There’s a defining moment in every Championship run where it comes down to inches or seconds and the result is either disappointment or pure exhilaration. I guess when you look back at the regular season of the North York Leafs it started and ended as so many have in the past a solid showing, a mid pack finish and a tough QF playoff matchup that could have gone either way. This season’s first round matchup was Jantha HC. A team that ended the regular season with seven straight wins so it wasn't really the matchup that the Leafs had hoped for. That’s how the cookie crumbles and the Leafs and Jantha would clash for a seed in the final four. The Leafs would open the post season in fine fashion scoring the first three goals of game one with a 3-0 lead early in the second period. Resting on what they thought was a comfortable lead the Leafs were stunned as Jantha exploded for six straight goals to take game one 6-3. Game two saw the Leafs field only seven runners and down a game the cards looked stacked against them. The outstanding goaltending of Justin Cruz and a go ahead goal from veteran defender Rui Martins with just under five minutes left and the Leafs had staved off elimination to take a 3-2 victory and force a deciding game three. Both teams came out cautious not wanting to give up the first goal. The Leafs would once again open a two goal lead but Jantha’s fortitude would shine through as they score three straight goals to knot the game at three with only three minutes left. Overtime looked to be a strong possibility as the clock ticked down but in the last minute Randy Kelly would put the Leafs ahead and Justin Cruz did the rest as the Leafs had advanced to the final four.
Waiting for the Leafs in the semi-finals were a long-time rival and three time Tier 2 Champions the Toronto Titans who had just pulled off the upset of the post season as they ousted the defending Champions The Big Bastone. With the Leafs flying high from their game three victory, the Leafs cruised to a 5-2 game one victory. Riding the wave of momentum the Leafs would sweep away the Titans in two games as they take game two 4-1 and advance to their first Downs view Park finals in seven years.
The last time the Leafs were in the finals it was a Mike Stewart OT winner that won them the Championship. The Leafs would face the Toronto Hitmen who would be making their third trip to the finals in the four attempts. The Hitmen had eliminated both the Vaughan Flames and the Garage Guys on their way to the finals and were hungry to claim that Championship trophy that had eluded them twice before. So the stage was set and the action was fast and furious, both teams gave the performance of the year and a great game ensued. Regulation time solved nothing as the teams were deadlocked in a 2-2 draw. The speed and skill set of Marcel Mallais would give the Leafs the break they needed as he is tripped cutting around a defender and the Leafs would head to the PP in overtime. After an intense fury around the Hitmen goal Shawn Hannon’s centering pass from behind the net is fired home by Adam Bevilaqua and the Leafs had taken game one. You could cut the intensity with a knife as the teams filed in for game two. The Hitmen with their backs against the wall came out running and held a 2-1 lead after the first period. The Leafs would pull up their socks in the second period and a four goal outburst as Randy Kelly with a pair, Marcel Mallais and Rui Martins gave the Leafs the goals they needed to come away with a game two 5-3 victory and a Downsview Park Championship crown.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the entire North York Leaf organization on their Tier 2 Championship. Awarded for his outstanding performance in the post season as Playoff MVP was Justin Cruz who game after game gave his team a chance to win and never let in the next goal. After ten years of handing out trophies and awards it was a long time coming that I was able to hand off that Championship trophy to the heart and soul of the Leafs for years Jason Mallais. Congratulations Jay, good things come to those who wait!
Tier 2 Convener