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Niagara Falls
Thursday, April 18, 2024
Sports: Zambito’s goal powers NOTL to berth in Ontario championships
Logan Rossi (9) Andrew Bayne (7) and Lucas Roberts Ramos (87) celebrate last Wednesday night's second goal by #18 Dylan Price, right. NOTL won 3-0 then wrapped up the series on the road Thursday. PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVE VAN DE LAAR

NOTL U18 Wolves to compete in provincial finals after ousting Fort Erie


Defenceman Calo Zambito was the big-game hero again for the Niagara-on-the-Lake U18 Wolves rep team, scoring their lone goal in a 1-1 tie last Thursday night against the Fort Erie Meteors.

One goal meant one point and it was all NOTL needed to qualify for the provincial championship tournament in Kingston from April 5 to 7.

That single point earned for the tie gave the Wolves the series win over the Meteors four points to two.

The teams had tied game one 1-1 last Monday and then NOTL took game two 3-0 at home on Wednesday.

It was the second time this year that Zambito’s offence figured in a high-profile team win. He also scored both goals in NOTL’s championship victory in the prestigious Midland Silver Stick Tournament in November.

Now, the Wolves will compete with seven other teams from across the province for the Ontario Minor Hockey Association U18 Tier 1 Championship.

For five members of the Wolves, it will be a chance to end their minor hockey careers on a high note.

Captain Marco Gruosso, assistant captain Lucas Roberts Ramos, Logan Smythe, Nick Munera and Carter Lalonde are all in their final year of eligibility with NOTL minor hockey.

In game 2 against Fort Erie, the team’s top sniper, Dylan Price, ended a scoring drought and notched all three goals in 3-0 shutout win at home.

Price, who had only one goal over the previous seven playoff games, lit it up big time with a natural hat trick (all on the power play) to put Fort Erie on the brink of elimination. Quinten Davis was solid again in net to record the shutout.

On Thursday night, team discipline was key, head coach Devon Neudorf said afterward.

“They more or less stayed out of the penalty box, came together as a group and rallied together toward the common goal.”

The Wolves were down 1-0 after two periods and knew they only needed a tie to gain the fourth point and advance to OMHA finals.

“The coaching staff drove home the fact of sticking to the game plan, defending well and that if we could win that third period we would advance to OMHAs,” Neudorf said.

Zambito’s power-play goal with 12:05 left in the third came on a point shot, with forwards Andrew Bayne and Roberts Ramos screening the Meteors’ goaltender, the coach added. Bayne earned an assist on the goal.

Neudorf had high praise for Zambito.

“He also scored both goals in our 2-1 win over South Muskoka in the finals of the Midland Silver Stick back in November,” he said.

He was the team’s player of the game Thursday as he was battling hard in the corners even prior to scoring his goal, the coach added.

“Missing two of our top defencemen, we rallied together as a group to defend well and had strong performances all series by Mitchell Olsen, Brandon Falk, Devin Hunter and Logan Smythe,” he said.

Defender Eddie Friesen was away last week and Lalonde was injured in a tournament in February, Neudorf said.

Friesen will be back for the OMHAs and Lalonde, who has been practising with the team this week, hopes to have clearance to return to the lineup in Kingston.

Defence was a huge factor in the Fort Erie series, the coach noted. “They cleared the front of the net to make our goalie’s job easier.”

Davis once again turned in a stellar performance in net Thursday, allowing a single goal on about 30 shots, including a few point-blank saves, he added.

“Davis was a brick wall all series in net and the Fort Erie coaches commented on that to us after the (final) game.”

Next up is the Niagara District Hockey League Championship game versus Port Colborne.

It’s a one-game, winner-take-all format and was to be played in Virgil on Wednesday night. Results weren’t known at press time.

Looking ahead to the OMHA tournament in Kingston, NOTL will kick things off with one game on Friday, April 5 and then a pair of matches on April 6.

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