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Holy Cross wins but misses OFSAA quarter-finals by slimmest of margins

March 21, 2013


Tony Clarke could hardly believe his eyes.

Leading 4-3 in the final minute of their final preliminary game at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations boys AAA/AAAA hockey tournament in Mississauga, the Holy Cross Crusaders needed one more goal to settle into a tie-breaking scenario that would put them into the playoff round.

What did Clarke and his fellow coaches see? The opponent, Brother Andre of Markham, pull its goaltender and give the Crusaders an empty net into which to score that season-extending goal.

Sadly for the Crusaders, they couldn’t score it. As a result they finished in a three-way tie with Brother Andre and Sacred Heart of Stittsville at 1-2 for the second quarter-final spot from their pool, a tie that ultimately favoured Brother Andre on the basis of goal differential in their three round-robin games.

In the mind-spinning formula for breaking three-way ties, Sacred Heart dropped out at minus-4. Holy Cross was minus-2 and Brother Andre was minus-1. Had the Crusaders scored one more goal to leave a two-way tie, Holy Cross would have been favoured for having defeated Andre in the head-to-head match.

Evidently, however, when Holy Cross scored with 46 seconds left in the third period to go ahead by a goal, the Brother Andre coaches believed they needed a tie to finish second in the pool, where Holy Trinity of Bradford, winner of all three of its games, finished first.

So they pulled their goaltender in a bid to get the game-tying goal.

Neither team scored and when the snow settled Brother Andre had the pool’s other quarter-final berth.

“It was kind of funny,” Clarke said. “I guess the Brother Andre coach didn’t do the math the night before. I guess he was thinking, well, I don’t know what he was thinking.”

The whole strange situation began with the score tied and less than three minutes to play. The Crusaders took a penalty and Brother Andre went on the power play.

Holy Cross gained possession of the puck, however, and pulled their goaltender, to skate five-on-five.

“We knew we had to win,” Clarke said.

Brandon Verkerk, the overtime hero of the eastern Ontario qualifying game in Cornwall three weeks ago, scored to put Holy Cross ahead. Forty-six seconds remained to be played.

When Andre won the subsequent faceoff at centre ice and dumped the puck into the Holy Cross zone, out came the Andre goalie.

“I thought, ‘He thinks he has to win or tie,’” Clarke said later, still a trace of disbelief in his voice.

The only problem was Holy Cross couldn’t capitalize.

“We took a couple of shots,” Clarke said, “but they hit sticks, one hit the guy’s pants and never got to the net. It was close.”

The Crusaders, doomed to defeat in their first two games by lousy first periods, played much better in the opening stanza this time. With Kris Johnson scoring one goal and setting up another by Brandon Nadeau, Holy Cross took a 2-0 lead.

“We laid it on the line for them (before the game),” Clarke said. “We said, ‘Listen, four of you are leaving for sure next year,’ and we pointed to some other guys who could play junior C. We said to play for the guy beside you.

“They came out pretty pumped.”

Nadeau scored just two minutes into the game.

Brother Andre, the tournament’s sixth seed and the 2011 OFSAA champion, tied the score in the second period but Zach Masterson’s third goal of the tournament, with 44 seconds left, sent Holy Cross into the third period with a 3-2 lead. Andre tied the game again 11 minutes into the third.

Clarke said it was “most definitely” his team’s finest performance at the tournament.

“The boys played great,” he said. “Some guys played their best game of the year today. It just wasn’t enough. We just needed one more goal.”


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