Crusaders Gear Up for OFSAA Hockey Playoffs

St. Mary Crusaders Gear Up for OFSAA Hockey Playoffs
Posted on 03/11/2024
St. Mary Crusader OFSAA Hockey Team

By Larry Moko

It’s that time of year again when the St. Mary Crusader varsity boys’ hockey team begins its March into OFSAA playoffs.
While most other high school hockey programs in Ontario have completed their regular season and playoff schedules, St. Mary is once again preparing to play the province’s top A/AA competition.

This year’s tournament for schools with smaller student populations is scheduled for March 19-21 in Brooklin.
“We are feeling good going into OFSAA,” Crusaders coach Jason Kokoski said. “Most of the team was there last year (OFSAA in St. Catharines) so they can draw on that experience.

“We know the games will be tough. There are some very good teams at this tournament. We’ll need to keep the games simple and play solid at both ends.”

This year marks the seventh time since 2012 that St. Mary has qualified for OFSAA – six times actually participating. The tournament of 2020 was cancelled due to COVID after the Crusaders had already punched their ticket.

The Crusaders won a silver medal in 2017 by way of a shootout loss in Fort Frances. And the following year, in Collingwood, they were seeded No. 1. St. Mary has also travelled to Peterborough and Ottawa for a shot at gold.
St. Mary is seeded 10th among this year’s 16 entries.
“I thought we should have gone a bit higher on the strength of our league and winning a tournament in Peterborough earlier in the year,” Kokoski said. “But OFSAA isn’t far off the mark at the end, generally, so we’ll do our best to prove them wrong.

“We’ve played most teams pretty tough this year. Close games. So, I don’t think our record was a total reflection of what we’re capable of.”

The Crusaders are the lone A/AA school in the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association. So, after a season of facing the league’s five other AAA schools, St. Mary traditionally challenges Halton for a berth to the OFSAA A/AA tournament.
The Crusaders recently travelled to Burlington’s Appleby Arena and defeated the Aldershot Aces, 7-2, to qualify for OFSAA. The Crusaders, who skated to a 3-0 first-period lead, got two goals by Caden Okis and singles by Derek Markotic, Yonas Yen, Owen Bezan, Fox Taylor and Cam Grant.

“The boys played well,” Kokoski said of the GHAC final. “We used our speed to our advantage in their end against their bigger defence. We cycled well and really put pressure on them down low.

“The young guys stepped up. Four of the goals were scored by guys in Grade 10 (Okis, 2, Markotic and Taylor).”

The Crusaders finished the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic league’s regular season with a 2-7-1 record. They then defeated the St. Jean de Brébeuf Braves, 3-2, in a quarter-final before dropping a semifinal, 7-2, against the St. Thomas More Knights.

Other St. Mary players include goaltenders Grayson Archer, Lennox Borer and Landyn Chudzik. The defence group is comprised of Colton Albert, Wyatt Albert, James Bottineau, Luke Muldoon, Niko Batagelj and Aiden Parise. Other forwards are Josh Buiter, Brian Christy, Zach Foster, Trent Harrington, Justin Jansen and Tyler MacDougall.

There are 12 returnees in the lineup and the top three point-getters this season for St. Mary have been MacDougall, Okis and Bezan.

“It should be a fun tournament for the kids,” the Crusaders coach said.

St. Mary Crusaders OFSAA Hockey Team