By Darren Lum
It wasn’t the storybook ending everyone hoped for at the inaugural Dawson Hamilton Memorial Hockey Game to benefit Cottage Dreams Cancer Recovery Initiative on Thursday night at the A.J. LaRue Arena but it was still a night to celebrate hope and a boy’s love.
This game honoured the courage and strength of Dawson Hamilton who was a boy who lost his life to cancer several years ago. He loved hockey and his family including older brother Tanner.
His brother a forward for the Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League’s Haliburton Wolves played aggressively and looked inspired.
He permitted people to believe the home team could knock off (if just put up a fight) against the Muskoka Shield hockey team a second place team in the north division that came in with a record of 16 wins two losses and one overtime loss. Conversely the Wolves sported a five wins and 16 losses record.
The game drew a large and vocal crowd who cheered when they could which was related to goals scored by locals Nick Hunter Braydin Hollows and Stewart Chaulk. The majority stayed for the duration of the game despite the 13-5 loss.
Wolves’ head coach Josh Shaw saw the usual start for his team but admits penalties hurt them in the long run particularly when it came to three-on-three even strength play.
“We hang right in or we’re leading or we’re within one up until midway through the second three-quarters of the second period … we’ve been in games until then and I can take that” he said referring to the positives he will use to move forward. “We took a lot of penalties tonight and that hasn’t been like the team since I’ve taken over. Granted a lot of it was [offsetting penalties] so that’s OK but we definitely have to work on our three-on-three because we gave up four goals.”
There was a combined 117 minutes of penalties. With 19 lines for penalties on the scoresheet the Shield filled its allotted space like a crossword puzzle as it needed another two lines on an additional sheet.
When it came to the bench the Wolves only had five extra skaters on the bench in the first period and then then were down to three in the third compared to the 10 extra the Shield had to start the game.
Shaw expects several more players that will join the team and return from injuries to help with the disparity.
Zack Thorsen is two weeks away from returning and Masaki Wantanabe is up to three weeks away. Both have been skating. Captain Cole Rowden is eligible to return to the lineup soon.
Wolves forward Tanner Hamilton older brother to Dawson was an inspired player skating well and hitting everything that moved across his path.
After he scored one goal in the first and one in the second both brought the close to capacity crowd to cheer. He did not see much if any playing time in the third period despite a brief time on the bench.
“He took an elbow to the jaw” Shaw said.
It was a “precautionary” measure to not play Hamilton. It was 9-4 at the start of the third period.
During the second period the Wolves forward Ivan Tamaskovic was seen storming from the bench throwing his stick in the corner. He did not return for the remainder of the game.
When asked about it Shaw said “no comment.”
Shaw took over the reins of the Wolves a few weeks ago and has one win (as of Friday afternoon).
He’s happy with his new role despite the challenges which include regularly icing a team with less than a dozen skaters available for a game.
“I’ve had a lot of fun doing it. It’s definitely stressful at times. It’s going good. I’m having a lot of fun doing it” he said.
Before he took over the team he thought the players had a good work ethic.
He still believes that.
“They’ve been great. I’m the type of coach when something is bothering them I want them to talk to me right away. They’ve been good about that so any little issues I give them time in the dressing room to speak up … they’ve been great and have worked their asses off in practice so it’s been good” he said.
After the game he told the team to keep its focus for the entire game.
He recognizes and acknowledges the short bench doesn’t help. In particular in this game the team lost three Wolves’ players shortening the bench further.
Shaw started a few weeks ago and is optimistic the Wolves can still make the playoffs.
“It’s the top six from each division make it so we’re sitting in seventh … there’s a lot of ground” he said.
The team he said has an easier schedule coming up which will help.
As of Friday morning the team was sitting eighth two points behind sixth place Bracebridge.
The team’s next game is against north division’s best Temiscaming Titans Thursday at the A.J. LaRue Arena in Haliburton. Puck drops 7:30.