TORONTO - If all you want for Christmas is league parity then there must be a Santa Claus after all. As the UUHA shuts down for the annual yuletide holiday break, a mere two-and-a-half points separates 1st place (currently shared by the Jokers and Brockton Rockets with 14.5 pts. each) and 7th place (presently occupied by both the Gas Station Islanders and Beau's Beer Hack with the two teams knotted at 12 pts. each). That's the tight table setting resulting from the three final Regular Season matches of 2017, played out on Saturday, Dec. 16 at Upper Canada College.
The Rockets unwrapped their share of 1st place with a 5-3 win over the struggling Wheatfield Souldiers who, after going undefeated in their first six contests of the season, have now lost three games in a row, registering just a single victory in their last five attempts. (Burton's Boys did score a small moral victory, though, picking up their first half-point bonus for making it through three consecutive penalty-free periods.) The game was the second of the season for veteran Souldiers goaltender John Sutton, who has missed the past two seasons due to injuries. On this night, Sutton was tested early and often by the Rockets, who outshot their opponents 11-4 in the opening frame, lighting the lamp three times in the process with Bryan Eelhart, Dustin Harris and Bruce Worthington each scoring. The Souldiers managed to turn things around in the 2nd, though, solving spare goaltender Luke Smit on two occasions (Steve Harkness and spare Marc Hickox scored) and balancing the shot count with a lopsided 10-3 tries in their favour. Second tallies by Eelhart and Harris would ultimately but the game out of reach, but not before Mike Harkness scored early in the 3rd to at least make a contest out of what was looking like a blowout in the early goings.
A similar scenario played out in the GSI vs. Humiliation game at 8:00 pm with the Gassers up 4-0 going into the final frame. (Mike Gouz, Cam Collyer, Brian Nevin and spare Bruce Worthington all tallied for the Isles.) But a pair of 3rd period goals for blueliner Alex Hewitt made for a more respectable final score. Veteran Gasser Tim Vesely would also score in the 3rd as the teams went on to shake on a 5-2 final.
If you had the Jokers and Beau's Beer Hack tying on your sports select ticket then you may have some extra Christmas dosh on hand. The two former league champions traded goals as if coordinated by a Mervish employee, with the score staying within a goal for the lion's share of the match. Captain Ted Bisaillion opened the scoring at the 9:05 mark of the 1st, followed by a Chris Cacciotti knotter at the top of the 2nd. Then Steve Chamberlain scored for the Jokers, then Aaron Foster tallied for the Hack, then Steve Levine found the back of the Hack net just before Charlie Rishor scored for the game's first two-goal lead. Perhaps inspired by those back-to-back tallies, Mike Woodgate and Stefan Barkley halved the Jokers lead then pulled their team even in the 3rd as the match went into the books as a 4-4 draw.
The UUHA's 2016/17 Regular Season will break for 20 days over the holiday season, resuming on Friday, Jan. 5 for a one-off match at Maple Leaf Gardens that will see the Wheatfield Souldiers attempt to even their season series with the Brockton Rockets at 8:00 pm that evening. The following day has the other six UUHA squads in action at UCC with the Humiliation and GSI going at it again along with the Porcupines and Lads in a Parkdale derby. The Jokers and Beau's Beer Hack will meet again that night, as well.