The McLean and Dickey Insurance major bantam Predators had a season to remember, but they will likely have trouble forgetting how it ended – exiting their home ice, feeling heartbroken.
“We did so good during the tournament but we just couldn’t win today,” lamented Preds captain Cole Patey, after his team suffered a 5-2 loss against the Whitby Warriors in the bronze-medal game of the Ontario Hockey Federation (OHF) bantam AAA provincial championship in Rama. “I’m not sure what happened today … we just couldn’t put the puck in the net.”
Predators coach Dave Bressette admitted Friday’s season-ending loss was tough to swallow.
“It’s the end of four years,” said an emotional Bressette after the defeat to Whitby. “Most of us have been together for four years. We played in a lot of big tournaments this year and showed we can play with the best teams in the province. They have to be proud of what they’ve done this season.”
The local AAA squad compiled an impressive 22-10-2 regular-season record and then went undefeated in the post-season thanks to a 6-0-1 record in the ETA playoffs. They capped that off with a 2-0-2 record at the OMHA championship, where they won a bronze medal.
They earned the right to compete in the week-long OHF championship by virtue of hosting the tournament. Each of the other six teams were the champions from their respective regions of the province.
The Predators defeated Thunder Bay and Whitby to get off to a red-hot start and then played the pre-tourney favourites, the Don Mills Flyers. The Predators stunned Don Mills and clung to a late lead before getting into penalty trouble. The Flyers tallied a late power-play goal and had to settle for a 5-5 draw – the only blemish on their otherwise perfect record at the tourney.
That game was the highlight of the tournament for Patey. “I think what I will remember most from this (OHF) tournament is tying the best team in Canada – that’s the highlight of my minor hockey career,” he told OrilliaMatters.
After that game, the Predators lost to Nickel City and faced the Ottawa Valley Titans Friday morning. A win would put the Preds in the gold-medal game. In what was an intense, roller-coaster, back-and-forth contest, the Titans eked out a 4-3 victory.
“That game was such a drain … it definitely carried over into the bronze-medal game against Whitby,” said Bressette of the team's eighth game in five days.
Despite not garnering a medal, Bressette is proud of his team. He said Patey, a big, skilled forward, is a typical Predator. He hails from Huntsville and has to travel more than an hour for practices and home games.
“While we have a big geographic area, we don’t have lot of numbers to draw from,” said Bressette, noting centres like Don Mills and Whitby and others have much larger population centres and greater recruitment efforts. “It’s not a level playing field. Our kids are driving an hour to get here for a practice. The commitment that the kids make to play is huge to begin with. The fact that we can put together enough talent out of the area – it is impressive.”
He said the team’s success is a testament to the players’ commitment. “Their skill level is great, but their character and compete level is even better,” said the proud coach.
Patey said the sacrifice is worth it. “I just love to play – I love everything about it,” he said.
And while the disappointment of Friday’s loss will linger, he is looking forward to next year, when he will play minor midget. It’s when he could be drafted into the OHL. “I hope to get drafted next year, for sure,” said Patey. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
Don Mills played Ottawa in the gold-medal game.