By Larry Moko
Power-play production proved to be the deciding factor in the 2019 Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference boys’ AAA high school hockey playoffs.
The Oakville Red Devils struck for a pair of goals on their first two power-play opportunities en route to a 4-1 semifinal victory over the Bishop Ryan Celtics at Dave Andreychuk Mountain Arena Tuesday.
In comparison, Bishop Ryan came up empty on all four of its consecutive manpower advantages.
The final goal for the Halton Public champions was fired into the empty net by Kieran Morrison with 53 seconds remaining when Bishop Ryan replaced goaltender Lucas Diklic with an extra attacker.
“The key was they were trying to be physical and got into penalty trouble,” Red Devils coach Jeff Gruber said. “We have a pretty good power play.”
The Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic league representatives opened the scoring five minutes after the opening faceoff. On the play, Andrew Poyton took a pass in the OT zone from Zachary Harrington and snapped in a high shot from the slot.
Trafalgar then responded with back-to-back power-play goals by Nicholas Zuliani (on a quick wrap-around) and Jack Morris (a deflected shot from the top of BR’s faceoff circle).
Centre Dylan Greenhalgh made it 3-1 in the second period. From a faceoff in the Celtics zone he pounced on the loose puck in front and roofed a backhand shot.
“We preached a good strong start with speed and lots of shots,” Bishop Ryan coach Justin Cannon said. “And we did those things.
“Then we got into penalty trouble and they capitalized on both. From then on we were chasing.”
Poyton, who according to Cannon was selected Bishop Ryan’s player of the game, nearly scored on a partial breakaway in the closing minutes. He also threatened to score on a few other occasions in the third period.
“Their goalie (Kieran Drover) was solid,” Cannon said. “We couldn’t get anything past him.”
The Bishop Ryan coach said the first-place Red Devils deserved the victory. “They played a good system,” he said. “They were the better team.”
Oakville Trafalgar will take on the Halton Catholic champion Jean Vanier Knights for the GHAC title.
Overall, the Celtics came fourth during the HWCAA regular season with a record of 3-4-2. They then ousted the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves (6-2) and the St. Thomas More Knights (2-1) in the opening rounds of playoffs before dropping a 2-1 overtime decision to the St. Mary Crusaders. It was the third consecutive year St. Mary had downed Bishop Ryan in the city championship.
St. Mary’s GHAC playoffs were against AA competition while Bishop Ryan competed at the AAA level.