HUNTSVILLE - Hard work and perseverance are sometimes enough to overcome most obstacles.
Otters’ Jack Campbell ties up Alliston’s Brandon Alward during Game 4 at the Don Lough Arena last Wednesday.
DEBBIE BRADLEY PHOTOGRAPHY
These particular characteristics have become the calling card of the Huntsville Otters in 2013, two months where the junior C hockey team, despite finishing last overall during the regular season in the Georgian Bay Mid Ontario Junior C Hockey League, was able to have a respectable showing.
However, in the case of the league quarter-finals, working hard and playing with determination was not enough to overcome the odds against favoured to win the league championship, the Alliston Hornets. They pushed the Otters out of the post season in four games.
The final nail in the coffin came last Wednesday night, when the Hornets pumped four goals into the Huntsville net during the second period of Game 4 at the Don Lough Arena.
The outburst was part of an eventual 7-2 win, which put an end to the Otters’ post-season trip at seven games.
The Hornets built up a 6-0 lead after two periods before the Otters were able to strike back with two goals of their own, one from Carter Tracy and the other from Noah Stevens.
The Otters went scoreless on the power play, despite having five opportunities. The series concludes a rather successful playoff run by the Otters, who ousted the Fergus Devils in the opening preliminary round of the playoffs before falling in the quarterfinals to the Hornets.
Huntsville goalie Tye Greschuk was big again for the Otters, stopping 40 of 47 shots in his ninth straight start. The game was a relatively quiet affair, as it had only 24 minutes in penalties assessed to both teams.
After the game, Huntsville head coach Monty Clouthier said he was proud of how his players played during the playoffs.
“I was quite pleased. We challenged them in the one game, and we won the third period Wednesday night,” he said.
Clouthier said the key to the final game was the second period, when the Hornets scored four times to take the 6-0 stranglehold on the game.
“We didn’t start out well in that period. We came out flat and in three minutes, they got three goals. We had to regroup and battle through the rest of the period. When you give a team that powerful a chance to put you away, that’s what they will do.”
After the game, the season was over but Clouthier said the mood in the dressing room was good.
“The group of guys we finished up with, they were very mature in how they were after the game was over. They were happy with how they played in the playoffs, but they were also disappointed that the season was done. We won the first series, so that was a big bonus.”
The first year for the Otters in the junior C loop has been an odyssey to be certain, with the journey toward the playoffs starting with a team filled with younger talent to a group of hard-working vets and solid goaltending with some young hopefuls thrown into the mix.
“There were growing pains, not just for the players, for everybody,” said Clouthier. “It wasn’t that frustrating because I expected all of this to happen. What I did feel was frustrating was the young players who didn’t step up to the plate when they had the chance. Some of them ended up leaving the team and that was unfortunate.”
Clouthier said if there was a point that turned the team’s fortunes a little brighter in the last half of the campaign, it would be the Nov. 14 trade that brought Greschuk to the Otters from Midland in exchange for promising defenceman JD Stern.
“That was a big trade for us when we got Tye. It was too bad that he got hurt soon after joining us, but he was a good player for us to get. We needed to get a little more solidified in goal. It is not that Landan (Peleikis) won’t get to that level, he was just a little too young for the situation we put him into,” he said.
Clouthier said the next step for the team is to do exit interviews with the players and begin scouting for the 2013-2014 season. He said there are at least 10 players who are still of junior-eligibility age should be back with the team for its second season in the C league.