by Larry Moko, special to the News
The Bishop Tonnos Titans girls’ high school hockey team kept firing blanks during a prolonged shootout on Tuesday in Oakville. And, in the end, that meant the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic league champions couldn’t dodge the bullet of an upset-minded opponent.
Tonnos fell 2-1 to the Loyola Hawks in the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference final at Glen Abbey Recreation Centre.
The outcome eliminates the Titans and advances the Halton champions from Loyola to the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations Quad A/Triple A championships March 18-21 in Sudbury.
The same two teams met in the GHAC final of 2013, with Loyola winning 3-0 in Ancaster. The Hawks then went on to capture a silver medal at the OFSAA tournament.
Loyola came in as the underdog this year because of the new rule in the Halton Secondary Schools Athletic Association that prohibits rep players from suiting up for their high school team. Hamilton-Wentworth, however, still allows rep participants.
“Nobody gave us a chance,” Loyola coach Dave McNamara said. “We were loose. There was a lot of pressure on Tonnos because they were supposed to win. They have rep players and we don’t.”
A second-period goal by Tonnos’s Nicole Kenyon stood up until Loyola’s Jade Thompson scored with one minute, 49 seconds remaining to force overtime. Neither team could end it during a 3-on-3, 10-minute overtime period. That led to the shootout which saw 12 consecutive scoring attempts by the Titans either go wide or be blocked by Hawks’ goaltender Paige Saunders.
At the other end, Tonnos goalie Mary Stewart was also a brick wall against the first 11 shooters she faced.
But it was Thompson who ended the penalty-shot competition. The 16-year-old Grade 11 student sent Hawk spirits soaring when she went to the backhand side on a deke and flipped the puck into the net.
It was Thompson’s fifth shot during the shootout. Loyola’s other attempts came from Bridget O’Neill (four) and Sara Riolo (three). For Tonnos, Jade Mancini (four) Kate Randazzo (four) Mackenzie Lombardi (three) and Marissa Almeida (one) had no luck in trying to out-guess the netminder.
“I kept trying the same move,” Thompson said. “I knew the goalie was getting tired. I knew somehow I could just push it by her.”
Thompson convinced McNamara to select her again to shoot even though she had missed four times previously, including on Loyola’s most recent try. It’s only her fourth year playing hockey.
“I told the coach, ‘just one more time. I can do this. Just give me one last chance.’ I knew I had to raise the puck a bit higher and that’s what I did.”
According to McNamara, Thompson enjoys pressure situations.
“She likes to be in the spotlight,” McNamara said. “How can you say no to a kid that wants the pressure? Some kids get tight during that time. But she wanted to be at centre ice. She wanted the puck.”
Titans coach Dino Cavarzan said Tonnos has been involved in shootouts before, but none had gone on for so long.
“I think our girls played fantastic,” Cavarzan said. “(Loyola) had a great game, too. They scored, we didn’t. That’s what it came down to.”
Tonnos finished second in the HWCAA standings this season with a record of 6-2-2. They then defeated the Bishop Ryan Celtics, 6-2, and the St. Thomas More Knights, 4-2, before blanking the Nelson Lords, 4-0, in a GHAC semifinal.
The GHAC final in boys’ hockey is scheduled for Wednesday (March 5), at 2:30 p.m. at Morgan Firestone Arena. The HWCAA champion St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves face the Halton champion, Abbey Park Eagles.