Lethbridge, AB / Mount Pearl, NL - It has taken 19 years, plenty of hard work by many players, coaches and volunteers, but Team Atlantic has won a medal at the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge. Team Atlantic defeated Team Ontario by a score of 5-4 to claim the Bronze Medal on Tuesday Afternoon in Lethbridge, Alberta. Team Atlantic's previous best finish came at last year's event when they finished sixth. This history making win is a great moment in Atlantic Canadian hockey.
Team Atlantic did not waste any time getting on the scoreboard when Blake Gallagher scored 1:49 into the first period to put Team Atlantic out to a 1-0 lead. Gallagher's goal, his sixth of the event, was assisted by Andrew White and Brad Marchand. White figured in the scoring again when he assisted on James Sheppard's sixth goal of the tournament to stake Team Atlantic to a two goal lead. Jonathan Harty drew the other assist on Sheppard's goal. Before the end of the period however, Team Ontario would get on the board when Ryan McDonough cut the lead in half with just 0:52 seconds remaining in the first frame. Ontario's goal came while on the power play. After one period, Team Atlantic's Roger Kennedy and Ontario's Jason Guy had each made 16 saves in their respective team's net.
Andrew White and Team Atlantic came out strong in the second period as well when White scored his first goal of the event and his third point of the game on a goal at 5:03 of the second frame. Brad Marchand registered his second assist of the game on White's goal. However, the two goal lead did not last long, as Ontario roared back with a goal of their own by James Delory. Ontario evened the game when Myles Applebaum scored his third of the event at 13:26. Aaron Snow and John Hughes drew the assist on the tying goal. Team Ontario outshot Atlantic 30-29 after two periods.
Special teams play has been friendly to Team Atlantic throughout this event and it once again played a factor as the third period began. Blake Gallagher, with his second goal of the game, regained the Team Atlantic lead when he scored on the power play on a goal assisted by Brad Marchand at 1:39. Ontario's James McGinn tied the game at 5:22 of the third, but Atlantic's Ryan Hillier put Atlantic ahead to stay at 17:19. Chris Culligan assisted on Hiller's goal, his second of the event.
Roger Kennedy made 27 saves in the Atlantic Net for the win, while Jason Guy made 32 saves for Ontario.
"What a pleasure to be around this group of young hockey players," Coach Dave Ritcey commented. "They were first class on and off the ice and there are no words that can express my excitement right now for each of these 22 players. This will certainly be a highlight for all of us in our hockey careers. This was a very special group. They battled hard and never gave up, even when things did not go our way. They deserve all of the credit."
"I am so proud of our players and staff at this moment," an excited Trevor Murphy, General Manager of Team Atlantic, commented after the win. "We knew coming out of our summer evaluation camp that we had the makings of something special and this just proves our original thoughts. This is a great moment for all involved."
Each of the Team Atlantic Staff and Players will be returning to their club teams when they depart from Lethbridge, Alberta tomorrow morning. As their theme for the week stated, "Small Towns, Big Dreams" - 22 young hockey players have made history for Atlantic Canadian Hockey and their dream event has ended with a medal.