The 2018 Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic is officially in the record books, and this year’s champion is none other than the Don Mills Flyers.
Although it wasn’t easy, the Flyers ultimately secured their third tournament championship of the 2018-19 campaign — bolstering their trophy cabinet alongside victories at both the Toronto Titans Early Bird and Wendy Dufton Memorial Tournaments.
Come the final game of the Marlboros Holiday Classic, it was the Toronto Nationals who gave the Flyers a significant scare — jumping ahead early in the championship game before giving Don Mills fits owing to their impeccable structure and defensive play. However, the Nationals proved unable to dismantle the Flyers’ persistent attack, as Don Mills’ deep lineup brought forth lethal offensive opportunities from the onset of the game until its conclusion.
The First Period:
Despite each club playing in seven contests over a four day period en route to the championship game, both teams came out flying out of the gate to begin the first period of play.
Early on, it was the Nationals who controlled the pace of play. As a result of their mobile and competent defence-core, the Nationals gained possession and transitioned the puck to their forwards remarkably well and were consistent in doing so. This ability to move the puck was crucial to the Nationals hemming the Flyers in their own zone for long periods of time — often eating up entire shifts.
It was this forceful play which led to the opening goal of the game. With Liam Arnsby in the penalty box mid-way through the stanza, defenceman Deven Nagra floated a puck on-goal from the point — a well-placed shot to the top corner of the net which eluded Flyers netminder Sergei Litvinov and gave the Nationals a 1-0 lead.
Having fallen behind, Don Mills stepped up their game and enjoyed substantial stretches of time in the offensive zone. Owing to two minor penalties taken by the Nationals, the Flyers bombarded goaltender Samuel Moncada with lethal scoring opportunities — however, the diminutive netminder was up to the challenge and made a number of jaw-dropping saves with apparent ease.
The Second Period:
Despite a bevy of chances for both the Flyers and Nationals, the second period was relatively uneventful.
All throughout the frame Don Mills continued to drive offensively, sustaining significant stretches of zone time while moving the puck extremely well. However, the Nationals were up to the challenge, as their defence remained calm and composed in order to shutdown the Flyers’ top players. Moreover, the Nationals defence once again moved the puck to its forwards incredibly well — generating a wealth of scoring chances as a direct result while pinning Don Mills within their defensive zone.
Once again standing on his head for the Nationals was Moncada. Whether it was shots from the point, odd-man rushes, or cross-crease passes, Moncada displayed his lower-body strength and athleticism time and time again in order to keep the Flyers off of the scoreboard.
The Third Period:
The third period of the Marlboros Holiday Classic’s championship game was endlessly exciting.
Although both teams traded chances throughout the frame, Don Mills began to push harder and harder with each passing shift. Inside of the 10:00 mark, seemingly each and every shift by the Flyers produced quality offensive chances while hemming the Nationals in their own zone. As a result, Don Mills smoked a number of posts — bringing their total in the game to an unbelievable sum of six.
Then, with roughly seven minutes remaining in the period, the Flyers broke through. In the midst of yet another strong shift, Ethan Mistry received the puck and stepped in from the blue line before firing a shot which beat Moncada to his blocker side — the first dent in the incredibly talented goaltender’s seemingly impenetrable armour.
Immediately following the Flyers’ goal, Arnsby took a second penalty — this time for slashing — which sent the Nationals to the man-advantage with mere minutes remaining. Despite a number of quality looks and shots on goal, Don Mills managed to weather the storm brought on by the Nationals’ dynamic offence and sent the game to overtime inthe process.
Early into the extra frame of the championship game, controversy struck.
In the midst of a deadly Nationals’ rush, Brandt Clarke sprawled behind his netminder in order to block the goal as the puck lay loose in the crease. However, in the process, it appeared as though Clarke may have knocked the net off of its moorings — an action which typically results in a penalty shot for the opposing team.
However, considering exactly how the net became dislodged was not perfectly clear, the play went uncalled.
Mere moments later, the Flyers were sprung on a two-on-one. With two of their best offensive players leading the odd-man rush, Francesco Arcuri saucered a beautiful pass to Shane Wright who made no mistake in beating Moncada high to the glove side — a dramatic goal which capped off a remarkably entertaining game from both teams involved.
The Final Word
Although the Flyers have claimed their third tournament victory of the season, the championship game of the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic indicated that the gap between Don Mills and other minor midget teams throughout North America is not as wide as originally thought.
Since falling to Detroit Compuware in the Whitby International Silver Stick Tournament, the Flyers have appeared more human than ever before and have failed to play with the same level of dominance which they displayed early on this campaign. What’s more is the fact that other clubs — namely the Nationals, Toronto Marlboros, and Toronto Red Wings — have continued to improve and progress throughout the season and now stand as a legitimate threat to Don Mills on a game-by-game basis.
Case in point? Despite lacking Ryan Del Monte and Zachary Dean — two of their best offensive players — the Nationals narrowly missed handing the Flyers a defeat in the Marlboros Holiday Classic’s championship game.