Crusaders claim championship in SD&G hockey
BY SEAN BRAY Sports Editor The Char-Lan Crusaders are once again on top of high school boys hockey, having successfully defended their playoff title.
While, a year ago, the team was expected to win, romping through the season and playoffs, this season was a stiffer test.
The Crusaders entered the Feb. 26 playoff tournament in Long Sault as the second seed, on a record of 6 wins, 1 tie, and 1 loss. St. Joseph’s took top spot by a point, while North Dundas ended up third, by way of a tie-breaking formula, as the Devils were tied in points with Char-Lan.
The Panthers prevailed in their semifinal 3-1 over fourth-place la Citadelle, but the real battle was in the other semi between the Crusaders and Devils.
After falling behind 2-0, Char-Lan battled back to draw even, forcing overtime where the Crusaders won 3-2. Andrew Dixon scored all three goals for Char-Lan.
That set the stage for the title tilt between the Crusaders and first-place Panthers.
Char-Lan’s Donovan Francis opened the scoring with 5:48 left in the first period, assisted by Jack MacLachlan and Danny Flaro.
The boys doubled their lead early in the second stanza, off a Nathaniel Faubert marker, set up by Kurt Alexander.
St. Joseph’s drew even on back-to-back goals, five minutes apart, before Cole MacCrimmon replied, assisted by Seamus O’Connell. However, just 20 seconds later, the Panthers scored again, to knot the affair 3-3.
With 7:24 remaining in the third, Alexander put Char-Lan in front for good. Faubert got the assist on the play.
A couple of minutes later, Dixon banged home an insurance tally, assisted by Alexander and Faubert.
St. Joe’s got one back in the latter stages, before the Crusaders iced the victory on O’Connell’s empty- netter. Aidan Leroux assisted.
Coach Sean O’Farrell, reflecting on the day, says, “Two hard fought games. Boys played their hearts out. Total team effort.”
Alexander, a veteran of the team, adds, “I thought we played really well and didn’t let up when the games were close. Also, everyone was really doing their part during both games. We all really wanted the win for the second year in a row, and it showed today.”
On the semifinal where the Crusaders fell behind early, he stresses, “No one on the team didn’t believe we could make the comeback, and we kept playing our game.”
A year ago, Char-Lan beat North Dundas for the title. The Panthers were ousted in the semis, by the Devils, while the Crusaders sunk Seaway.
The EOSSAA boys hockey tournament was scheduled to be played yesterday, March 5, in Arnprior, hosted by St. Joseph’s, the 2018 winner that blanked Char-Lan 5-0 in the championship final.