By Larry Moko
One of the youngest players in Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic high school hockey helped lift the St. Mary Crusaders to victory Thursday.
Caden Okis, a Grade 9 student, scored a pair of goals and assisted on the winner as St. Mary downed the St. John Henry Newman Cardinals, 5-4, at Gateway Arena.
Okis’ linemate, Spencer Gendall, fired the tie-breaking deciding goal with 3 minutes, 10 seconds left in the third period. It was his second goal and fifth point of the contest.
“It feels good getting my first two goals,” said Okis, who also plays at the rep level for U15 AAA Hamilton Bulldogs.
A left winger, Okis said his line moved the puck well and was effective on the forecheck.
“Caden is really smart,” Crusaders coach Jason Kokoski said. “For a Grade 9 coming up it’s a faster pace playing against older guys. So they aren’t quite sure. They’re kind of timid out there.
“Caden just reads the ice well. He knows exactly where to be. As a Grade 9, that’s perfect.”
One other young player – Grade 10 forward Cam Grant – accounted for the other St. Mary goal.
Said Kokoski: “Some of our older players are hurt so a lot of our younger guys have been playing a lot more. It’s been a revolving door of guys this year.”
Nolan Methot scored twice for Newman while singles went to Francesco Sanita and Gabe Serafino.
The Cardinals raced to a 2-0 lead in the first period but got outscored 4-1 in the third.
“St. Mary didn’t give up,” Cardinals coach Matt Pritchard said. “They were playing hard and playing their system. I know they have a good coach who has been there for a long time.”
Newman pressed for the equalizer in the final two minutes by pulling goaltender Aiden Beaudoin in favour of an extra attacker. Crusaders goaltender Grayson Archer responded, however, by making a flurry of outstanding saves to preserve the win.
“We had 31 shots on net,” Pritchard said. “Even though we scored four goals it could have been a lot more. Their goalie played a great game.”
Pritchard said in the final two periods the Cardinals made some mental mistakes that led to goals.
“We shot ourselves in the foot a few too many times,” he said.
Entering the game, both teams had records of 4-2-1.
“It was a wild one,” Kokoski said. “It was the last game before the break so the guys wanted to go into the break on a good note.”
Teams return to action on Monday, Feb. 6. With quarter-final playoffs beginning Feb. 13, the current standings are: Bishop Ryan, 6-1-1; St. Mary, 5-2-1; Newman, 4-3-1, Bishop Tonnos, 4-4; St. Thomas More, 3-4-1; St. Jean de Brebeuf, 0-8.