By Brendon Crossman, @coachcrossman
Photo courtesy 2015 Canada Winter Games // Mark J Simunac
Eleven GTHL players were part of Team Ontario’s men’s hockey team that won the gold medal at the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George, B.C. Below are recaps of each of the game
Gold Medal Game vs. Team Alberta
Team Ontario completed a perfect showing at the 2015 Canada Winter Games with a 3-1 win over Team Alberta in the gold medal game, powered by goals from GTHL forwards Ryan McLeod (Toronto Marlboros) and Zachary Gallant (Mississauga Rebels).
This marks Ontario’s fifth gold medal in men’s hockey at the Canada Winter Games and first since 2007 in Whitehorse, YT. That roster featured current NHL stars Steven Stamkos, Cody Hodgson, Alex Pietrangelo and Michael Del Zotto, who helped the club earn a 6-4 win over Team Manitoba in the final.
Ontario also won the gold medal in 1971, 1983 and 1991. Overall, they have placed at eight of 13 tournaments, including one silver medal (1987) and two bronze medals (1967, 2003).
This year’s victory also avenged a loss to Alberta in the bronze medal game at the 2011 Games in Halifax.
McLeod opened the scoring midway through the second period with his team-leading sixth goal, tied for fourth among all players. He also finished in second place on the club – and tied for sixth overall – with 11 points, one behind leader Gabriel Vilardi (5-7—12).
Owen Tippett notched an assist on McLeod’s goal, while Nick Suzuki notched his third goal of the tournament and first game-winner.
Michael DiPietro stopped 29 shots – and was one second away from his third shutout of the Games – to improve to finish with a 4-0-0 record, 0.75 goals-against average and .971 save percentage in four appearances. Fellow netminder Brendan Bonello (Toronto Titans) won both his outings, stopping 35+ shots in both games.
Seven of the top eight scorers on GTHL were representatives from the GTHL. Final stats for GTHL contingent:
F – Ryan McLeod (Toronto Marlboros): 6-5—11, 4 PIM
F – Owen Tippett (Toronto Red Wings): 2-6—8
F – Joseph Gareffa (Toronto Titans): 1-6—7
D – Markus Phillips (Toronto Titans): 2-5—7, 6 PIM
F – Simon Boyko (Toronto Jr. Canadiens): 3-3—6
F – Ben Jones (Toronto Marlboros): 3-2—5, 6 PIM
F – Zachary Gallant (Mississauga Rebels): 2-3—5, 6 PIM
F – Brett Neumann (Don Mills Flyers): 3-1—4
D – Reilly Webb (Toronto Titans): 0-0—0
G – Brendan Bonello (Toronto Titans): 2-0-0, 3.15 GAA, .915 SV%
Former NHL player Drew Bannister served as head coach, while longtime GTHL coach Cyril Bollers and David Schlitt were his assistants.
The team finished with a tournament-best 54.2% efficiency on the man advantage and a 90.5% success rate on the penalty kill (3rd).
Semifinal vs. Team Quebec
Down 2-0 after 20 minutes, Team Ontario scored five unanswered goals to rally past Team Quebec and earn a berth in the gold medal game at the 2015 Canada Winter Games.
After Gabriel Vilardi tied the game with two goals in the middle frame, Toronto Marlboros forward Ben Jones scored the go-ahead marker at 7:41 of the third period.
Jones’ Marlboros teammate Ryan McLeod gave Team Ontario a two-goal lead just 2:01 later and Don Mills Flyers forward Brett Neumann contributed the final score. All five goals came at even strength, marking the first time the club did not tally a power-play goal.
Vilardi and McLeod pace the club with five goals; they also rank first and second with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Markus Phillips, Joseph Gareffa, Simon Boyko and Owen Tippett each contributed one assist.
Ontario will face Alberta in the final, a rematch of the bronze-medal game from the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax.
Team Alberta finished first in Group B and scored a power-play goal in each period for a 3-1 win over Team Manitoba in the semifinal on Friday.
Special teams will be a focus in Sunday’s final, as Ontario and Alberta rank first and second in both power-play and penalty kill efficiencies (ONT – 65.0% PP, 94.4% PK; ALB – 37.9% PP, 92.3% PK).
Calgary natives Kyle Olson and Jaret Anderson-Dolan lead Team Alberta with 2-6—8 and 4-3—7, respectively.
In the bronze medal game at the 2011 tournament, now-Calgary Flames prospect Morgan Klimchuk scored the game-winning goal for Team Alberta. Alberta’s roster also featured Winnipeg Jets prospects Eric Comrie and Josh Morrissey and future Columbus Blue Jackets defender Dillon Heatherington.
Team Ontario’s fourth-place roster included recent World Junior Championship gold-medalists Nicholas Ritchie, Darnell Nurse and Max Domi, Vancouver Canucks rookie Bo Horvat and prospect Jordan Subban and goaltender Spencer Martin (Colorado Avalanche).
Quarterfinal vs. Team Saskatchewan
Team Ontario jumped to a 4-0 lead in the first period – powered by goals from Ryan McLeod (2-2—4), Simon Boyko (2-1—3), Owen Tippett (1-2—3) – and added five more tallies to post a 9-0 win over Team Saskatchewan in the quarterfinals at the 2015 Canada Winter Games.
