The OLA Jr A season is a brutal league sometimes. For proof, look no further than the face of a tall young man in the stands behind the benches at Ted Reeve Arena Saturday night well after the final horn. Mike Triolo played all five years of his Junior career for the Toronto Beaches organization, along with more than a decade before that. After five years of finishing near the bottom of the Junior A heap, Triolo was traded to the St Catharines Athletics, and in turn to the Kitchener/Waterloo Braves. He has the chance to make the post-season and perhaps a Minto Cup. Is he excited?
The tears welling in his eyes make it hard to tell. “We’ve played together for years,” he says of a team picture with the five graduating players – Rob King, Matt Tanner, Robbie Hunter, Ryne Sternberg and Captain Eric Pitre. Pitre said after the game, “We’re a family. Some of us have been together sixteen years.” Standing in the stands and later sitting in the dressing room you can tell Mike Triolo still considers himself part of the family.
With a loss to Triolo’s Kitchener/Waterloo Braves Friday night, the Beaches’ mathematic playoff chances were ended. No one expected Toronto to defeat Orangeville in their final match of the year, so the game ended up being a swan song for the five Beach Boys.
The game truly was secondary as it was clear from watching the play early there was a big difference in teams. Although Toronto scored the opening goal, Orangeville was playing tight defence limiting Toronto’s shots. The Northmen led after the first 3-1 and had nineteen shots to Toronto’s six. The second held much of the same as Orangeville went on a five goal run to start the period. Toronto did score two of their own but they were down 8-3 after two. The third was all Northmen as they tacked on three more to win 11-3.
The player of the game for Orangeville was Brandon Benn who scored four goals and added two assists. Following the game he emphasized the need to play a full sixty minutes, regardless of the fact the game meant nothing in terms of standings. He added, “To not play hard wouldn’t respect ourselves, the sport, or most importantly our opponents. They deserve our best.”
Orangeville is now off to the post-season and, surprisingly, may be flying under the radar with Whitby and Six Nations playing the way they are. Benn says that’s fine with the Northmen. “Once they playoffs start, they won’t be ignoring us for long,” he challenged.
For Toronto, unfortunately all that’s left is to sit back and reminisce about the past five (or sixteen) years. Or is there? Pitre pointed out there’s a number of former Beaches greats who have rejoined the organization and he would like to be one of them. “I’ve given the majority of my life to this club. I’d love to be able to give back in some way.” He says it was important for him growing up. “When the Junior As came into our locker room, that was special. I want to do that for the kids.”
For now, however, all that’s left to do is gaze at an empty arena and remember your career. Much like a few Beaches players, past and present, following Saturday night’s final game.