Toronto eliminates TMU in thrilling series finale

TORONTO, ON – Nothing gets better than a game 3. Do or die. It brings the best out of both teams. Leave it all out there on the ice. Every chance you get just becomes that more important. 

It was a back-and-forth affair inside the Mattamy Athletic Centre. Game 3 featured three different lead changes. It ended up being the Varsity Blues that got the last laugh as they secured a 5-3 victory over their cross-town rival, the TMU Bold. The Varsity Blues will now play the Lakehead Thunderwolves in the 2nd round.

As the regular season was winding down, it seemed as though the TMU Bold had issues in their own end with turning the puck over or had bad defensive structure. That continued into the playoffs and especially in game 3 as just over 4 minutes to play in regulation, Jacob King found a wide open Ben Woodhouse in the slot who shot it glove side on Kai Edmonds to put the Varsity Blues ahead 4-3.

“It felt like every game the past 6 weeks. We just make crucial mistakes at crucial times. Probably got the result we deserved.” said TMU Bold head coach Johnny Duco. “Lack of execution. We weren’t sharp night in and night out. We seem to have some of the same issues. Ultimately that crept up again tonight. We’re not sharp defensively and too many turnovers end up in the back of our net.”

The TMU Bold will be losing five seniors due to the result on Sunday which includes captain, Jesse Barwell. When he met with the media after the game on Sunday, he was clearly weathering the emotions as he reflected back on his time at TMU, “Sad way to finish my career at TMU,” he said. “Just been reflecting with the 5th year guys. 5 amazing years of my life. Made some really good friends.”

This season saw the Bold finish fourth in the OUA West which guaranteed them home ice advantage for Games 1 & 3. Jesse Barwell, despite the upset emotions, was happy he was able to finish his career on home ice saying, “Being on home ice it’s nice. Family and friends are here supporting you. Finish it the way I started it.”

Despite the run to the Queen’s Cup that was cut short, Barwell is still anticipating on continuing to play hockey in the future in Europe, “The goal is to get to Europe and play pro somewhere. I’m not done with hockey yet but that’s where I’m aiming to go.”

The 1st period started off with a bang for the Bold as Ryan Wells found Jesse Barwell who shot it top shelf to give the Bold a 1-0 lead, 30 seconds into the game. 

“I saw top shelf. Just shoot it and get it there. Thankfully, it went in.” Jesse Barwell said weathering the emotions postgame about what he saw from his goal.

The Varsity Blues got their chances in the 1st period which featured three powerplays. It’s hard for a team, like the Bold who are built to score goals, to generate any offence when a good portion of the 1st period is played on the penalty kill. 

“The Bowie [penalty] is a body check; [Aaron] Hyman gets tripped and gets a tripping penalty, one second later.” Duco gave his thoughts to the media about the reffing. “You’ve got a ref like [Josh] Schein that’s got an issue with us. He’s continuously, when we’ve had him, done this to us. The powerplays we got were called by [Andrew] Thompson. Not one was called by [Josh] Schein. He’s got a problem with us. This continues to happen every game he officiates with us.”

One of the strengths of the Varsity Blues has been their transition game which killed the Bold in game 1 and they got back to it in game 3. The Varsity Blues quickly broke it out of their defensive zone and Ryan Barbosa got a shot through from the point and Ben Woodhouse cleaned up the rebound to tie the game, 1-1.

Daniel D’Amico has been known in recent years for scoring big goals for the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires. That continued into game 3 as he scored off a feed from Kevin Gursoy to put the Bold up 2-1 with 30 seconds left. 

The Varsity Blues were given a great opportunity to tie up the game with their fourth powerplay coming in the 2nd period. The Bold successfully killed it off.

That didn’t worry the Varsity Blues as Jacob King streaked in with a loud shot off the pads from Edmonds which generated a juicy rebound picked up by King who scored to tie the game at 2-2.

On the Varsity Blues 3-2 goal, it looked as though Zachary Shankar received a high stick from a Varsity Blues player which went uncalled. It was one of the many turning points in the game.

“No. Not all game long did they offer any explanation as to why UofT continued to get powerplays and we didn’t.” Johnny Duco said when asked if there was any explanation from the ref as to why it didn’t get called.

With good puck movement, the Bold successfully generated a scoring chance which came from Ryan Wells as he shot it from the point and beat Jett Alexander to tie the game up at 3-3.

With just over four minutes remaining, Ben Woodhouse scored the dagger to put the Varsity Blues up 4-3. Woodhouse was all alone in the slot with all day to shoot. It was clearly a defensive lapse on the end of the Bold.

“We need to get better. If that means replacing people, that’s what it means. We need to improve this hockey team.” Duco added when asked what he sees going into next year. 

Owen Robinson adds the empty netter to make it 5-3 and the Varsity Blues advance to the 2nd round.

“A tale of two hockey teams. We were excellent in the first half. I thought we had good team morale, good team practices. In the second semester, I thought we took our foot off the gas.” Duco said when reflecting on the season. “It’s been the last six weeks with very similar hockey where our execution isn’t at the level we needed it to be.”

(Photos from TMU Athletics/Emily Simonetta/Josh Kim)

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