Hawks Win Frank Sabatino Memorial Tournament in Convincing Fashion, News (West London Minor Hockey)

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Hawks Win Frank Sabatino Memorial Tournament in Convincing Fashion
Submitted By Brady Parr on Monday, January 22, 2018
The 2017-2018 West London Hawks Major Peewee C6 team will go down in history as an outfit that knew how to win when it mattered. They proved that again this past weekend by capturing their second tournament title of the year in Oakville, capping a weekend of stellar defence and timely scoring with a 2-0 win over the Beaton Stingers in the final at the Frank Sabatino Memorial Tournament. Combined with their earlier victory in the North London Tournament, this title makes the Hawks 2 for 2 in tourneys this season.

Truth be told  however, the Hawks did not play their very best hockey until the Sunday games. On Friday, they opened the tournament against the Oro Thunder and managed a scrappy effort, scratching out a scrabbly 4-1 win. The main offensive push came from Matt Hodgins, who played defence for the game, and opened the scoring with a spectacular end-to-end rush, which he finished off with a hard shot he blistered past the defenceless Oro goaltender. He followed that up with a nearly as pretty rush and goal in the third period to put the Hawks up 3-1, a marker that was badly needed as the Hawks had surrendered a goal to make it 2-1 and were sagging somewhat to that point.

The other offence in the game came from Matt DiCicco and Owen Worby, each of whom got a goal. Worby picked up an assist as well as did Nathan Senese and Hodgins. 

But while the offence was timely, the game was really won by the solid defensive work of the team, which was the theme of the weekend. The foursome in this game of Hodgins, Pyper Baker, Jacob Grover, and Noah Weber played a solid game. And Hodgins wasn't the only D-man rushing the puck: Weber carried it with authority all game long, using his speed to get outside on the Oro forecheckers and carry it out of the Hawks' end repeatedly. Weber was also outstanding in his own end, forcing the Oro forwards to the outside. Coach Mike Worby, torn between the choice of Hodgins' outstanding offensive night and what was probably Weber's best game of the season, gave the nod to Weber as the game MVP.

After that gritty effort, the Hawks spend the night relaxing at the pool and terrorizing the guests at the hotel. Some of the Hawks seemed a little amped up, and had trouble observing Coach Worby's 10:30 pm curfew (truth be told, many suspected Worby had set the curfew to give himself an excuse to "tap out" and head to bed early. He needn't have worried: Chris Hodgins was in bed so early no one noticed when the coach headed to bed).

Thus somewhat less than fully refreshed, the Hawks took to the ice Saturday morning against the Oakville Lightning. Fans were grateful for the mid rather than early-morning start. 

There was no two ways about it: this was a sluggish game that will not go down as one of the all-time great hockey matches. Both teams appeared to be suffering from some typical tournament malaise. That said, the Hawks came out stronger than did the Lightning, hemming the Oakville squad in their own for much of the first period. Unfortunately, Oakville then scored towards the end of the first on their first shot of the game. It was a good scoring chance and a hard shot to the far side that goaltender Zach Read first appeared to have made a nice save on, but he bobbled the puck a little and it fell right on the goal line. Then, when he tried to smother it, it squirted in. 

You couldn't really fault Read on this goal, however, as the initial shot could well have gone straight in. But nonetheless, it took the wind out of the Hawks' sails a bit, which was compounded early in the second when Read let a bit of a stinker in on a fluttering wrist shot from the top of the face-off circle, which he flat out missed with his glove. Read was kicking himself after the play knowing he should have moved his body in front of the shot instead of relying on making the catch. 

This really deflated the Hawks for the next 5 minutes or so, as they let the Lightning dictate play. But Read redeemed himself by making a handful of good stops to keep his team within reach, and was rewarded when Cole Chick did some yeoman's work in the corner, out-hustling the Lightning D to get it out front to Worby. The Hawks' sniper then used his excellent wrist-shot to put the Hawks within one. This energized the Hawks and Hodgins, playing forward in this game, tied the game up before the period was out off a nice feed from Worby.

The third period therefore began with the score knotted at 2-2. But the Hawks' second line of Callum Knapp, Hodgins, and Senese put together an outstanding shift with just over 3 minutes to go in the game. They generated multiple chances until finally Grover kept the puck in at the point and worked it into the corner to Knapp, who took a step towards the net before making a nice little saucer pass to Hodgins who fired it on net. The goalie made the initial stop but Hodgins charged the crease and jammed in his rebound putting the team up 3-2. And that proved the difference.

Hodgins once again had made an excellent bid for game MVP honours, but those fell instead to Chick, for what really was a fantastic effort in the game. Chick sometimes has trouble being aggressive, but in this game he was all over Lightning, outworking them on the boards, winning battles for the puck, and forcing turnovers on the forecheck.

The pattern in the afternoon game was similar to the morning one. The Hawks went into the game knowing that a victory would book their ticket to the playoffs. The tournament functioned on a point basis, with one point being awarded for each period won and two points going to the team that won the game. Coming into the afternoon match, the Hawks had earned 9 out of a possible 10 points and their opponent, the East Lambton Eagles, was the closest team to them in their division with 5 points. So at a minimum, the Hawks needed to win one period and tie another to seal the victory. 

The coaching staff, however, decided, wisely in this reporter's view, not to share these details with the team, and simply told the Hawks they had to win. The hope was that this would ensure maximum effort from the club. 

That hope was not realized in the first period, as the Hawks came out very flat and fell behind 2-0. The Eagles had the Hawks pinned in their own end for much of the period and were out-working them in front of the net getting second and even third chances. Brendan Walsh, who was in net for the game, did well to keep the score as close as he did.

