UPDATE #2, Sunday, April 9: The Cinderella run of the Niagara-on-the-Lake U11 Wolves rep team at the provincial hockey championships ended with a second-place finish in Sunday’s finale.
The Wolves lost a 6-2 decision to the Strathroy Jr. Rockets in the championship game in Barrie on Sunday afternoon.
Earlier in the day, NOTL knocked off the top-seeded Tillsonburg Tornadoes 2-1 in double overtime. That set up the match against Strathroy.
Watch for online updates here and in The Lake Report on Thursday.
UPDATE #1, Sunday, April 9 – Wolves beat Tillsonburg 2-1 in double overtime to advance to championship game: Luke Simpson was NOTL’s hero again, scoring in the second overtime period Sunday morning to send the Niagara-on-the-Lake U11 Wolves rep team into the Ontario Minor Hockey Association championship game in Barrie.
Puck drop for the championship game is 1 p.m.
The Wolves will play the Strathroy Jr. Rockets for gold after NOTL ousted the top-seeded and previously undefeated Tillsonburg Tornadoes 2-1.
Simpson, who also notched the shootout winner in the Niagara District championship two weeks ago, scored on a long wrist shot from the top of the left-hand circle.
The goal was an Easter Sunday present of sorts for his mom Stephanie who was celebrating her birthday.
The win was a huge bounceback for NOTL, which was shut out 6-0 by the Saugeen Shores Storm in their final round-robin game on Saturday evening.
They had already secured their spot in the semifinal so the loss just meant they faced the top team Sunday morning in the other group in the eight-team tournament.
With Saugeen finishing ahead of NOTL, they played second-seeded Strathroy in the cross-over semifinal on Sunday morning.
Saugeen fell 6-2, meaning the two second-seeded teams in both groupings will play for the championship.
In NOTL’s semifinal, Ben Bayne put his team on the board first, then August Felice also found the net but the goal was disallowed as the whistle had been blown.
Tillsonburg tied it 1-1 early in the third period, setting up overtime and Simpson’s heroics.
Follow the championship game here and watch for online updates afterward and in The Lake Report on Thursday.
EARLIER STORY: The U11 Niagara-on-the-Lake Wolves rep team booked itself a spot in the provincial semifinals with two dominant wins Friday on the first day of the Ontario Minor Hockey Association championship tournament.
NOTL is one of eight teams competing in two divisions for the provincial title in Barrie.
The team, coached by Joe Pagnotta, beat Mount Brydges 3-0 in a morning game behind the shutout goaltending of Mason Nichols.
And in a 4 p.m. match-up with the Midland Centennials, the Wolves stormed back from a 1-0 second-period deficit to win 4-1.
Pagnotta, who leads the team along with assistants Glen Davis, Derek Nichols and Sean Simpson, was immensely proud of the Wolves’ effort.
“We’re a hard-working team from top to bottom. The energy these kids have is out of this world. It’s awesome to see,” he said in an interview.
That team defence by everyone on the ice is a big part of the NOTL team’s success, he said.
The Wolves have plenty of offensive talent, but “I don’t think we’re a flashy team, just a hard-working, productive team. The wheels are constantly moving,” Pagnotta said.
On Friday, James Froese (with the highlight-reel game winner scored while down on one knee on the rush), Luke Simpson and Ben Bayne all found the net in the Mount Brydges game.
Bayne added two assists, while Simpson and Tennyson Powell had one each while Nichols’ shutout earned him player of the game honours.
In game two, NOTL outplayed Midland throughout, outshooting their opponents 21-9, but the Wolves fell behind 1-0 in the second period after a scoreless first.
Cue the comeback as NOTL stormed back with four unanswered goals.
Simpson scored on his own rebound to tie things up in the second and Hunter Froese rifled a low shot for what proved to be the game winner early in the third.
Eli Perng then split the defence on a rush to make it 3-1.
And August Felice sealed it, scoring on a penalty shot with 4:37 to go.
The team has one more round-robin game, at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, against the Saugeen Shores Storm.
Both teams are undefeated and will advance to the semifinals. Saturday’s game will decide which semifinal opponent each team will face.
Follow the results and check the scores here.