Phoenix ousted in OFSAA quarter-finals
The Saint Francis Phoenix boys hockey team’s hopes of a provincial gold medal in their hometown ended Wednesday afternoon with a 5-3 loss to the Paris District Panthers in the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations AA quarter-finals.
The second-seeded Phoenix fell behind 3-0 in the first period to the seventh-seeded Panthers but found some hope going into the first intermission when Rhys Lagrotteria scored with 4.5 seconds left in the period.
Goals by Owen Petrucci in the second and third periods drew Saint Francis even 4:13 into the final frame but the Panthers scored the winner with 1:19 left in the game and added an empty-net marker with 18.7 seconds left on the clock.
Marcus Harris had a pair of assists for Saint Francis while single assists were contributed by Matt Testa and Cole Mambella.
Carson Brown netted a pair of goals for Paris District and singles were scored by Jason Bonnema, Owen Lalonde and Max Koekoek.
Saint Francis head coach Dino Germano agreed it was not the ending his squad was hoping for.
“We lost two guys from the last game because of altercations that happened and that affected our lineup,” he said. “But both teams had missing players and I am not going to use that as an excuse. I thought we fought hard and played well and we just got beaten in the last minute.”
Germano was disappointed in the final result but was focused on the big picture.
“We have to look at the whole year,” he said. “It was a great group of guys; the kids played well all year; they were resilient; they won two tournaments, the NCAA (Niagara Catholic Athletic Association) and SOSSA (Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association); and, they went undefeated in the round-robin.
“We stumbled a bit with penalties but it was a great year.”
The Phoenix will have 12-13 players back next year.
“We will have a nice strong team but we know there are guys in that room that are graduating and they are going to be disappointed,” Germano said. “I feel for them because they won’t have another opportunity to have an OFSAA at home. I want to make sure everyone knows that these kids fought hard for us and they represented St. Catharines and our small school really well.”
One of those players graduating will be team captain Nolan Freel, who is planning to apprentice as a boilermaker.
“It is hard,” Freel said of the season-ending loss. “We came in as a group of brothers and it is not the result we wanted but it is it was it is. We can only get better for next year.”
Like his coach, he lamented what could have been for the Phoenix.
“The game before we lost two of our top guys and that was really hard but we had 25 guys. It was a big roster and we trusted every single one of them,” Freel said. “But going down three is hard, especially when we battled back and didn’t get the result.”
Freel’s biggest takeaway from the season is how close the team became.
“School hockey is important to me and a lot of these guys and we became a group of brothers.”
He has enjoyed his time wearing a Saint Francis jersey.
“I am going to remember these guys. Our coaches and our goaltending was great and it was an amazing experience.”
PHOENIX 6 REBELS 0
Marcus Harris netted a hat trick and added an assist helping Saint Francis finish pool play with a 3-0 record following a 6-0 blanking of the eighth-seeded Roland Michener Rebels from Timmins.
The Phoenix scored five times in the second period to put the game out of reach.
Also scoring for the Phoenix were: Owen Petrucci with two goals and an assist; Mitch Pearson with a single goal; Jordan Marconi with three assists; and, Cole Mambella, Zach Gillesby and Sam Rootes with single helpers.
Rootes recorded the shutout.
Thursday morning’s semifinals will see St. Michael playing Regiopolis Notre Dame and Paris District versus St. Mary’s College. The bronze medal game will be played at 1 p.m. followed by the gold medal game at 3 p.m. at the Seymour-Hannah Sports Complex.