Winger Josh Gillen now knows his buddies were telling the truth five years ago.
A Grade 9 student at the time, Gillen he had a conversation with a couple of players from the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves boys’ high school hockey team who had just won the 2010 Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association championship.
“They said it was a great experience,” Gillen said. “I understand what they meant, now. It’s awesome.”
Brebeuf captured the 2014 HWCAA title with a thrilling 6-5 overtime victory at the expense of the Cardinal Newman Cardinals at Mountain Arena on Thursday (Feb. 27).
“What a great way to end my career,” said Gillen, one of a handful of four-year veterans on the Braves. “It’s special.”
Brebeuf advances to Monday’s Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference semi-final against the No. 2 seed from Halton. Game time at Morgan Firestone Arena is 2:30 p.m. The winner of that plays the Halton champion on Wednesday for the GHAC crown and the right to play at the provincial high school tournament in Oakville, March 18-21.
The deciding goal was scored by Matt Hogan on a brilliant individual effort with three minutes, 16 seconds left in the first overtime period. On a power play, Hogan stickhandled around and through a pair of Newman defenders before snapping a wrist shot past netminder Michael Stramenga on the glove.
Second-place Brebeuf had been shut out of city hockey titles since the 2010 season. Coach Mark Fama was behind the bench for both.
“Hogan scored the game winner (in a semi-final against the St. Thomas More Knights) to get us into the final and he was clutch again today,” Gillen said. “It was a good team effort but our goalie (Brodyn Sexton) stood on his head.”
Brebeuf skated to a 2-0 lead by the end of the first period on goals by Nick Rutka and Connor McVey. By the end of the second period, however, the score was 3-3. The Braves eventually grabbed a 5-4 lead on a goal by Domenic Procopio, but Newman’s Daniel DeLuca scored with 3:01 left in regulation to force the OT.
Jacob Bianchi and Lucas Uggenti had the other Newman goals, while Zak Bramwell, answered with a pair for Brebeuf.
“It was exciting,” Fama said. “Back and forth. We knew it would be a tough game. We had close games against Newman all year. It was a clean, fast-paced game.
“The best two teams were here today. It could have gone either way. Our goalie played stellar. And the game-winning goal was a great individual effort by Hogan … his talent came through.”
Brebeuf (7-4-1) lost twice to Newman (9-1-2) during the regular schedule – 3-2 and 4-3 – just as they had also lost both games to St. Thomas More before eliminating them in a semifinal.
Penalties aren’t often called in overtime, but the inadvertent high stick by Hayden Bailey into a Brebeuf player’s face mask was audible and could not be ignored. Said Fama: “It was blatant. You have to call it. You have to be in control of your stick at all times. It was a break for us.”
Newman coach Anthony Macaluso said the Cardinals recovered nicely after a slow start.
“It’s very disappointing,” Macaluso said. “Especially in that overtime period. We thought we had the majority of the play. We had the chances.
“Our guys were tired at the end of a shift (on the winning goal). But he made a great play. He finished when it mattered. It’s something we weren’t able to do.”
Other members of the championship Braves are Brenden Boyle, Max Offel, Aaron Panter, Sam Agro, Chris Woodward, Connor Maitz, Jake Alfano, Tyler Bucci, Ricky Argent, Eric Merritt, Adam Lodge, Jake Morrison and Kevin Simpson.
“We’ve got the ability to skate with anybody,” Fama said. “These guys never quit. We’ve got four lines and we feel comfortable going with any of them.”
Oakville’s Holy Trinity Titans and Abbey Park Eagles tangle Friday for the championship of Halton.