UPDATED: Stouffville clinches first OJHL title
MVP. OJHL playoff MVP Drake Caggiula takes his turn raising the cup. Nick Iwanyshyn
By Michael Hayakawa & Jim Mason
April 14, 2012
In 2006, the Stouffville Spirit had a sniff of what it was like to be in the Ontario Junior Hockey League final before coming out second best to Torontos St. Michaels Buzzers.
But in making their long-awaited return to this years finale, the Spirit got a taste of what its like to be Frank L. Buckland Trophy champions.
That turned out to be a delectable delight after they mounted a furious third-period comeback in the waning moments of regulation time to tie the score and produce a dramatic, hard-fought 4-3 sudden-death overtime win over the host Whitby Fury.
It came before an announced gathering of 1,104 onlookers including about one third of the crowd from Stouffville to wrap up their best-of-seven series four games to two Friday and give the Spirit its first-ever OJHL title since entering the league in 1995.
In that first extra session, which was dominated by the Spirit, Brandon Gaudette settled the final outcome just prior to the midway point when he gathered a loose puck in front of the Fury goal and appeared to fan on his first shot but made good on his second attempt to give Stouffville its first-ever Buckland Trophy in the franchises 17-year history.
The goalie actually stopped my first shot and I got the rebound and put it in, said Gaudette, who joined the Spirit from a Stayner Jr. C that lost its league final in overtime in Game 7 a year ago.
Donovan felt the goal earned by Gaudette was well deserved.
Im glad for him. He hadnt scored I believe since the Newmarket series (North Division finals) and he was feeling a bit down on himself. But hes worked hard all year.
Conceding he might have been holding his stick a little too tight in recent outings, the 19-year-old Gaudette noted that just one shift prior to his game winner he had a good scoring opportunity but failed to cash in.
When I got back to the bench Knick (Dawe, Spirit reserve goalie) said if I got out on the next shift I might score, he said.
"He seemed down after that chance and I just told him he was going to get (the winner)," Dawe said.
Trailing 3-1 with just under one minute remaining in the third period, the Spirit pulled goalkeeper Jon Hall in favour of an extra attacker.
That decision paid off as Alex Botten scored off a goalmouth scramble with 44 seconds left on the clock to cut their deficit to 3-2.
With Hall still on the bench for an extra attacker, the Spirit tied the game with 11 seconds remaining when Christian Powers sent a wrist shot from just inside the point on goal that found its way through a few bodies and into the net.
It sure feels great, said Spirit head coach Craig Donovan. Im really proud of the way our guys played.
Being down 3-1 on the road and we found a way to battle back. I think our guys worked so hard all year, to win and see the rewards for their efforts is great.
We just hope to keep moving forward from here.
Its amazing, surreal right now, said defenceman and Stouffville native Paul Geiger.
After a scoreless first period in which both teams generated several good scoring opportunities only to be denied by some solid netminding, the Fury drew first blood on a goal by Jack Lewis when he completed a two-on-one break by delivering a shot high to the glove side and into the net.
But with the Fury penalized for having too many men on the ice, the Spirit took advantage of that odd-man situation just 37 seconds into the infraction when Drake Caggiula buried a wrist shot on a pass from Botten to tie the score entering the third period.
Just 41 seconds into the final regulation frame, the Fury regained the upper hand when Matt Davis took a shot from the slot that found its way into the net.
The Fury then added some breathing room when Devin Shore scored that appeared to send a message that a seventh game would be returning to the Stouffville Arena Saturday.
That, however, set the stage for the Spirits dramatic comeback.
The Spirit outshot the Fury 38-31.
Whitby coach Curtis Hodgins wasnt immediately available to the media after the game.
Some other members of the Fury brass were upset with the officiating, especially a questionable icing call that preceded the Spirits second goal.
Its tough to talk about it right now, but it was a lot of fun, said Fury rookie sensation Devin Shore outside a quiet Whitby dressing room. Well look back on this at some point and appreciate it. We exceeded a lot of expectations.
Prior to handing the Buckland Trophy to the Spirit, the league named Caggiula as the most valuable player of the playoffs.
The 17-year-old Pickering native who will be attending the University of North Dakota this fall on a collegiate hockey scholarship recorded six goals and four assists in the final series and led the playoffs in scoring with 17 goals and 20 assists in 23 postseason tilts.
The Spirit will have little time to celebrate their accomplishment as they will represent the OJHL at the Dudley Hewitt Central Canadian Junior A Championship in Thunder Bay starting Tuesday and concluding Saturday.
The other teams participating in this event include the host Thunder Bay North Stars of the Superior International Junior A Hockey League, Soo Thunderbirds, winners of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, and Wisconsin Wilderness, Superior International Junior A Hockey League champions.
The Spirit, which flies to the Lakehead Monday, will play the host North Stars Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. and then face Wisconsin Wednesday at 2 p.m. and Soo Thunderbirds Thursday at 2 p.m.
The winner of the Dudley Hewitt Central Canadian Junior A Championship will advance to the RBC Cup in Humboldt, Sask.