The Niagara-on-the-Lake Wolves U18 rep team got a bit of a wake-up call last Wednesday evening at home when they lost 5-1 to the Port Colborne Sailors in a one-game, winner-take-all match for the Niagara District Hockey League title.

“The 5-1 loss was a tough showing for the group,” conceded head coach Devon Neudorf.

But it was really all decided in the final period.

“It was tied 1-1 after the second and the effort level coming out for the third just wasn’t there,” Neudorf said.

“The fifth goal was an empty-netter they scored while we were in desperation mode.”

Braden Sawyer had the start in goal and played a strong game, making a handful of key saves, he noted.

The Wolves, who finished atop the league standings a few points ahead of the Sailors, are in Kingston this weekend to compete in the Ontario Minor Hockey League Tier 1 championships.

Neudorf is hoping for a better performance from his players, who have found ways to win all season. He’s confident they’ll step it up.

One concern is a lack of scoring five-on-five. The Wolves’ power play has been potent, especially in the playoffs leading up to them qualifying for the OMHA finals.

Their lone goal against Port Colborne again came via the power play.

“Five versus five scoring has been an issue for this team throughout the playoffs and is a key focus of the group heading into the weekend,” Neudorf said.

But he’s confident going in to their first game Friday, a 3 p.m. match with the Elmvale Coyotes, they’ll be ready.

Then on Saturday, they play the Mitchell Meteors at 11 a.m. and Petrolia Oilers at 5 p.m. The top two teams in each division advance to Sunday’s semifinals at 10:30 a.m. The championship game is at 4:30.

“All in all, it has been a great season,” said Neudorf.

“We’ve played four tournaments thus far — NOTL, the Midland Silver Stick, the International Silver Stick and  South Huron — and have made it to Sunday each time.”

“We will look to stick to our guns and do the same thing in Kingston,” he said.

“The gameplan is going to need all 15 guys bringing a little bit extra each and every shift in order for the team to be successful.”

The loss to Port Colborne allowed for “another reset as a team to gain some accountability within the room which will hopefully lead to an OMHA championship coming home to NOTL.”

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