To get this far in the OHL Cup powered by Under Armour, the semi-finals to be exact, a team cannot have passengers. The whole lineup needs to step up and contribute, working together as one harmonious unit to survive and advance. Sometimes though, you need an individual performance, whether it be from a key cog or unsung hero to move onto the next stage. Saturday night’s double header provided us with two memorable performances from frontline players.
The first game featured the Mississauga Reps and London Jr. Knights, a heavyweight matchup with towering D and bruising forwards on both sides. The first period was as advertised, a physical and aggressive affair, with the Knights dominating this war of attrition in the first. Speedy Knights forward Liam Van Loon opened the scoring on behalf of the green and gold early in the second on a bad angle goal.
London looked like they’d run away with the game, but the Reps, specifically Jamieson Rees, had other ideas. Collecting a pass through the neutral zone, Rees blazed down the wing, blowing past the defender and sneaking it short side. A couple minutes later, and the crowd was experiencing deja vu, as Rees did it again, deking a defender and putting it top shelf. Thomas Munro’s point shot through a screen was all the Reps needed, the boys in white and red battening down the hatches and skating to a 3-1 final on the back of their captain Rees and his herculean two-goal performances.
“I thought I played really well, stepped up when I really needed to,” said a confident Rees who was quick to recognize his whole team’s solid performance, especially goaltender Ryan Dugas for his stellar play between the pipes. When asked about the importance of his first goal, Rees did not hold back, saying “it was a big lift for the boys to tie that game up, to come in put it in we needed that one because we were a little back on our heels and that really lifted us up”.
Game two was an all GTHL matchup, the Toronto Young Nationals taking on the Vaughan Kings. Featuring two high-octane offences, this game made up in speed what it lacked in physicality. The Nats drew first blood off a turnover, with Brad Somers finishing off a two on one. The Kings answered back, pulling even on Drew Ferris’ tight angle shot. It was Michael Palandra’s rebound goal in the second that broke the deadlock for the Nats, and ultimately was the difference in a tight game that ended 2-1. The Kings pressured for the equalizer throughout the rest of the game, but Nationals goalie Zach Roy was equal to the task, bouncing back after a tough first goal to stymie any chance at a Kings comeback.
When asked about his mentality following the first goal, Roy was apt, knowing he couldn’t let in two in a row. The game was Roy’s second head-turning win of the day, as he turned in another Vezina-worthy performance backstopping his team to a 2-1 victory over Whitby in the quarters. Asked about his keys to success in both game, he “needed to be calm, rebound control had to be on point” but said his defense helped a lot, blocking shots and clearing pucks.”
Looking ahead to tonight’s Final, the matchup is a historic one for the OHL Cup, as it is the first final featuring two wild card teams. Make no mistake, these teams are much better than their seeding would tell you, finishing first and second respectively in the GTHL regular season, the Nats ultimately edging the Reps for the Kraft Cup. For the Nationals, offence comes from defence, and they will look to mobile d-men such as Robert Calisti to push the pace from the back end and constantly join the rush with shifty forwards like Brendan Bowie and Brandon Coe. The Reps prefer to do their work below the hash marks, establishing a strong cycle game that wears down the opponent. Their line of Rees, Aaron Jamieson and Mike Petizian has been going all tournament. Although on the smaller side, this trio can beat you on the boards as well as on the scoreboard.
If their regular season games are any indication, we are in for a treat tonight. Both these teams are well-oiled machines, oozing with depth top to bottom, but we will have to wait and see who will step up and play the role of hero like Rees or Roy did Saturday night.
Catch tonight’s OHL Cup powered by Under Armour Final at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. Admission is free of charge. The game will also be broadcast live on Sportsnet Ontario.