By Pauline Kerr
The Sacred Heart Crusaders – the team that won top honours in CWOSSA (Central Western Ontario Secondary Schools Association)Boys A/AA hockey only days earlier in Kincardine – came back to win OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations) gold.
Host Kincardine District Secondary School Knights didn’t make it to the medal rounds, but KDSS students packed the stands – standing room only – and cheered on the other Bruce County team through three regular periods of hockey, followed by overtime, followed by a nail-biter of a shootout that saw Kyle Durrer score the winning goal for a final score of 3-2.
Durrerhad scored the Crusaders’ first goal of the game against Iona Catholic Secondary School (Mississauga); Josh Lorenz got the second one. Durrer’s winning goal after eight shootout rounds made OFSAA history for Sacred Heart.
Crusaders assistant coach Clark Wilkinson said, “It’s difficult to win (OFSAA) – every shift matters.” He explained that not only is the competition incredible – these are the best teams in the province – but the format leaves no room for easing up even for a moment. He continued, “It was a good team effort; everyone was doing their job.”
Wilkinson said the win was “a special one” for long-time coach Mike Orr. It’s one thing to win OFSAA, but another thing completely to do so in your own backyard, in an arena filled with local fans.
Orr said Monday he’s still “basking in the glory” of the big win.
The team finished a spectacular season undefeated – a perfect 33-0 season.
For Orr, the gold medal marks more than the completion of a wonderful season – it’s the culmination of a great career teaching and coaching at Sacred Heart. He said he plans to retire in June. “It’s a good way to go out,” he said. However, he didn’t close the door to perhaps doing more coaching for Sacred Heart. He’s also the assistant coach of the Mount Forest Patriots.
This is the seventh OFSAA tournament Orr’s been at, and in his opinion, it was the best. “I tip my hat to the organizing committee … Doug (Kennedy), Peter (Wolfe), Tim (Luinstra) … It’s a difficult tournament to host and they did it very well.”
He commented on the great crowd, not only for the championship game but the others – a lot of fans made the short trip on Highway 9 to see their Crusaders keep winning. He gives a lot of credit for the team’s success to goalie Caden Prues.
Tournament convener Peter Wolfe congratulated the Sacred Heart team for showing “heart,” noting they won six elimination games in a row, each by a single goal. Their gold medal is a credit to the players’ character, Wolfe said.
Wolfe said the tournament was a full year in the planning. He commends the 15 people on the organizing committee, the over 50 tournament sponsors and the “huge number” of people who helped out and made the tournament a success. He made special mention of co-chair Doug Kennedy who put great effort into ensuring the tournament – and especially the banquet – went well. And that wasn’t easy, considering the hundreds of players who attended it. Each participant received a bag of gifts, thanks to the sponsors.
Wolfe said OFSAA isn’t like any other tournament. Top teams – 16 of them – from all over the province come to play in it. One team, from Sioux Lookout, travelled for 24 hours to get to Kincardine. “It’s a huge endeavour,” he said. He noted he’s received plenty of positive comments from the coaches and will be posting tournament photos on the OFSAA website so all the participants will have access to them.
Games were played in four locations – the Davidson Centre as well as arenas in Ripley, Tiverton and Lucknow. Local hotels were filled, with some teams staying in neighbouring communities for OFSAA. Each team was guaranteed three games.
Students from KDSS, most clad in school colours of green and white, packed the stands for the opening ceremony on Tuesday, March 19 and KDSS games. They shifted to cheering for rival Sacred Heart once the Knights were out of the running. Rivals during the season they might be, but they’re neighbours and friends when it counts.
Also on Tuesday, the first day of the three-day tournament, the 16 teams attended a banquet at the Davidson Centre. The young hockey stars were treated to a warm welcome from KDSS and tournament organizers, as well as municipal, provincial and federal leaders, some of whom took advantage of the opportunity to invite the players to return to Kincardine and explore the many excellent employment opportunities in the area.
Among the many highlights of the banquet was the presentation of OFSAA’s leadership in sports award, to Knghts’ coach Tim Luinstra. Wolfe said the honour came as a surprise to Luinstra – he didn’t know he was receiving it until his name was called out.
At the banquet, Wolfe, who has worked tirelessly planning a first-rate tournament, told the players, “You will not forget this (playing in OFSAA).” While playing “club hockey” has its rewards for young players, high school hockey is special. “In your school, you are rock stars,” he said.