St. Thomas team captures third consecutive OMHA title taking six point minor
peewee A final against Orillia capped with a 6-0 win in clinching game
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
By Rob J. Ross
A dynasty graces the city of St. Thomas.
For a third consecutive year, the St. Thomas Jr. Stars' team coached by Andrew Power has captured an Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) championship.
In dominating fashion, the Jr. Stars swept the minor peewee A final against the Orillia Terriers, needing only three games to win the six point series, out scoring their opponent, 15-1.
The Jr. Stars won five series during their OMHA playdown run, compiling a 15-2 record.
St. Thomas clinched the title at Orillia, torching their host, 6-0, on Saturday, March 23rd.
"It was our best game of the series. All 18 guys played their hearts out," Power said. "They all knew why they were there for. I gave them an option, either curfew or party."
As much the players love to play, not one wanted a fourth game Sunday afternoon, therefore the party hats were on, red in colour, of course. All OMHA champions receive red ball caps.
Matthew Soares with two goals, Kaleb Levesque, Owen Lawrence, Ryan Willmore and AJ Power, scored while goalie LJ Wilson picked up the shutout between the pipes.
"After we shook hands, their coaches said, 'I don't know what we could have done to beat you. You guys have a very strong team'," said Power.
Countless coaches and their teams have left rink across the province with similar feelings over the past three seasons.
St. Thomas won their first OHMA title, at the minor atom level, in 2017 and last year as major atoms.
"It's a testament to everybody involved. The coaches put in a lot of time and effort. The parents put in a lot of time and effort an obviously the kids do," said Power. "It makes it worth while for how many hours you miss at work and how many weekends you miss with other things. It's nice that the kids buy in and they're rewarded at the end of the season."
The success of the team, 48-18-5 overall this season, has developed high expectations.
"We work right from the beginning of the season for this final game. That's what our goal is every year," said Power. "It's the same message, hard work beats talent if talent isn't working hard. Our kids have talent, but they have to work hard too."
The early weeks of this campaign wasn't looking promising for a return to the OMHA final.
"We weren't doing that great at the beginning of the season. We were losing to good teams, but we pulled it together in November and gelled. Things started to pick up from there," said Power. "They (players) all stuck together and became a one minded team, a one goal team, to win the OMHAs. We buckled down, worked hard and got the job done."
Part of the early season challenge was returnees becoming familiar with new faces in the dressing room.
"The three new guys were timid and shy," said Power. "Now, go to game three (of the OMHA final) and they're leading the cheers. They went from not talking to being leaders on the team."
The Jr. Stars' A/E and minor atom teams both earn an assist on the major atom's success
"We do a good job developing within our system," said Power. "We brought up some younger kids (Josh Doyle, Lucas) who have helped us out all year and they practice with the team."
Power took of the coaching reigns four years ago and the Jr. Stars lost in the OMHA semifinals.
"In my head I thought this is a tough grind. There's a lot of hockey to be played," recalled Power.
It has been nothing but red hats since.
Power and his staff introduced a coaching philosophy, that included each player would learn how to kill penalties and have time on the power play.
"Three years ago they were very too individual," recalls Powers. "Now I can throw out any player on the PK and we can just rotate. The players don't care who scores the goal, they just play as a team. They all want to do it together. They don't want to rely on one guy. They all feel part of it."
These young players, the majority being 11 years old, may be the first to win three consecutive OMHA titles for St. Thomas Minor Hockey.
Power has a friend who played minor hockey with Joe Thornton and those teams won a lot of games. Three OMHA titles? The research still has to be done and Power jokes proof has to be shown.
"I think it's pretty special," said Power. "We're very pleased on how the kids represented St. Thomas. For such a small city at this age group, we're producing some good hockey."