The Orangeville Northmen stormed into Iroqouis Park Arena looking to down the defending Minto Cup champions and advance to the Ontario finals against the Six Nations Arrows.
The Northmen hit the floor flying and hit found the scoreboard early and often. Jordan Critch ripped an underhand bounce shot past Whitby netminder Alexis Buque 52 seconds into the contest.
The Warriors struggled to get their offense set up early as the Northmen defence came out tough, tenacious and ready to play.
Brad Gillies headed to the box for interference at 10:51 and would send the Warriors to the powerplay for the first time of the game. Orangeville gained possession early, ragging the ball to chew up the majority of the man up opportunity. Brandon Benn brought the ball to the corner and hit a streaking Jeremy Noble at the crease to give the Northmen a 2-0 lead.
Shortly after, Benn would find the back of the net from a feed from Rob Hellyer to improve their lead to 3-0 with just over 5 minutes to play in the first.
Reilly Oâ€™Connor fed Captain Curtis Knight on the crease for a quick stick goal to break the goose egg for the Warriors at 17:54.
The Northmen dominated the majority of the first period but when Whitby had their chances; the always reliable Dillon Ward shut the door. The end of the first ended at 3-1 Orangeville with the Northmen outshooting the Warriors 11-8.
At 10:01 in the second period, Emerson Clark sprung Zach Palmer on a breakaway and the Johnâ€™s Hopkins Blue Jay popped one through the wickets of Ward to bring the Warriors within one.
Emerson Clark would use his hands in an unfamiliar way and buried a 2-1 snipe to knot the game at 3.
Ex-Halton Hills Bulldog Jordan Dance blasted a shot past Buque to take the lead at 16:25.
Mitchell Jones fended off two Whitby defenders, flipped a one handed pass behind him to Dance who fed a wide open Dustin Caravello on the crease to make it 5-3.
With 36 seconds remaining in the second, Hopkins Blue Jay Benn fed Jordan Critch for a quick rip from the outside on the left that trickled by Buque to improve the lead by 3.
In the first 2 and a half minutes of the third period Orangeville tickled twine three times, including an empty netter from team agitator Hayden Smith.
Mark Cockerton put life back into Whitby with a marker at 7:04 to put the Warriors within 5.
The Warriors continued to claw their way back into the game and series when Ryan Keenan found Curtis Knight wide open at the top and ripped a blast past Ward on the powerplay.
Dan Litner would score a beautiful behind the back goal over the shoulder of Ward with the extra attacker on the floor to bring Whitby within 3.
With 31 seconds left Cockerton found the back of the net for the second time but unfortunately, it would not give the Warriors enough time to send the game into overtime and save their Ontario playoffs.
The Northmen out worked the Warriors throughout the series due to the fact they needed and wanted it more.
Whitby has already punched its ticket to the Minto Cup but there is no doubt they wanted to repeat as Ontario champions going into the Canadian championships.
“We did not want everyone to say that we are only in because we are the hosts, it happened” said veteran d-man Mike Lum Walker. “Now we have to prove to everyone that we deserve to be there and we will be a dominate force in the Minto.”
Although Whitby is upset they won’t be playing again until August 18th, they are excited to fine tune until the Minto Cup.
“We will be practicing very hard until the Minto working on all aspects of the game. From our offense, our transition game and our defense” said the Brock Badger. “A lot of areas need improvement in order for us to be the force we know we can. We need to get our competitive edge firing again.”
The Orangeville Northmen will take on the Six Nations Arrows in what is anticipated to be a highly entertaining series. If Orangeville can remain dominate on both ends of the floor with continued sucess from Ward, chances weigh heavily in the Northmen’s favour that the Minto Cup remains in Orangeville through winter.