This past weekend was the league Championship play downs. Our U13 team’s season got off to a slow start with a lot of change and uncertainty, quickly finding themselves near the bottom of the standings. As the team and the season started to stabilize the focus shifted to hard work, effort and teamwork. The team picked up steam and with a strong second half of the season, climbed into the 5th seed of the standings. Their seeding placed them as the bottom seed of the Gold Division, setting their schedule for Championship weekend against the top 4 teams in the league.
The task was tall, the mountain in front of them was high, the odds were stacked against them and the expectations were low. The only exception was the 16 players in their locker room. They believed they belonged; they were determined to defy the odds and prove that they were a force to be reckoned with.
Day 1 started off with their first game vs the league champs, and our sister organization, the Oxford Warlords! The players and coaches knew they were in for a tough battle as they had yet to beat the Warlords this season. It was going to take a complete team effort. They showed up ready to play as they took down the #1 seeded team by a score of 5-3! Goals scored by Hudson Serpa, Crosby Johns, Kowen Bradley, Levi Scott and Owen Craddock. Stephen Talosi turned in a solid performance between the pipes to cement the team win!
Game 2 saw the Bandits take on the 4th seeded London Cobras (blue). Another hard fought battle in which Owen Craddock highlighted the game sheet with 4 points (3 goals and an assist) and Crosby Johns, Konnor Hill and Nolan Travis round out the scoring with assists from Brady Tapson, Kowen Bradley and Daniel Risi. The team held off a late London surge, with Talosi shutting the door once again when needed, picking up his second win of the tournament in as many games. The Bandits defeated London 6-4, finishing day 1 atop the Gold Division standings as the only undefeated team.
Game 3 saw the Bandits facing the second seeded York Yellowjackets. The Bandits fought extremely hard, putting in a superb defensive effort, and Talosi putting in an outstanding effort to keep the game close, however the Bandits offense struggled as they could only muster up 1 goal in a 3-1 loss. Goal scored by Owen Craddock and assisted by Brady Tapson.
Game 4 had them in an evenly matched game against the 3rd seed, Toronto Lions. It was a win and your in the finals situation for our Bandits. This was a great game and despite being down 1-0 early in the first the bandits never stopped pressuring. After the first goal, Talosi decided it was time to shut the door again with another stand out performance, turning it over to the offence to push the team over the finish line down the stretch. The team took full advantage of it! Scoring 2 goals in the second. Goals by Konnor Hill unassisted and then Kowen Bradly, assisted by Levi Scott the Bandits never looked back. Hudson Serpa put the icing on the cake with an insurance marker that was set up by Levi Scott ensuring the Bandits punched their ticket to the finals! They would not be denied. A 3-1 victory saw them tied a top the division standing with the York Yellowjackets and a date with destiny in the championship game.
Game 5, they did it, they had accomplished the unthinkable. There was no more uncertainty as to when they would play the final game of the year. This was it, the league championship. Walking into the locker room before the game you knew something was different. It wasn’t the usual loud, playful, music blaring atmosphere. All you heard was silence and a look of determination, intensity and sheer focus. The team was on a mission to finish what they started. Once the puck dropped the Brandits threw everything they could at the Yellowjackets. They put in one of their best performances of the year, playing strong defence and working their butts off until the final whistle. Talosi continued his dominance between the pipes, keeping the game close, but the offense just couldn’t solve the keeper at the other end. The Yellowjackets proved to be too much to handle on this day as the game ended in a 4-0 loss. BUT, the score on the scoreboard didn’t tell the whole story. A silver medal, 2nd place and proving that anything is possible when you believe in yourself and your teammates and work hard together, brings a very successful and gratifying season to a close. The Bandits proved they belonged.
The efforts and contributions of the players who may not have appeared on the scoresheet this weekend also deserve recognition. Owen Stuart, Kora Mehlenbacher, Blake Johnson, Hayden Burroughs, Ryan Newhouser and Bryan Brunkard, it is the little things you did each and every shift, whether it be winning the forecheck, backchecking, clearing the front of the net, pressuring the other team into making mistakes, your efforts and selflessness made all the difference in the world and were just as much part of our team success. We do not make the finals without the contributions of every member on this team.
Great season to all! Without everyone's efforts this season it couldn't of been the success it was. Without Craig and Nelson stepping in these players don't come together . Without Helena keeping me on my toes this season doesn't happen! With out the support of all our parents, especially through the early season chaos, the players would not have had the opportunity to go through this amazing experience. To quote coach Craig "...We had some fun along the way. The players should get all the credit. They bought in and really stepped up more than we ever expected. I think they surprised us more than anything! We could not be more proud of each and every player on the team."
Congratulations Brant Bandits U13 team on a great season!