Less than a quarter-second was on the clock when Malvern’s Dallas Carter wristed a shot into the Riverdale Raiders’ net on Wednesday.
That buzzer goal rang in a 7-5 win for Malvern’s varsity boys hockey team, plus a hat trick for Carter.
Judging by the game and the league standings, the Knights will need lots more split-second skills to defend their city title.
Brian Spanton, the Knights’ community coach, says competition in the TDSB’s south region league has rarely been so close.
“I’ve told our boys all year that despite our minimal turnover, it’s going to be a war to get out of the south,” said Spanton. “It’s good hockey.”
That was clear to anyone watching last week’s game at Ted Reeve Arena.
Both teams set a fast pace from the get-go, rushing their rivals with passing plays rather than trying to ‘dump and chase’ the puck.
The Knights were first on the score board, but the Raiders soon answered with a power-play goal. Then they took a 2-1 lead with two minutes left in the period.
That’s when Ethan Casey first showed the Knights’ strength under pressure, catching the Raiders’ goalie out of his net to finish the first 2-2.
But the Raiders shot back with a quick goal in the second, and they held that 3-2 lead until the Knights tied it on a five-on-three power play.
Malvern’s defenders seemed to step up their game in the second half of the period, first killing off a minor penalty so Malvern could take a 4-3 lead and then holding the score when the team landed a five-minute major.
Even so, the Raiders gave Knights’ goalie Chris Manjuris plenty of chances to shine, including a huge glove save at the two-minute mark that got the whole bench cheering.
When the final period opened, the Raiders were only down a goal and had a three-minute power play in hand. But they failed to capitalize on the advantage, and it wasn’t until both were at even strength that the Raiders tied it 4-4. With ten minutes to go, it was anyone’s game.
The Knights made it theirs thanks to Manjuris, who skated well out of his net to snuff a Raiders’ rush, and to scoring power – the team landed two goals in under a minute to take a 6-4 lead.
Undaunted, the Raiders surprised the Knights by scoring one shorthanded, then looked really dangerous after regrouping on a last-minute time-out and shrinking Malvern’s lead to 6-5.
Carter’s split-second finisher may have sealed it for the Knights, but Spanton said the team will have to be steadier given this seasons’ many one-goal games.
In the league standings, Malvern and Humberside are currently tied in second, while Lawrence Park is so far undefeated.
Asked about the Knights’ strategy, Spanton said the team tries to keep it simple.
“We try and base it on discipline, and unselfishness – it’s just ‘team first’,” he said, adding that having any player pinch in too far alone would leave the team too open in such a competitive league.
“It’s a big team to play for, at Malvern,” said Spanton. “We’ve got a lot of good hockey players, and they know there’s a lot of tradition.”
“We try and instil pride in putting the shirt on.”