Toronto Titans defenseman Markus Phillips (1-2—3) and CIH Academy (OEMHL) forward Gabriel Vilardi (1-3—4) also posted multiple points for Team Ontario, who have outscored opponents 26-7 through four games.
McLeod (4-5—9) and Vilardi (3-6—9) share the team points lead and are tied for third in tournament scoring, three points back of Prince Edward Island’s Jeremy McKenna (5-7—12 in 5 GP).
Phillips (2-4—6) shares the scoring lead among defensemen with Prince Edward Island blueliner Syl Yoston (2-4—6) – who plays for The Hill Academy, a GTHL Member Sports School in Vaughan.
Ontario converted on 6-of-9 power-play attempts against Saskatchewan and leads the tournament with 13 goals on the man advantage (13-for-19, 68.4%). Their penalty kill also ranks first with a 92.3% success rate (12-for-13).
Joseph Gareffa (Titans) and Zachary Gallant (Mississauga Rebels) each contributed one assist.
Ontario will face Quebec in the semifinal, after that team earned a 6-3 win over host British Columbia, avenging a gold-medal game loss at the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax.
Team Quebec posted a 2-1-0 record in the preliminary round to finish second in Group B. The teams will face-off at the CN Centre tonight at 10:30 p.m. ET.
Team Alberta and Team Manitoba meet in the other semifinal at 7:00 p.m. ET.
Preliminary Game 3 vs. Team British Columbia
Making his second start of the tournament, Toronto Titans goaltender Brendan Bonello stopped 35 shots to backstop Team Ontario to a 6-4 win over host British Columbia and a perfect 3-0-0 record through the preliminary round.
Ontario fell behind for the first time in the tournament early in the opening period, but pulled ahead before the end of the frame on goals by Isaac Ratcliffe (1-1—2) and Gabriel Vilardi (1-1—2).
After North Vancouver native Jordan Bellerive tied the game, Titans teammates Markus Phillips and Joseph Gareffa (1-1—2) each found the back of the net as the Ontario tallied three straight goals before holding on for the win.
Ben Jones (0-2—2) assisted on the goals by Phillips and Gareffa, while his Toronto Marlboros teammate Ryan McLeod (0-1—1) and Mississauga Rebels forward Zachary Gallant (0-1—1) also notched helpers.
Gareffa (1-4—5), McLeod (2-3—5) and Vilardi (2-3—5) are tied for the team scoring lead, well back of the tournament lead held by Prince Edward Island forward Jeremy McKenna (5-7—12).
Team Ontario will face Saskatchewan in the quarterfinals on Thursday at CN Centre in Prince George (10:30 p.m. ET). Saskatchewan defeated Newfoundland and Labrador 4-1 in the qualifying round to advance.
Preliminary Game 2 vs. Team New Brunswick
Team Ontario rolled to a 6-0 victory over Team New Brunswick in their second preliminary round contest at the 2015 Canada Winter Games, with GTHL players again contributing on the scoresheet.
Forward Ben Jones led the club with two goals on Sunday, but it was his Toronto Marlboros teammate Ryan McLeod who carried the load offensively against New Brunswick. McLeod (1-2—3) shared the team lead with three points, all captured via the power-play, including the opening score late in the first period.
Forwards Simon Boyko (1-1—2; Toronto Jr. Canadiens) and Owen Tippett (1-1—2; Toronto Red Wings) also found the back of the net with the man advantage, as Team Ontario converted on four-of-six power-play opportunities.
Mississauga Rebels forward Zachary Gallant also tallied 1-1—2, while Don Mills Flyers captain Brett Neumann also scored and Toronto Titans defenceman Markus Phillips contributed one assist.
Gabriel Vilardi of CIH Academy in the Ontario East Minor Hockey League also racked up 1-2—3, while Sun County Panthers (ALLIANCE) goaltender Michael DiPietro posted a 17-save shutout.
Team Ontario can clinch first place in Group A with a win Tuesday against British Columbia; the host province defeated Ontario 5-2 in the semi-final at the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax, en route to a gold medal.
Preliminary Game 1 vs. Team Manitoba
Toronto Marlboros teammates Ben Jones (2-0—2) and Ryan McLeod helped Team Ontario open a 3-1 lead through two periods and Don Mills Flyers forward Brett Neumann (1-1—2) notched the game-winner early in the third period to guide Team Ontario to a 5-3 win in its opener on Sunday afternoon.
Toronto Titans forward Joseph Gareffa (0-3—3) paced all players with three points, while Owen Tippett (Toronto Red Wings) and Markus Phillips (Titans) each added helpers. Greg Meireles of the Ottawa Jr. 67’s potted the team’s fifth goal.
Brendan Bonello of the Kraft Cup champion Titans was in net for the victory.
Team Ontario plays the remainder of its preliminary round against Group A rivals New Brunswick and British Columbia. The top three teams in Group A will advance to the quarter-finals, while the fourth place team will play in the qualifying round.
Click here to view the complete tournament schedule.
Team Ontario’s women’s team won four of their six games, losing only to Team Quebec, en route to a silver medal last week. Click here to see the team’s roster.