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Cole Galata lifts the trophy after the York-Simcoe Express Minor Midget OMHA Championship win on Sunday.
By Jake Courtepatte
It's a proverbial hat trick for the Minor Midget York-Simcoe Express.
For the third straight year, the band of 2002s took home the OMHA championship belt, on home ice no less.
Around 1,000 family, friends, fans, and scouts packed LaBrier Arena on Sunday for the championship match-up featuring the Express and the Guelph Jr. Gryphons, each looking to hoist the most coveted trophy in Ontario minor hockey.
Cole Galata opened the scoring for the Express with the only goal of the first period, sending the home crowd into a frenzy rarely seen in the minor ranks, though Guelph evened the score early in the second.
Evan Veirling, who scored the game-winner in the semi-final match-up with under a minute to play, put the Express back in front on the power play before the second intermission.
Captain Quenton Byfield, the consensus first-overall pick in the upcoming OHL Draft, put the game away for good early in the third.
At the other end, goaltender Alexander Imperio was forced to contend with three late penalty kills, eventually earning MVP honours for his work.
Head coach Ilir Mehmeti contributed his team's success to a “team first” approach.
“To accept roles that contribute to team success before personal achievements,” said Mehmeti, now in his second season in the position. “Roles such as being able to shut down other teams top lines, penalty killing instead of power play. It's been the ability to buy in.”
It was a tough start for the Express in the round robin championship that consisted of the Express, Gryphons, Oakville Rangers, Barrie Jr. Colts, and the Quinte Red Devils. York-Simcoe dropped the first game of the tournament to Barrie before rattling off three straight wins, earning first place in the pool and a trip to the gold medal match.
Oakville defeated Barrie 5-3 in the consolation to take home the bronze medal.
No strangers to the competition, the Express now qualify for the OHL Cup, reaching the prestigious tournament for the third straight year.
“There's no reason we shouldn't be able to compete with the favourites in the OHL Cup,” said Mehmeti. “If we are able to maintain our play of the past month, we should be able to have success.”
“But in any tournament type of format, one game off could decide your fate.”
The Express last won the OHL title in thew 2015-16 season. This one kicks off March 13 at Scotiabank Pond and Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto.
Excerpt: It’s a proverbial hat trick for the Minor Midget York-Simcoe Express. For the third straight year, the band of 2002s took home the OMHA championship belt, on home ice no less.
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