Day four from the Capital City Challenge is in the books, and with it, the preliminary round has officially come to a close. The first four days have been incredibly entertaining and have included some great goaltending performances, some massive offensive outbursts, and a couple of really close games that came down to some of the final minutes. There was only one game to be played on day four, but it brought a little bit of everything, especially on the offensive side of the ice. Team Black beat Team White by a score of 10-5 and outshot them 33-25 in the highest-scoring game of the tournament. The fans at the Arena at TD Place were treated to a very entertaining hockey game.
Calum Ritchie and Zach Benson Combine for 11 Points
Team Black’s first line has been making headlines all throughout this tournament with the lethal combination of Calum Ritchie (Oshawa Generals) and Zach Benson (Winnipeg ICE) being the principal point of discussion and it’s hard to blame anyone for that. They have been the best line all tournament long with the inclusion of Ty Halaburda (Vancouver Giants) playing on their wing.
In their massive win on Monday night, Ritchie and Benson were once again on another level high above what should be considered reasonable or expected. The two combined to score six goals and 11 total points, with each player registering a hat trick to boot. It’s just a continuation of what we have seen from the pair so far in this tournament, but it was on another level.
“Ritchie and Benson, they are hot,” said Stéphane Julien, head coach of Team Black. “For me, Ritchie has an NHL shot already. Very nice, good wrister. Ty [Halaburda] today, just a good compliment with those two guys. He’s got more defensive size on him and he played very well tonight.”
Team Black’s top line has been unmatched at the Capital City Challenge these past four days and it’s difficult to imagine that their impressive scoring pace will slow down any time soon. The combination of Ritchie, Benson, and Halaburda has been unstoppable and has been a big reason for the success of Team Black in Ottawa. If anyone can find the key to slowing them down, they should be favorites to win the tournament, but that doesn’t seem anywhere near likely.
Matthew Soto Stands Out For Team White
Everyone might be looking at the massive night from the stars on Team Black, but quietly in the background, Kingston Frontenacs forward Matthew Soto had a night to be proud of. He scored a goal on a rocket of a shot early in the second period and added another assist just moments later on a power-play goal.
“I just try to play hard,” said Soto. “Stick with the game plan, and obviously, I got rewarded today, but this tournament has been a great experience. It’s just so well organized and everything has been great.”
This was Soto’s breakout game at the tournament, but he has found the scoresheet once more in the form of an assist early. He has slowly come along as a threat for Team White, continuing what he has done with Kingston in the OHL this season.
With the preliminary round over, we finally get to see how the teams will match up for the semi-finals as they compete for the right to play in the gold medal game on Wednesday night. With the win, Team Black’s record improves to 3-0 and they have clinched the number one seed and will take on the Canadian National Women’s Team on Tuesday. The loss for Team White sends them to 1-2, the worst record among the U17 teams. They are set for a matchup against Team Red who they played hard earlier this tournament but came out on the losing side of a 4-2 scoreline.
The Capital City Challenge has seen its fair share of blowouts, but the semi-finals will feature rematches of the two closest games. Team Red and Team White came down to the final seconds of the game to decide and was a fast-paced, hard-checking game that could have been won by either team. Team Red was the better team on the day, but that could be different when they meet again on Tuesday. Team Black and the National Women’s Team gave us another close game where Ann-Renee Desbiens stood on her head and nearly stole her team a win. Team Black will be the heavy favorites, but you know the women won’t go down without a fight.
“We’ll see who is going to be the goalie, but Desbiens was the first star of that game for sure,” said Julien. “They’re well structured, they have good sticks, they know how to play the game. Obviously, the physical part when you play against the women is different, but I think we react in a good way against them, but of course, I’m sure they are going to be ready. It’s up to us to do the right thing and win the game.”
It’s About To Get Good
The tournament has featured some fantastic hockey, but it should become even more intense and entertaining as the stakes are raised. There are still four more games to come, and they are in a winner-take-all format. The fans in Ottawa have witnessed some future NHLers and see some of the best female Olympians on the planet, and as the heat is turned up and the chemistry continues to build, we should see these athletes take that next step as their quest for gold continues.
Currently a journalism student at Algonquin College in Ottawa, I have always had a passion for the OHL and the Ottawa 67’s in particular. I have been attending games since I was young, and being involved with sports has always been a dream of mine. Sports writing fits perfectly into that. You can also find me talking and writing other sports (primarily Canadian football) on my website 13thmansports.ca!