Down 2–0 in the second period of the Tier 1 city championships, things weren’t looking good for North Toronto Collegiate’s senior boys hockey team.
However, like he had all season, coach John Taylor remained confident in his team. He urged his squad to keep up the pressure on their opponents, Humberside Collegiate.
“We thought if we can just keep pressing them and keep finishing our checks, they’ve got to get worn down at some point and sure enough we poured it on in the third,” Taylor said of the Mar. 6 match-up.
The Norsemen managed a 3-0 run before Humberside tied the game up, sending the championship game in to overtime. That’s when Rhys Evenson scored the most important goal of the season for North Toronto.
“I picked up the puck in the neutral zone and went down and cut before the defence, cut across the ice and went backside,” said Evenson, who shot at the left side of the net. “Their goalie was too far back in the net so there was some space for me.
“Right when I scored I didn’t take in that that was the winning goal. After I turned around and all of my players were jumping out of the bench then I realized that we won.”
While the goal marked an exciting end to their season in Toronto, it also meant there would be more hockey to be played. The win solidified North Toronto’s spot in the AAA/AAAA OFSAA tournament, which had been a season-long goal of the team comprising mostly students in grade 12.
“We definitely wanted to make our last year memorable,” Evenson said. “We got new jerseys and stuff and really went all out this year.”
Dressed in new duds, the Norsemen were undefeated in the regular season before losing in the South Region finals. The team also made it to the finals of the North York Classic and New Year’s Festival tournaments but lost both times.
“We told the guys ‘You know what? Sometimes you have to go through a little bit of heartbreak to take the team to the next level,’ ” Taylor said.
Although the team persevered through the heartbreak to win the city championships, Taylor admitted the OFSAA tournament was definitely another level of competition.
Injuries to the team’s two starting defensemen hindered the Norsemen in the tourney as they left Peterborough without a win. Their best game of the tournament was a 4-4 tie against the host, St. Peter’s Secondary.
Taylor said he hopes to be back next year with a new team and a new mindset.
“If we could get back there again a couple of times we’d have the reputation for being perennial OFSAA reps,” he said. “Then the attitude changes and you say ‘we’re not satisfied to be here.’ ”
Getting back to OFSAA will be an uphill battle for North Toronto now that much of the team will be graduating.
“With 15 guys from the roster that are going to be gone, we’re going to be young next year,” Taylor said. “Whether this chance presents itself again soon or not, it’s tough to know.”
Still, this season was a special one for Taylor and his team. He ranked the city championship game easily as the most thrilling he has ever coached.
“I was so proud of the guys the whole season, just the way they conducted themselves and represented the school,” he said. “As a coach you appreciate that a lot and you feel in some ways a little bit like a father because you care about them a great deal and you want to see them do their best and when they do it makes you so proud.”
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