On November 16th to the 18th, 14 of the best ball hockey teams in North America traveled to St.Catharines, ON to lay it all on the line for the 6th Bauer Clash of the Titans Ball Hockey Tournament that took place at the Ballhockey.com Athletic Centre and the Ballhockey.com Haig Bowl Arena.
With $14,000 up for grabs, teams wasted no time stacking up with players from the teams not participating to form incredibly talented 22 man rosters for this event in the hopes of winning that $8,400 cash prize for the champions.
The perennial powerhouse team of Brampton Midnight Express, who were back to back champs and 3 time finalists heading into the tournament, brought their core of talent with the likes of Matt Tremblett, Shawn Hannon, Marcel Malais, Chrissy Morrison Jr. and Tony Monteiro. This group helped them cement a 2-1 record with 9.5 points in the round robin to secure the 5th seed.
The Niagara Rebels, who have made it into the top 4 in each of the first 5 years of Clash, ran with their big core of the 17 Barbas’ and Daniel Setacci looking to make their 6th straight run to at least the semifinals. The Rebels went undefeated (2-0-1) in pool play with 11 points and picked up the second seed guaranteeing them a spot in the quarters.
The other dominant local team, the Niagara Warpigs, looked to crack the top 4 for the first time since 2014 and finally get themselves some of that cash money. They had their big names in play as well as picking up some strong talent from the Tier 1 league as well. With regulars Iain Downes, Anthony Loveless, Eric Tardif, Andrew Jegg, Brian Szolga and newcomer to the Clash tournament, the young stud, Daniel Legault, the team was set to light the lamp all weekend long. They also finished without a loss in round robin with a 2-0-1 record and 11 points, to secure their spot in the quarters.
Another team who is always in the mix to win it is the Pittsburgh Gods. With a championship, a runner up and a top 4 finish in the first 5 years, you knew they were going to have the big dogs on hand to get that bread. With the stalwart, Jon Rethage in goal, Steven Gregory, Jordan Albright, John Petito and Jim Daugherty, the Gods were looking to make a deep run and looked strong after round robin play with a 2-1 record and 10.5 points to finish in the 4th seed.
The team that took the 1st seed in the pool play with the only 3 and 0 record and 13.5 points, was a group that has never finished top 4 ever at this event but has been making serious strides to move up the ladder the last few years. With two snipers in Claude Blondeau and Zack Rheaume combining for 9 of the teams 15 goals in round robin, they were looking strong with wins over Midnight, Team Massachusetts and Buffalo Fusion.
Possibly the biggest upset of the event was the fact the Barrie Flyers failed to register a win in round robin and didn’t qualify for the elimination games at all despite having a strong roster.
The teams finished in the following order for round robin play:
(1st) Ottawa Godfathers - 13.5pts - 3-0
(2nd) Niagara Rebels - 11pts - 2-0-1
(3rd) Niagara War Pigs - 11pts - 2-0-1
(4th) Pittsburgh Gods - 10.5pts - 2-1
(5th) Midnight Express - 9.5pts - 2-1
(6th) Richmond Hill Falcons - 8.5pts - 2-1
(7th) Stoney Creek Savages - 6.5pts - 1-2
(8th) Toronto Titans - 6.5pts - 1-2
(9th) Team Massachusetts - 6pts - 1-2
(10th) North York Hitmen - 5.5pts - 1-2
(11th) Buffalo Fusion - 5pts - 1-2
(12th) Niagara Saints - 5pts - 1-2
(13th) St.Michaels Masters - 4pts - 1-2
(14th) Barrie Flyers - 2.5pts - 0-3
The first round of elimination games saw seeds 5 through 12 facing off against each other for spots in Sundays playoff games against the top 4 seeds.
The 5th ranked Midnight Express walked all over the Niagara Saints who were looking to steal one from the back to back champs, 7-1 in the first elimination game of the night. The Saints featured a talented collection of players from Southern Ontario and despite not making it past Quarters, did better than expected even pulling off the upset over the Barrie Flyers in round robin.
In a closely contested match, 11th ranked Buffalo Fusion upset the 6th ranked Richmond Hill Falcons 5 - 4, by scoring more goals against them in one game then the Falcons had let in during all of the round robin games. Richmond Hill finished with only 3 goals for and 4 against in the 3 pool games and ended up with the lowest totals for goals for and goals against while still finishing 6th.
The 3rd elimination game on Saturday night saw The upcoming Stoney Creek Savages face off against the North York Hitmen. The Savages, who had lost 2-1 to the Hitmen in round robin, exacted their revenge and sent the Hitmen home winning 4-0. Davis Worth provided the team with the shutout as he was arguably one of the best goalies of the tournament with a .947 SV%.
The final game of Saturday night was another upset as 9th place Team Massachusetts started to pick up steam and beat the 8th place Toronto Titans 2-1 in the last elimination game. The top line for Team Mass. featuring Korey Wilson, Jordan Senecal and a young gun were one of the best lines to watch all tourney long with the speed and fast hands.
