Mark Locker was denied on a trio of ‘beauty’ chances.
But he was happy enough to take a ‘beast’ of a SCHMA B Division championship double-overtime game-winner.
“I’ll take it any way,” said the Tillsonburg Horizon Seeds Atom forward Saturday morning at the Norwich Community Centre, following a tight, 4-3 2OT victory over a game Ayr squad.
Locker had scored earlier in regulation time, but was denied on a trio of other opportunities, including two in OT. He was stopped by Ayr goalie Zach St. Louis with 4.6 seconds remaining in regulation, via a quick left toe save. Locker also fired a high, hard shot over the crossbar on a rush down the left wing during the first OT.
“Looking glove side, same spot I shot when I scored the first time.”
Locker used tenacity on the puck and a burst of speed to break into the clear past a pair of pair of Ayr defenders, only to be denied with roughly a minute remaining in the first extra period, at close range by the Ayr netminder.
“He just got it with his pads,” said Locker.
The Horizon Seeds atoms headed into overtime with a five-on-three skater advantage, thanks to a pair of minor penalties assessed to Ayr (hooking with 10.8 seconds remaining, bench minor following the buzzer) at the close of the first extra 10-minute frame. Locker appeared to be looking first to pass following a Tillsonburg faceoff win in the offensive zone, but as he looked back toward the right point, an Ayr defender cut in to take that option away. Instead, Locker curled back toward the faceoff circle from the right-wing boards, letting a wrist shot go from approximately its edge.
The puck deflected off another defender’s stick, perfectly from a Tillsonburg point of view, into the top, left-hand corner past a startled St. Louis.
“Right off the shaft,” said Locker, noting ‘you can get lucky some times. “Right over the goalie.”
Ayr’s Chandler Stortz-Grenia had opened scoring at the 3:11 mark of the first frame, adding his second goal 3:37 prior to its close to give his squad a 2-0 lead after one period.
Tillsonburg got on the board with the only goal of the second, and Locker squared accounts at two with 8:03 remaining in the third on an assist to Josiah VanGurp.
Ayr’s Charlie McKnight put his team back in the lead 1:22 later, unassisted. The clock was running down on the Horizon Seeds atom season when Matthew Fabi gained control on the puck in the left-wing corner, driving out of there hard, directly to the net and through St. Louis’s crease to tie the game at three with 2:17 remaining.
“I cut in, I thought I wasn’t going to score, but then I turned sharp enough, back-hander five-hole,” said Fabi.
A tripping minor to Ayr sent Tillsonburg into the first overtime period a man to the good, and may have boosted momentum the Horizon Seeds atoms seemed to have throughout both extra sessions. Captain Carter Newsom came close to ending it roughly 30 seconds in. Winding up behind his own goal, Newsome cut through the centre of the ice, driving deeply into the Ayr zone prior to sending an unselfish centring pass back to Austin Black in the slot.
“I like making plays, setting people up,” Newsom explained.
Black’s shot went wide of the right post, but Newsom came close to one-timing it home, albeit on an extremely sharp angle.
The game’s flow arguably made the final result even more satisfying from a Tillsonburg point of view.
“Well, we were down in the first and then sort of came back,” said Newsom, admitting overtime had been ‘sort of nerve-wracking.
“It worked out in the end, really well.”
“A great effort,” agreed Tillsonburg coach Rob VanDoninck, crediting Ayr for being a ‘good team,’ which has played the Horizon Seeds atoms tough all year – and once again through a tight, double-overtime SCMHA B Championship final. “Could have went either way.”
The hockey season is a long one, VanDoninck reflected, stretching back to tryouts the previous April. In part given that lengthy journey, capping it off with a victory in Norwich was greatly appreciated.
“All-in-all, just happy with the game. Really happy, nice to put a banner up.”