It has been a season of firsts for the Ayr Centennials. The Cens went through the entire 2014/15 regular season never out of first place. They carried the home ice advantage 1st place brings by winning three best of seven series in twelve games. Undefeated in Midwestern Jr. C play offs they moved on to the Schmalz Cup play offs defeating the Grimsby Peach Kings in six games to move on to face Essex in the semi finals. Trailing two games to one the Cens hosted the 73’s for game four last Thursday.
Eventually any team from any sport will have a game when nothing goes their way. For the Centennials that game was last Thursday. It wasn’t from lack of effort. And it certainly wasn’t from lack of desire. It was just one of those games where the bounces just didn’t go the Cens way.
The Cens had chances in the first but failed to capitalize and went to the room after 20 minutes trailing 2-0.
Essex added three more in the third, one on the power play, to lead 5-0 after 40. The record crowd in attendance boosted the 50/50 to $1368 and that was won by Jamie Dol.
The 73’s made it 6-0 3:06 into the third but the Cens refusal to quit resulted in a P.P. goal 4:46 in breaking the shut out bid. Call up Matt Patton got the puck to Jeff Howlett in the left circle and Howie found Anthony Pullia at the top of the blue ice. His first attempt was stymied but Pullia stayed with it and cashed in his own rebound. Essex regained the 6 goal lead midway through the final frame. Jordan Pettitt put on a stick handling display while the Cens enjoyed a power play deking pass three would be checks between the 73’s blue line and the net before his fourth deke (with 56 seconds remaining) made the final 7-2.
Just 17 hours later the Cens were boarding the bus for game 5 in Essex and for the first time in the 2015 play offs (22 games) were facing elimination.
Andre Keire kept the game scoreless near the end of the first stopping a clear cut break away from a 73’s player that had stepped out of the box. Then with just 15 seconds on the clock some great Ayr pressure was rewarded when Jackson White put the Cens on the board finishing a goal mouth scramble. Carver Ormiston and Anthony Pullia drew assists.
Essex evened it up 1:45 into the second and at the 4:00 mark the Cens were penalized for the first time in the game. Essex took the lead 5:29 into the second while playing 4 on 4 then added a power play goal midway through. A blocked point shot resulted in another 73’s break away that made it 4-1. With just over two minutes remaining in the second Pullia spotted Jake Whibbs stepping out of the box and from his knees lofted a puck over the D to the Essex line. Whibbsy’s speed sent him in alone and he made no mistake drawing the Cens to within two. Early in the third an Ayr goal was waved off but the Cens continued to pressure and 2:31 in drew to within one when Eric Hackborn redirected a Connor MacLean point shot. Second assist went to Howie. The battle continued and Essex capitalized on a bouncing puck to again stretch the lead to 2. The Cens had the home team on their heels as they continued to press, out shooting them 15-8 in the final frame. With 1:58 remaining in the period and ten seconds left on an Essex penalty Keire was pulled for the extra attacker. Seconds after the penalty expired the Cens got to within one when Pullia ended another goal mouth scramble. Assists went to Hackborn and Richard. The Cens continued to press through the dying seconds but the 73’s clung to the one goal lead for the victory and the series win.
The Cens were cheered for their efforts by a large contingent of Ayr fans that had made the two and a half hour trip down.
For the team it meant the last game of the season but for Andrew Richard, Anthony Pullia, Eric Hackborn and Jeff Howlett it marked their last game of Jr. Hockey as they were this season's over agers. These four represented the Centennials with class, intensity, perseverance and heart.
Just another way of saying “Winning with integrity, Pride and Passion” I guess. The Centennials would like to wish all the best the future can hold for these fine ambassadors for Ayr. And remember boys “Once a Cen always a Cen”
This season the Cens broke all attendance records, not just for the NDCC but for our league and in the Schmalz Cup play offs making the Centennial’s games the most well attended in all Ontario Jr. C averaging 440 in 6 league play off games and 1008 in the 5 Schmalz Cup games. For this the Cens salute their loyal fans and hope the new hockey fans that attended the play offs return next year to follow the Cens on their next quest for the cup.
The Centennials awards banquet will be held Tuesday May 5th - 6:30 at the Grand Valley Golf and Country Club. Tickets are $25 (always a great meal) and you can contact Don or Julie Eby for tickets.519 632-7917