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With the Quarterfinals set, we were looking at the following games:
(3rd) Niagara Warpigs v. (7th) Stoney Creek Savages
The game between the Warpigs and Savages was a hotly contested affair as these two teams have faced each other quite a bit over the last year. The Savages, riding the back of Davis Worth in net, couldn’t muster much of a challenge for the Warpigs who pulled away with the lead and never looked back winning 4-1 and sending Stoney Creek home, just out of the money round.
(2nd) Niagara Rebels v. (9th) Team Massachusetts
In one of the best games of the weekend that could have easily seen either team advancing with their talented play, Team Massachusetts pulled off a HUGE upset handing the Rebels, a team who had not missed the top 4 since this event started in 2013, their first loss of the 2018 tournament with a 2-1 victory and sending them home. Bobby Housser played a phenomenal game and showed why he was the leading scorer on Team Massachusetts and tied for 3rd in the round robin games with 7 points.
(1st) Ottawa Godfathers v. (11th) Buffalo Fusion
The Ottawa Godfathers were looking to continue their winning ways and move on into the money round with a win over the 2 time runner up, Buffalo Fusion. Ottawa didn’t surrender a goal as the Fusion looked flatfooted the whole game. With a pair of goals, the Godfathers moved on to the semis for the first time at the Bauer Clash of the Titans tournament.
(4th) Pittsburgh Gods v. (5th) Brampton Midnight Express
In another game that easily could have been a finals matchup, two of the Clash’s mightiest teams were pitted against each other. With 4 championships between these two teams, it was going to be a battle for the ages. Midnight was the first to get on the board scoring at the 8:13 mark of the first period with a goal by Simon Taskas. They quickly doubled their score in the second with a goal at 5:35 from Jason Smith while Matt Tremblett assisted on both tallys. The Gods responded with a goal at 9:13 in the same frame setting up a heck of a third period. With early penalties going both ways, no one could capitalize and Midnight held on to take the game 2-1.
(3rd) Niagara Warpigs v. (9th) Team Massachusetts
With Team Massachusetts coming off a huge upset over the Rebels, they were looking to keep their winning ways going over the Warpigs and send another local team to the showers early. Unfortunately, the Pigs had a different idea in mind. After a tightly contested first period that saw no goals, the Pigs turned on the jets in the second scoring 2 goals in the first 3 minutes, added another halfway through the period from Iain Downes who also scored with just over a minute left to send the game into the 3rd with the Pigs up 4-0. Team Mass. just couldn’t get back on track and ended up losing 6-0 but still leaving the event with $1,400 in cash.
(1st) Ottawa Godfathers v. (5th) Brampton Midnight Express
With Midnight looking to add to their collection of banners, the Godfathers were in tough even though they were the top seed. The Godfathers handed Midnight their only loss in the pool play with a 5-1 victory, but in the semifinals, the script would be flipped. Early penalty trouble cost Ottawa an early goal to let Midnight head into the second period with a 1-0 lead. The penalties would really add up and Brampton went up 2-0 early in the second on a 4 on 4 situation and then added 3 more power play goals in 90 seconds during a 5 minute major before the period was done. Ottawa managed to get a late goal to break the shutout but still lost 5-1 and was handed the cheque for $1,400 on their way out the door.
(3rd) Niagara Warpigs v. (5th) Brampton Midnight Express
These two teams have battled each other for almost a decade in tournaments across North America and we were expecting fireworks for this finale as the Pigs looked to secure their first Clash win and Midnight looking to go an unprecedented, back to back to back as champions. In a hard fought first period, the pigs managed to get an early goal from Eric Tardif to get the Pigs rolling. As the second started, Tardif racked up his second of the game at 9:19 to give Niagara a 2-0 lead. There is a reason why Midnight has been a dominant team over all these years and it is because they never give up. Just over 2 minutes after giving up the second goal, and in a span of only 67 seconds, Midnight jumped out to a 3-2 lead with a power play goal from Shawn Hannon, 21 seconds later a goal from Sajjid Ayubi and then capped off by a beauty from behind the net from Chrissy Morrison Jr. who was working in the office. The Warpigs weren’t ready to roll over yet though and ended the period ended with a nice goal from Andrew Jegg with 7 seconds left to set up a thriller of a 3rd period with the teams deadlocked at 3-3.
The last stanza saw the Warpigs get a chance of a lifetime to secure the deal when Shawn Hannon split open Anthony Lovelace with a high stick that gave the Pigs a 5 minute major on the PP and forced one of the best Midnight players out of the game. Unfortunately for Niagara, the Midnight Express just kept rolling as Brampton killed off a huge penalty and with only 56 seconds left in regulation, scored on a shot from Adam Bevilacqua that beat Bram Leggat between the pads and gave them the lead with under a minute remaining. The Warpigs fought hard to get the game tied up but could not pull it together as the Brampton Midnight Express took the final 4-3 and cemented their title as a Bauer Clash of the Titans Dynasty and taking home the MASSIVE $8,400 championship prize.