The Orangeville Northmen booked their ticket to the Minto Cup in style, downing the Six Nations Arrows 11-3 to take the OLA Jr A finals four games to one. The Northmen will now participate in their fourth Minto in five years, including a pair of Canadian championships in 2008 and ‘09. Jeremy Noble, named the playoffs MVP, led the way with four goals and an assist as Orangeville pulled away with five goals each in the second and third periods. Dillon Ward was outstanding in the Northmen goal. He wasn’t tested often—he faced only 26 shots—but was up to the task when challenged by Six Nations’ potent offence.
The Arrows actually led after the first. Shayne Adams dropped a shot over Ward’s shoulder from right on the edge of the crease with three seconds to play to make the score 2-1. Orangeville had some good scoring chances but weren’t able to get another shot past Warren Hill until Noble ripped his second of the game, both on perfect shots from just outside the dotted line, at 7:06.
Just over a minute and a half later, Noble gave the Northmen a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. He picked up a loose ball near the right boards and sped past a pair of Arrows’ defenders as he went behind the net. Emerging on the far side, he faked a cut along the left boards before reversing field and breaking hard to the net. He eluded all three defenders and dove to bury the ball past Hill.
As Orangeville pulled away, the Arrows grew increasingly frustrated and took a number of penalties that hampered their chances to get back into the game. Justin Pychel drew a major for cross-checking Ward in the neck with 2:12 left in the second and the score 6-2. Then, when the period ended, Johnny Powless tried to fight AJ Masson during a scrum that saw each team earn three minor penalties. Powless got a roughing major for pulling off Masson’s helmet, tossing him to the floor and throwing a number of punches while Masson refused to engage him.
Six Nations did an excellent job of killing off both major penalties. The only goal they gave up during them came at 7:16 of the third with Powless still in the box. Ian MacKay fired one into the empty goal from just inside the restraining line as Hill raced back to his net from the bench and almost got the ball as he dove across the crease with his stick extended. Randy Staats got one back a couple of minutes later but it was far too little too late.
The Arrows never gave up, continuing to pull their goalie for an extra attacker, but Orangeville’s maturity showed as they played resolute defence and milked the clock with long offensive possessions. The Northmen have 13 graduating players this year and six more with a single year of junior remaining. That experience proved a crucial difference against the much younger Arrows. Six Nations’ players were desolate after the loss. They should be able to console themselves through the offseason with the knowledge that they gained valuable experience from their deep playoff run. With most of their club returning next year, they will be a formidable team in 2013.
The Northmen, meanwhile, will prepare for the Minto Cup, to be held in Whitby starting next Saturday, August 18 and running till the 26th. Head Coach Matt Sawyer said he was extremely proud of his team for overcoming adversity this year to take the title. “The vultures were circling early in the year when we got off to a slow start,” he said. That slow start included coming out of the gates 1-3 and sitting at 5-4 almost half-way through the season. When Jeremy Noble and Mitchell Jones rejoined the team after their college years concluded, though, the Northmen began a run that would see them win their last 11 regular-season games and rampage through the playoffs with an 11-2 record.
Now they’ll have the weekend off. “That was a carrot we dangled in front of them if they could win it tonight,” Sawyer said. “Then we’ll get some good practices in and get ready for the Minto.”
Noble led the playoffs handily in goals, assists and points. His on- and off-floor leadership was probably at least as important to the Northmen’s success. He is a calming presence for the team and also has a knack for scoring the critical goals the team needs when it needs them. League Commissioner Dean MacLeod, in presenting the MVP trophy to Noble, said he believes the forward “will be remembered as one of the best players of his era” and it’s hard to argue.
After the game, Noble talked about how meaningful it was to win a third title with all of his long-time teammates, including his twin brother Jason. He credited the coaching staff, family and team supporters for everything they’ve done to help the Northmen succeed. But he showed that Orangeville isn’t satisfied with another Ontario championship. His answer to the final question of his post-game interview—whether he had any last thoughts to share—was succinct. “There’s one more step.”
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