I can’t remember the last time a best of three QF round had four sweeps and no game three’s. That’s exactly what happened this season, four clean sweeps. The Hawks, Orangemen, Jets and Polar Bears were defeated in the minimum games needed. There’s always one upset and this year the Hawks were the victims falling to the feisty Vaughan Red Wings. With high expectations and the off season’s biggest signings to bolster their attack in Tremblett, Talevski, D’Ambrosio and Loughery the Hawks were held to just one goal in the series. The Orangemen who added super sniper Randy Kelly in the NY Leafs dispersal draft were shut out two straight by Anthony Flores and the St. Mike’s defence. The Bears with a shortened bench come up short as the number one seed Express move on. The Thunder after a game one scare come out firing in game two and eliminates their long time rivals in two straight.
After coming away with a 1-0 win in game one St. Michael’s had the upper hand but game two still needed to be won to eliminate their opponents and it would be the first game of the night. The game followed script as one goal would be the difference. As stated in my pre playoff report this series lived up to the hype. Each game was decided by one goal, a goal one second after a powerplay ended was the difference in the game. Josh Barbas of St.Mike’s beats his defender wide cuts to goal and lifts a shot over Turab Bokhari in the Metro Orangemen goal. That would be the game winner an empty netter from Jon Macri is the icing on the cake as St.Mike’s would be the first team to advance to the semi final round. Dan Medeiros has assembled a young, fast group that is learning to play cohesively as a group. Danny Novis was exceptional in the two game sweeps and is quietly becoming one of the top defencemen in the division. With their job done for the night, it was time for the boys to watch and wait to see who they would face in the Final Four.
Without the services of Andrew Howes, Richie Andre, Gordie Scott, Giorgio Occhipinti, Gus Kalaitzis and a slew of others the Toronto Polar Bears had a big mountain to climb ahead of them if they were going to force a game three. The Brampton Express scored early as Tabas opens the scoring and Giustini doubles the lead three minutes later. The never say die Bears answer as Soares and Wilson draw the Bears even before the period ends. That’s as close as the Bears would come to evening the series as the Express score four times in the second period to end the Bears run with a 6-2 victory. Benny Ventullo with his first post season goal as a member of the Express helps his club coast in to the semi final round. Marc Parravano chips in with a goal and an assist and Mike Porter leads the playoff scoring race with four points in two games. Who’s next for the Express, the next two games would have a huge say on their next opponent.
Too close for comfort was the Toronto Thunder’s game one victory over the Vaughan Jets. A 3-2 victory gave the Thunder breathing room going into game two but the Jets had sent a message that they were not going to just go away. A seeing eye goal from a Kal Kakish point shot opened the scoring as Jets goalie Pallotta is screened and can’t pick up the ball as it beats him high. Danny Filice the Thunder’s Captain scores in two straight games and the Thunder’s lead is doubled. Kori Coelho would pull the Jets to within one a minute later at 2-1. The Thunder would take over from there as Mr. Everything Paul Duarte snaps a quick shot which finds the back of the Jets goal. MVP defencemen from the regular season Rick DaPonte makes sure the game gets no closer as he extends the Thunders lead to 4-1. That would be the final and the third sweep of the first round was in the books. The Thunder would join their peers in waiting and watching as the final game of the night would be the game all eyes were on.
Could the Vaughan Red Wings close out their series and join the elite group in the final four? A confident and inspired group these young Wings are even though they had to deal with their starting goaltender out for this one so they turned to back up goaltender Matt Benjamin and he didn’t disappoint. The game would be a back and forth affair with both sides holding their breath on every shot and save. The game would remain scoreless and both goaltenders Benjamin and Pellicori would give it their all allowing their side the chance to win the game. In every game in every sport there’s that one play that’s the deciding factor in the game. Abad pass, a costly penalty, a goal post you get the picture. With these two so evenly matched the turning point came late in the game. With the Hawks down a man and the Wings PP coming to an end a hard point shot hits Hawks defender Danny Conte in the face and the play is blown dead, face off in the Hawks defensive zone. With just seven seconds left in the man advantage Anthony Metallo’s point shot beats Pellicori and the Wings would draw first blood. The Hawks would get a late PP of their own but Benjamin turns aside all their efforts and the Wings would win their first Premier playoff series with a 1-0 game two victory. So the first round was a clean sweep by all four teams.
So what does that all mean. The #1 seeded Express face the young #4 ranked Vaughan Red Wings in a series that could be the beginning of a rivalry that will last for years. Perennial Downsview Park favourites the Toronto Thunder the #2 seeded team face the #3 ranked St.Michael’s BHC in an interesting matchup that saw St. Mike’s build a 4-0 lead the last time these two played only to see the Thunder come back for a 5-4 victory. Needless to say anything is possible in this series.
QF Game 2 Top Goaltenders
1. Matt Benjamin (VRW) - first game, first win, first shut out, first series win
2. Anthony Flores (St.Mike’s) – second straight shutout
3. Ralph Pellicori (Hawks) - Valiant effort in losing cause
QF Game 1 Top Performers
1. Josh Barbas (St.Mike’s) - game winner eliminates Orangemen
2. Anthony Metallo (VRW) - game winner, three points on five VRW goals in series
3. Marc Parravano (Express) - goal and assist as the Express advance