Millwood Logistics novice AE Terriers earn OMHA win
Submitted photo The Millwood Logistics novice AE Terriers defeated Milton 5-1 Saturday to sweep to a 3-0 series victory to win the coveted Ontario Minor Hockey Association championship. Coached by Jeff Hopkins and assistants Derek Mader and Sean Davidson and managed by Melissa French, members of the championship team include Kiefer Barlow, Jack Davidson, Lucas Denne, James French, William Hillyard, Jasper Holenski, Peyton Hopkins, Jackson Long, Emma Mader, Joshua May, Brock McKay, Austin McLeod-Donaldson, Jack North, Craig Scott, Eric Shellswell and Tyler Boychoff.
For the Millwood Logistics novice AE Terriers, Saturday's game at the Milton Sports Centre was their Stanley Cup final. And the local group of eight and nine year olds didn't disappoint, playing like champions in a dominant 5-1 win that earned them a coveted Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) championship.
"Some kids play their whole lives and never get to win an OMHA title," said the team's coach, Jeff Hopkins. "I'm not sure they really appreciate at their age this accomplishment, but I think in 10 years from now, they will realize that they were part of something special."
Prior to Saturday's series clincher, the novices had a pair of practices during which Hopkins tried to impress on his young charges how rare of an opportunity they were facing. "We talked to them about having their names on a banner that will forever hang at Rotary Place and how this could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Hopkins. "They certainly knew that winning would be a big-time accomplishment."
And it's one to be proud of, said Hopkins of the only local team to win a provincial title this year. "The kids worked hard and deserve all the credit," he said. "They would not be denied. They really bought into what we were teaching "¦ they are an amazing group."
Hopkins, along with assistant coaches Derek Mader and Sean Davidson, coached all but a handful of players on the championship team for the two seasons prior to this one. They have developed a strong bond forged over three years of early morning practices, road trips, weekend games, playoff runs and tournaments.
"I said to the parents in August that I thought this group could do something special this year," said Hopkins. "I knew there was a real solid foundation built over the previous two years. The skill development that occurred this year was phenomenal. Our No. 1 goal was to have fun and provide a safe environment. We made sure every practice was high-energy and we told the kids we wanted them to be a relentless, aggressive team. Not once this year were they out-worked by another team."
That was evident all season but was especially true in the playoffs. In the semi-finals, against a tough Stouffville team that won the league championship, the local squad showed tremendous resiliency when they bounced back from blowing a big lead on home ice to win the hard-fought series in Stouffville.
But the Terriers saved their best performance for the OMHA championship series. The visitors surprised host Milton in Game 1, using a balanced attack to earn a gritty, well-deserved 5-3 triumph. Then, on home ice, the local squad built up a 5-1 lead, let it slip away and then scored a late goal to earn a dramatic 6-5 win.
On Saturday, with a chance to clinch the series, the visitors struck quickly when William Hillyard scored an early goal. The Terriers extended their lead to 3-0 after two periods and cruised to the 5-1 triumph; Milton never really threatened. Hillyard tallied two in the victory, while Lucas Denne, Jack Davidson and Jasper Holenski netted single tallies. Denne and Emma Mader were the top playmakers, each setting up a pair in the win.
"You could tell we wanted it more; every single player contributed in that final game and there was just a feeling that they would not be denied," said Hopkins. "Everybody found a way to be a difference maker "¦ it was great to watch."
When the final buzzer rang, the jubilant players erupted, throwing their sticks and gloves skyward in joy as they rushed to surround victorious netminder Tyler Boychoff in celebration. After each player received their individual medals, the team was presented the Dodge Cup emblematic of provincial supremacy in their age group.
"In the dressing room, they were drinking root beer out of the trophy like it was the Stanley Cup," said Hopkins with a laugh. "To see the smiles on their faces and the joy - it was a special moment for the kids, for the parents "¦ it's something they won't soon forget."