Underdog Cardinals Soar! Defeat Celtics

Underdog Cardinals Soar! Defeat Celtics in Overtime Upset
Posted on 02/16/2024

By Larry Moko
The Cardiac Cardinals are at it again.

In almost a carbon copy of their thrilling playoff-opening victory earlier this week, the last-place St. John Henry Newman Cardinals rallied in the late stages to stun the first-place Bishop Ryan Celtics 3-2 in overtime at Morgan Firestone Arena Thursday.

Newman trailed its Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic boys’ high school hockey semifinal 2-0 with under three minutes showing on the clock.

But then it got interesting. An uncovered Nolan Methot scored on a high shot from the slot with 2:26 remaining and Brady McConnell connected on a backhander with 1:47 left.

That forced overtime. And just 42 seconds into the five-minute period, 6-foot-4 winger Will Walihura rifled a high shot past BR goalie Jacob Hicks to end it.

With the result, Newman advances to the league championship on Feb. 22 against the St. Thomas More Knights.

“Same story as last game,” Newman coach Matt Pritchard said. “These guys just don’t give up.”
Against the Bishop Tonnos Titans, the Cardinals scored the tying goal 10.7 seconds before the final buzzer and added the winner – by McConnell -- during a penalty shootout.

According to Pritchard, Newman goaltender Owen Papp was a key factor in both games.

“Owen made three big saves in the shootout,” he said. “Then, today, he kept us in it. He made the next save when we were down 2-0. That’s what we needed. We know we can count on him.”

The Celtics scored both of their goals in the second period – by Zach Vanderelzen from a faceoff and by defenceman Nathan Jones on a power-play rush.

“We had nothing to lose,” Pritchard said of the push to tie the score. “If we kept going hard and playing our game we knew we could tie it up. They (BR) had all the pressure.”

Newman players were also reminded by the coaches that they were down three separate times against Tonnos and came back on each occasion.

Walihura took a crossing feed from Newman captain Macauley Wellstead on the winning goal.

“It was a great pass from my centreman,” Walihura said. “I was going down the ice calling for it. I wanted it.
“We’ve been playing together for a while so we know where each other is going to be out there on the ice. He found me and I put it in the back of the net.”

For two-time defending champion Bishop Ryan, the loss was its first in 22 games (18-0-4). That streak dates back to Dec. 5, 2022.

“It hurts,” Celtics coach Justin Cannon said. “It was a game where you think you have it. Give them credit, though. They didn’t stop.

“I thought for most of the game we controlled the tempo, controlled the play and we outshot them. Their goalie made a lot of big saves.”

The Celtics and Knights had opening round playoff byes for finishing first and second, respectively, in the standings.

“All good things have to come to an end, right?” Cannon said. “It’s been three straight seasons of a lot of success.”

More punched its ticket to the final with a 5-3 win over the St. Mary Crusaders. Julian Carbone scored twice for the Knights, who trailed 3-2 going into the third period. Other More goals were shared by Liam Ryerson, Joey Sinclair and Rogan Monaghan.

Brian Christy, with a pair, and Evan Phillips replied for St. Mary.

Photos by Richard Andoga

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