Tucked inside the dressing room area of North Toronto Arena, Malvern’s coach Brian Spanton shared the secret to the Black Knights hockey success.
“Great players obviously make you great, but your depth is a real bonus,” he said of what he’s learned during his four-year tenure.
After winning a tough South Region playoff against East York, 4-2, without starting goalie Matt Barr — out with strep throat — Spanton emphasized the need for three strong lines and versatility.
It was most important after losing defenceman Harris Bundy with a collarbone fracture in the first period.
“When Bundy went down there was no panic, and then (East York) scored and the guys really sucked it up on the blue line,” Spanton said.
Quickly, Spanton and company moved forward Joel Richardson back on defence. The result was the entire blueline working as a phalanx, only relenting on the Goliaths two markers: A deflection by Josh Kim via Kyle Tanev in the first to tie the game at twigs, and James Stavridis’ power play goal pushing the Goliaths ahead 2-1 in the second.
With a power play notch by Stephen Mighton, via Andrew Hood and Curtis Anderson, in their back pocket, Malvern grinder Adrian Cristiano broke in on the wing and scored on Goliaths goalie Mitch McDonell. Alex Mighton and Dylan Ciccarelli assisted.
“It was my first playoff game for Malvern and I was pretty fired up,” Cristiano said. “I just wanted to get out there, try and play my game.
“I was fortunate enough on one of my goals to get a nice pass from (Dylan) Minifie, who worked really hard to get the puck out.”
Heading into the third with the game tied, Cristiano would score the game winner from behind the net. Assisting along with Minifie was Oliver Crighton. Stephen Mighton would add an empty netter via Hood.
Though Malvern’s third notch was deflating for East York, coach Rob Greco said his charges remained stalwart.
“They’re a tough team and we just wanted to keep it close,” he said. “If we kept it close that would give us a chance to win.
“Our guys played well, probably played their best game of the year, which was necessary.”
Goliaths forward Stavridis echoed his bench boss’s sentiment.
“Our team, we came ready to play,” he said. “We were really psyched up before the game.
“We knew we weren’t going to get this handed to us. We almost pulled it off but didn’t finish it.”
East York is not out of contention. They were slated for a third place game against Northern on March 5. A win would earn them a final seed and they were successful beating Northern 3-2.
With heavy praise of back-up netminder Kevin Holmes, Spanton ended by re-asserting the Black Knight’s crusade.
“Without sounding arrogant, we are where we want to be,” he said. “But we’d like to think we’ve got a lot of hockey left.”
He said his team knows the ramifications of a sudden death game, even if Malvern beat Leaside in the South Region final 5-3.
“Friday is not sudden death — if we lose we’re still in the citys — (but) we don’t want to lose anymore games.”
About this article: