It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
But the NOTL Wolves U18 rep team never gave up.
After clawing their way into the semifinal of their hometown Harvest Classic tournament, the Wolves ran a gauntlet of emotions Sunday afternoon.
Playing at the top of their game and up 1-0 to the undefeated Saugeen Shores Storm, the Wolves saw their opponents bounce back to tie the score in the third period.
When five minutes of overtime and didn’t resolve things, NOTL lost in one of the most dreaded ways.
A sudden-death shootout.
Sharon Thiessen watched in anticipation as her grandson Logan Rossi’s team ended its tournament run in the fifth round of the shootout.
“It was a very sad game. So disappointing,” she told The Lake Report. But so proud.
They deserved a better fate, but coach Devon Neudorf was happy with how his Wolves team solidly improved throughout the entire tournament.
“Going into it I’ll say that the team hadn’t been performing at their best for a couple of weeks,” he said in an interview.
Because the U18 team is unique, made up of players from three different ages and coming in from five separate feeder teams, the tournament gave them a chance to gel together as a group.
“Over the course of the weekend, we really made huge leaps and bounds as a team. It was a massive step from Friday to Sunday,” he said.
Neudorf explained that while losing when they had a lead after two periods obviously wasn’t a great feeling for the players, the experience they had in the tournament ultimately made them better.
“We’ve got a bigger and more important tournament in three weeks, at the end of the month. The Silver Stick qualifier in Midland. So, that’s what we’re really working toward right now,” he said.
Neudorf said after the game he reminded the players to push through, keep their heads high and their hopes up.
“Be happy about the small victories over the weekend as we grew as a team,” he said.
“At the end of the day no one is going to remember the team who won a tournament in November, but we’re working towards the OMHA championship to bring home a trophy in April,” he said.
And while he was proud of the team’s overall accomplishments, Neudorf also singled out the play of Noah Whyte (who scored the team’s lone goal in regulation during the semifinal), shootout goal scorer 18 Dylan Price, and their goalie and tournament MVP Quinten Davis.