The Bantam A Brookfield Elks captured the Northern Conference Championship Saturday. The Elks won an exciting 2-1 contest on home ice against Glace Bay in front of an estimated 150 cheering fans from both sides.
Glace Bay brought a clean but physical style with them and didn’t let up the entire game, but in the end Brookfield found a way to battle through and come out on top.
The Elks carried the play in the first period, playing a confident possession game. They spent almost the entire opening frame in the offensive zone and created a lot of havoc in the slot area. It took over ten minutes to be rewarded, when Elk Matt Murphy opened the scoring at 4:08.
After that, the Miners really picked up the checking. Owen Chauder was a one man wrecking ball over the course of the 45 minute game. He started to really make his presence noticed and the Miners did hem the Elks in for a shift or two late in the first period. Glace Bay then successfully killed off a late penalty, and drew a power play of their own a minute before the buzzer.
The Elks held their well earned 1-0 lead and picked up the second period where they left off in the first. Excellent puck movement had the Miners running around a bit, and they were having a difficult time getting through the neutral zone with any numbers. The Miners did do a good job of making the Elks players work for the ice they gained, again ramping up the physical play. While Brookfield was preventing Glace Bay from getting any room offensively, they were finding it harder to generate any significant chances of their own.
The 1-0 score was an accurate reflection of two teams battling hard and playing sound positional hockey. The puck focus on all of these kids was impressive and entertaining.
As we saw the game shift from being dominated by Brookfield to being relatively even, so the shift continued in the third. The tight checking and perseverance of the Miners started to pay off in a big way.
The final 10 minutes were nervous ones for Elks fans. Glace Bay showed more patience with the puck and were able to create more space for themselves in the dangerous slot areas. The Elks iced the puck at least 8 times in a 5 minute span. Only a well timed hooking penalty by a Brookfield player prevented a goal mid-way through the final stanza. Short handed, Elks goalie Connor Rushton held down the fort. He ended up stopping a breakaway later in the period as well, providing his team with the chance to gather themselves. Gather themselves they did.
Much like the Miners in the second period, even though they spent the majority of the third in their own end, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Elks. The compete level on both sides was frantic, and Brookfield players were throwing themselves into the shooting lanes. Many an attempt at goal was thwarted by a last minute stick check.
Glace Bay did deserve an equalizer, but as the time ticked down it looked like they might not get it. Finally, after winning an offensive zone faceoff back to the point, a shot managed to rattle high off the inside of the post and just barely squeeze by the blocker of Rushton into the net. There were just 2 minutes and 48 seconds left in the game.
The Elks wouldn’t be denied though. Jake Leslie answered the call less than a minute later, pouncing on a loose puck in the slot and whipping it into the open side for what ended up to be the game winning goal, but almost wasn’t.
With less than a minute left and the Miners with the extra attacker, Connor Rushton made a nice kick save on a point blank chance, then held his position to make an incredible save on the rebound, seconds before being slammed into by oncoming traffic.
Brookfield’s Evan McNea held the puck in his own corner and fended off several Glace Bay forecheckers to eat up most of the remaining time, and the rest is history.
Brookfield will now play in the Hockey Nova Scotia Day Of Champions event scheduled for April 8th in Bridgewater. They take on the WNMHL champion Shelburne Flames, who defeated Clare 5-2. Game time is 5:00pm.