The Windsor Clippers may not have received the ending they were looking for, but instead battled their way to the deepest playoff run in team history. A season that few would dare to forget.
Tuesday night, the Clippers sailed north to the Alder Street Arena to play an all-or-nothing Game 5 against the first place Orangeville Northmen. An early seven-goal run from the Northmen ended dreams of an OJBLL MacDonald Trophy and Founders Cup, in what may be the Windsor’s greatest season to date.
After yet another long, scoreless start for the two rivals, it was only fitting that captain Logan Holmes would fire home the first goal of the last game in his record breaking Junior B career. The Clippers goal came just past the midway point of the period, but was answered by a barrage of Northmen offense.
Mike McCannell scored twice followed by Mike Sutton, Grayson Houghton, and Shane Hillis, respectively.
Orangeville kept up the trend in the second, finding early scoring from Kyle Waters and Colin Courtney.
Liam Leclair would answer six minutes in for Windsor, but he was bookended by snipes from Kyle Staveley and Waters. Windsor’s Dylan Riley shortened the chasm to 9-3, with just over five minutes left in the frame, but Courtney blasted goal number ten before the buzzer could sound.
Knowing the damage was already done, the Northmen sat back on defense in the third to not risk further injury for their next series. Despite the ship already being scuttled, the Clippers did not just go quietly to the deep.
Another goal from Leclair made the score 10-4. Jeff Brett scored one more halfway through for Orangeville before Ryan Marchand fired the last goal of the season, and his Junior B career, with eight and a half minutes remaining.
The game would finish 11-5 and a 3-2 series win for the Northmen.
Rylan Hartley made his return to the Orangeville net after a scary incident during Game 4, when he collapsed in the dressing room after the first period, suffering dehydration. He netted the Game 5 win with 29 saves.
Windsor goalie Brayden Bell faced 35 shots at the opposite end.
Orangeville moves on to the face the Clarington Green Gaels for the MacDonald Trophy; the championship of the OJBLL. Since the Northmen are the hosts of the 2016 Founders Cup, both teams have automatically received berths to the tournament.
The national championship will run August 16 to 21. Orangeville and Clarington will be joined by the Manitoba Blizzard, Coquitlam Adanacs, Seneca Warchiefs, Calgary Chill, Saskatchewan SWAT, and Team Nova Scotia.
As the Clippers’ season concluded, Holmes, Marchand, and Patrick Kaschalk were 1-2-3 in Western Conference playoff scoring. Holmes was also leading the OJBLL with 47 assists in fourteen games.
In the goalie department, Bell led the entire league with 464 saves.
The 2016 season has a rather substantial graduating class. Clippers whose Junior B careers ended Tuesday include late season pick-up David Favolo, offensive threat Ryan Marchand, defensive specialist Brandon Lalonde, and team captain, OJBLL scoring champion, and lifetime Clippers scoring leader, Logan Holmes.
The 2017 team will be another edition of the high scoring and no-quarter defensive clubs that Clippers fans have come to expect over the years. There will be a large crop of 1996-born players with the team, including Phil Ristoski, Josh Jubenville, Dylan Riley, Andrew Garant, Austin Thompson, and Jacob Corra.