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Fort Macleod Pee Wee Mavericks silence Claresholm Thunder to win the banner

A Claresholm Thunder players is checked by Mavericks captain Ethan Grier.

A Claresholm Thunder players is checked by Mavericks captain Ethan Grier.

Mavericks goalie Mason Brussee turns aside this Claresholm scoring attempt.

Mavericks goalie Mason Brussee turns aside this Claresholm scoring attempt.

Shooter Goodstriker of the Mavericks carries the puck against the Claresholm Thunder.

Shooter Goodstriker of the Mavericks carries the puck against the Claresholm Thunder.

DON CRAIG – GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
Fort Macleod Mavericks capped a stellar season with an almost perfect playoff run as they swept the Claresholm Thunder last week and brought home the banner and left no doubt as to who the best team in the league was in the Central Alberta Tier 4 Pee Wee Hockey League.
After an easy opening playoff round against the Lethbridge Vipers the Mavs were taken to the wall in round two against the Okotoks Oilers.
After losing the opening game against them, the Mavs battled back and took the remaining two and the stage was set for the final round against their biggest rivals and the only other team that had comparable talent and determination as the Mavs.
Mavericks 7 Thunder 2
The sometimes bitter rivalry between the two doesn’t come as a surprise as the teams have faced each other several times in regular season, in exhibition, and many times in tournament play. If familiarity breeds contempt, these two would be a great example.
Undoubtedly, the rivalry will continue for years to come as both teams will cross paths many more times, and both will entertain with top notch competition and grudging respect.
Due to scheduling issues, the first game was played Tuesday in Claresholm and opened in typical fashion with neither team having any great advantage.
It took until the last minute of the first period before Ryland Semaniuk’s deflected shot found the mark and put the Mavs up by one going into the break.
With tight checking and strong goaltending, the second period continued like the first and it took almost half the period before Jack Austin put the Mavs ahead by two on a great one-timer off a pass from Graedon Woodward.
The two-goal cushion didn’t last long though as Claresholm closed the gap just three minutes later to keep within one.
The Mavericks regained their two-goal lead late in the period when captain Ethan Grier, probably the biggest pain in the neck for the Thunder, got his first of the game and the Mavs took an uncomfortable two-goal lead into the break.
The third period got ugly early. Less than a minute in, defenceman Lawson Penner went toe-to-toe with a Claresholm player and both received double minors for their troubles.
The play was pivotal though as the Mavs seemed to rally afterwards, and although looking somewhat nervous, gained the upper hand.
Just as the Mavericks started to overpower the Thunder, an unlucky bounce caught goalie Mason Brussee off guard and Claresholm was back in the game with plenty of time left on the clock.
But it was as close as they would get as the Mavericks just smothered the home team afterwards.
First, Penner scored shortly after getting out of the penalty box, thereby getting two-thirds of his Gordie Howe hat trick, and then Grier went to work. Not only did he get a natural hat trick, but the third goal was short-handed and absolutely silenced the Thunder.
Suddenly it was a one-sided game and the Mavericks coasted through the rest of the period and went on to a 7-2 win and the lead heading home for Game 2 of the best-of-three series.
Mavericks 6, Thunder 3
Last Thursday evening the Mavericks were met with a raucous crowd at home as they went for the kill on the Claresholm Thunder.
Up one game to nothing in the best-of-three series, the Mavs smelled blood, but started the game looking nervous.
As with previous encounters with the Thunder, the Mavs didn’t overpower, but early on, with a terrific pass from Graedon Woodward, big Gavin Crow Shoe opened the scoring on a great little shot through the five hole to give the Mavs a one-goal lead.
As with pretty much every other game these two teams have played, Claresholm seemed to battle back and after a couple of close calls, tied it with just over a minute left in the first period.
It looked as though the teams were heading into the break all even, but with just twelve seconds left, Ethan Grier scored a beautiful goal from the slot and the Mavs took a one-goal lead into the first intermission.
The Thunder got into a bit of penalty trouble in the second and found themselves playing defence more than they should.
Being down a game and facing defeat in the championship round, it was the last thing they needed and it showed.
First, Ryland Semaniuk scored and the Thunder started to get a bit chippy. Of course the Mavs repaid in kind and also spend some time in the bin, but still dominated, even shorthanded.
After the early goal by Semaniuk, the teams each traded a pair of goals, both of Macleod’s coming off brilliant shots by Grier, and at the buzzer, the Mavs held a 5-3 lead and had a chokehold on the visitors.
The third period was somewhat anticlimactic. With a two-goal cushion, the Mavs were content to slow things down and try and neutralize the play.
With nervous parents, grandparents and the like looking on in anticipation, the Thunder were desperate and went at the Mavs with everything.
But the best core of defence in the league and with help from a savvy group of forwards, the Mavericks kept the Thunder off the score sheet and overwhelmed them.
With the game virtually in the bag for the Mavs, of course Grier added an insurance goal late to get yet another natural hat trick and lead the Mavericks to a 6-3 win, the banner, and an incredible 40 wins and four losses season.

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