With only two weeks left in the Tier 1 season the race for playoff seeds has come down to the final week. #1 Express will face either the Steelers or Polar Bears depending on next weeks results. The first confirmed playoff matchup will be the #2 Toronto Thunder versus #7 Vaughan Jets in a match of two veteran Premier teams. In week 17, three of the four games needed to be decided in a shootout. The Bears fighting for their playoff lives gain full points against the Jets. The Hawks, Orangemen share points in a low scoring affair. The Steelers with their backs against the wall steal a point from the Vaughan Red Wings to regain the #8 seed.
No lead is ever safe when you play the Toronto Thunder as St. Michael’s learned the hard way on Sunday night. St. Mike’s opened the game in a fury with three quick goals and before the fans had taken their seats the Thunder were down a field goal. With Premier scoring leader Massimo Principe and high scoring defender Rick Daponte on the opposite side you know the Thunder can come back from being behind. Before the first period ends and the dust had settled the score was tied at 3. Rick Daponte would give the Thunder the lead early in the second but St. Mike’s would eventually tie the game and send the game to extra shooters. Once again that super sniper Rick Daponte fires the winner to give the Thunder an extra point with a 5-4 win.
Can the Toronto Polar Bears make the playoffs? They are doing the best to gain the last seed. Last night they came away with a convincing 4-2 victory over the Vaughan Jets. A slap shot from Pat Miller after a defensive zone turnover was your game winner as the Polar Bears jumped ahead of the Steelers for the last playoff seed based on tie breakers. The Jets with their loss will face the high scoring Thunder in the Quarter Final round matchup. We’ve seen this matchup before and this series will be a great one to watch. Injured superstar Sandro Mignosa of the Vaughan Jets will be a question mark to return from a broken ankle to participate in the opening round playoff series.
With the Polar Bears victory the pressure was squarely on the backs of the Thornhill Steelers to gain at least one point from the Vaughan Red Wings to regain their playoff spot. Backup Scott Irvine would get the starting nod and he would not disappoint on this night. He would hold the Steelers in the game as the young Vaughan Red wings peppered him with shot after shot. New scoring sensation for the Steelers Mark Elvidge scores a powerplay goal with four minutes left to secure a point for his club. The VRW in shootouts this year have scored on 7 of 9 attempts including all three on this night versus the Steelers. Final score VRW 3 Steelers 2. Moral of this story don’t go to shoot outs against the VRW.
The last game of the night saw two teams battling for the number three seed go head to head. Mississauga Hawks Captain Charlie Giffin and Metro Orangemen Ricardo Pires both would miss this game and goals on both sides would be hard to come by. A scoreless tie would hold until Chris Chapman would score for the Hawks with six minutes to go. The lead would be short lived as a minute later Gary Costa would benefit from a deflection and the game was tied. Gary Jacob would restore the Hawk lead but just as early the Orangemen would answer back with Nelson Pacheco evening the score and sending the game to a shootout. With third place on the line the Orangemen would gain the edge on one the best shootout goals I’ve ever seen scored. Nelson Pacheco would send goalie John DiNardo sprawling as he calmly with one hand rolls the ball in to the empty side of the net making the final Orangemen 3 Hawks 2. In the final week of the regular season the Orangemen face the Bears and the Hawks face the Red Wings in must wins.
Week 17 Top Goaltenders
1. Scott Irvine (Steelers) - keeps club in playoff spot
2. Gus Kalaitzis (Polar Bears) - there’s still hope
3. Turab Bokhari (Orangemen) - steady play keeps club in hunt for third seed
Week 17 Top Performers
1. Nelson Pacheco (Orangemen) - if you saw his shootout winner, you’d know why
2. Ricky Daponte (Thunder) - two goals and a shoot out winner
3. Mark Elvidge (Steelers) - PP goal gains club a point
Food For Thought
This week was the first time all season that besides the times they played each other that both the Steelers and Polar Bears gained points in the same week.