Thus, going the second, the Eagles had closed the gap to 6-9 in the standings. Another period victory plus a win in the game would put them through over the Hawks into the playoff round.

But in the second, the Hawks started to turn things around. They didn't score, but they started to apply their forecheck and generate some chances. You could also feel the Eagles' energy sagging a bit as the game wore on and heading into the third it seemed that the Hawks might climb back into it. With, effectively, the zero-zero tie in the second period, that put the standings at 6.5 for the Eagles and 9.5 for the Hawks, so whoever won the period would move on because if the EAgles won the period, they'd also win the game, putting them into a tie at 9.5 points with the Hawks. And the tie-breaker was the head to head match up, which the Hawks also would've lost. 

The coaches were, accordingly, a little tense heading into the third. Walsh was in top form snagging several hard shots with his glove hand in particular, to give his teammates the chances to turn their fortunes around, but the Hawks needed an offensive hero at the other end of the ice. Would Hodgins come to the rescue for the third game in a row?

Hodgins played well once again, but in this game the heroics came from the team's other Matthew: Matt DiCicco, who scored two pretty markers. The first was on a partial breakaway up the middle and #5 unleashed a wicked wrister to the short side. His quick release fooled the Eagles' netminder who barely had time to move before the puck bulged the twine. DiCicco then sealed the deal and punched the Hawks' ticket to the playoffs with a beautiful goal started by Baker. She moved the puck crisply up to Knapp who spotted DiCicco gathering speed to his left and chipped the puck to him. The big winger then charged up the left side and used his speed and power to get around an Eagles defender. This time, DiCicco used his quick release to go to the far side and didn't miss his mark. The Hawks' bench erupted in joyous celebration.

The game ended in a 2-2 tie. Walsh was named game MVP; DiCicco was the offensive star; but each and every Hawk had earned a share of the victory. Illustrative of this was Senese, who didn't find his way on to the score sheet but came back with blinding speed on three different odd man rushes in the third period to force the Eagles' puck carriers wide so that they could be sealed off and shut down by the Hawks' defenders. Senese's efforts were infectious as the Hawks began in this third period, to rediscover the formula that makes them a dominant team at times: hard forechecking and hard backchecking. When the Hawks backcheck like Senese did in the third, they are a truly outstanding defensive team.

The Hawks, then, were on to the playoffs and had a 9:15 start-time Sunday morning against the Newmarket Ridgebacks. They seemed nervous Saturday night. Read apparently was also desperate to work out, as he avoided his bedtime and was found lurking in the gym in the midnight hour.

Despite this, the Hawks built off their excellent third period from the day before to dominate the Ridgebacks in all facets of the game. The Hawks swarmed the Ridgebacks' end all game long and won 8-0. Worby led the way on offence in this game, potting 4 goals. Also noteworthy were Senese's first goal of the tournament as well as game MVP Knapp's. Knapp had a good tournament, grinding along the boards, and rushing the puck out wide before centering it to his wingers. Chick also got two assists in the game and was narrowly prevented from getting his first goal of the tournament when he scored just after the buzzer at the end of the third. 

It was off to the final against the Beaton Stingers who had dominated their division and had a reputation as a tough team.

Indeed they were. But the Hawks, aided by a mysterious energy drink, were not to be denied. Their defence was absolutely smothering in this match, as the powerful Stingers grew increasingly frustrated at their inability to generate any scoring chances. The Stingers featured, in particular, a big lanky defenceman who could rush, stickhandle, and shoot, but the Hawks' backcheckers and defencemen worked in perfect synchronicity to force him wide and prevent him from getting to shooting positions.

On the scoresheet, the unlikely hero was Read who was playing forward on a line with Knapp and Senese. Read played with passion, outworking the bigger Ridgebacks' players. He also went to the net hard with his stick on the ice. At about the two minute mark of the game that line had an oustanding shift cycling the puck in the corner. Read had one good chance out front but the goalie made the save. The puck went back to the point. Hodgins tried a shot but the puck deflected into the corner to Senese who, with his head up, made an excellent hard crossing pass to Read in front. Read in one motion redirected the puck in up past the blocker of the Ridgebacks' goalie.

The play thereafter was not lopsided but did favour the Hawks and in the third period, the margin of victory got a little bigger with DiCicco benefiting from another nice pass from Baker to put the Hawks up 2-0. With that score the Ridgebacks tried to press but the Hawks' team defence was stifling. With their inability to get out front, the Ridgebacks grew visibly frustrated and as the game approached its end, they got increasingly chippy. One poor misguided soul made the mistake of slashing and then crosschecking Hodgins in front of the Hawks' net. The result looked something like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4gUKkVsZ3w Suffice it to say that Hodgins got a penalty but at least made the most of it. And the Hawks came out of the sequence on the power play as the Ridgebacks' player got a penalty for his initial slash and another who came in to crosscheck Hodgins was given the extra two minutes. This effectively ended the game in the Hawks' favour. The Hawks had played their best all around game of the season at exactly the right time. In the tournament they had twice come back from two goal deficits showing their character; they had played as a team; this was a great victory.

All that was left to do was the awards ceremony as the coveted Sabatino Cup was handed to Hodgins, DiCicco, and Grover, the Hawks' assistant captains, and then each player took their turn holding the trophy. Read earned game MVP honours for scoring the tournament winning goal and for his hustling effort. Photos were taken; the champagne flowed; history was made. 

Well done Hawks.

Go Hawks go!
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