East meets west in midget tourney final
"The only chance we have is if we outwork them."
Those were the comments of Waterloo Wolves head coach Jeff Brick on facing the major midget Okanagan Rockets in Sunday's championship game at the 35th Kelowna International Major Midget Hockey Tournament.
The championship game will pit the best from the east (Waterloo) against the best from the Okanagan (Rockets) in the final.
Both teams finished atop their respective round robin pools and both advanced with semi-final wins Saturday night in Rutland.
The Wolves survived a shaky first period with six unanswered goals over the final 40 minutes for a convincing 6-1 win over defending champion Thunder Bay Kings.
The Rockets advanced to the final with a hard fought 4-3 win over pesky Pursuit of Excellence in the other semi.
Thunder Bay got on the board first in their semi-final when Trevor Kavanaugh's point shot on the Kings' third power-play of the period found its way past Wolves goaltender Mario Culina.
Earlier in the period Culina was spectacular as Thunder Bay peppered him with shot after shot with the man advantage.
He was good again early in the second on another Thunder Bay power-play.
"Mario Culina I thought was the difference in the hockey game," says Brick.
"You can't win at this level without good goaltending and our goaltender gave us the goaltending it takes to win."
Waterloo got the equalizer 30 seconds into the middle frame then took the lead for good on a strange goal that Thunder Bay goaltender Jordon Carlson swept into his own net.
Carlson rushed to the corner to win a race for the puck, however, his clearing attempt went onto the stick of Waterloo's Gary Martz. Carlson scrambled back toward the net and stopped the initial shot but in trying to sweep it away knocked it into his own net.
Waterloo didn't look back from there.
Klayton Hoelscher scored on a breakaway with two minutes to go in the middle frame to widen the gap to 3-1.
Two goals less than three minutes apart early in the third spelled the end of the night for Carlson and the end of the road for Thunder Bay.
In the other semi, the Rockets and POE were deadlocked 2-2 going into the final period.
Liam Finlay's second of the night on a perfect cross crease pass from Kobe Oishi 1:12 into the third gave the Rockets a 3-2 lead.
The lead held up for seven minutes until Zach Andrusiak cut across the slot and whistled a wrist shot past Brendan Berry to knot the game at three.
Tanner Campbell's, the tournament's top scorer, scored the game winner 13;34 in when he tapped home a perfect cross crease feed from Jake Kryski.
Barry preserved the lead the rest of the way. He made a spectacular glove save off Tyler Benson who had a wide open net during a late power-play.
He made a similar save during another power-play in the opening period.
Rockets head coach Mack O'Rourke expected a tough game and his team got one from POE.
"It was a great game. In a semi-final game you expect it to be close," says O'Rourke.
"Obviously both teams got to where they were by having success in round robin. After you play a five game grind like that you can't ask for much more than both teams giving it their all to make it to the championship."
Benson, the number one selection in last year's Western Hockey League draft had a goal and two assists in a losing cause for POE.
Finlay had two for the Okanagan Rockets.
Saturday's first semi-final was delayed nearly 25 minutes while arena and tournament crews cleaned up after a pain of glass was shattered during the second period.
Sunday's championship game begins at 12:30 at Prospera Place.
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