U18, U15 and U11 Kings to play in OMHA Championship tournaments in April

Riley Grimmon and the U18 Ainsworth Funeral Home Kings are one of three teams competing in the OMHA Championships next month. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)



A stark change over in how the Ontario Minor Hockey Association will hand out its various championships in the age of COVID 19 will see three local teams attend All Ontario tournaments next month.

The Otter Energy U11 and Ainsworth Funeral Home U18 Prince Edward County Kings will take part in respective Tier 2 playdowns in Windsor and Barrie.

Meanwhile, the Lehigh U15 Kings will take part in the Tier 1 championship tournament, also in Barrie.

This year is a departure from the six point series between advancing teams that saw clubs travelling to far corners of the province in search of OMHA Red Hats that signify a championship.

The U18 Kings punched their ticket to play for the OMHA red Hats on Sunday in a one game play in contest against the visiting Tweed Hawks at Lehigh Arena Sunday afternoon.

The Kings came out firing and all the goals in the affair came in the opening 15 minutes of play.

The locals struck first as Nathan Steen’s point shot sailed wide but a perfect carom off the boards allowed Ben Smith to tuck home the opening goal just two minutes into the game, beating Tweed starter Levi Gravelle to the far post for a 1-0 margin.

The Kings would double their lead just under four minutes later as Ben Smith sprung a 2-on-1 scoring rush.

Mack Moyer would tee up Dakin Jones perfectly at 9:09 to make it a two goal lead for the County club.

The Hawks battled back and Will Cassidy would pick the corner on Kings starter Aaron MacMullen at 7:16 to carve the deficit in half.

The goals kept coming and it was Prince Edward County’s turn near the end of the frame to temporarily restore their two goal lead on the power play.

Steen would spot Moyer lurking in the high slot and the lanky Kings forward would rip a wrist shot to the blocker side at 3:53 to make it 3-1.

Afforded another power play opportunity, a bouncing puck in the Kings end allowed Cassidy to bang home his second of the game while shorthanded at 2:42.

But just when it look like Prince Edward County might be losing momentum, Charlie Smith would lug the puck out of trouble and gain the Tweed zone inside the final minute of play.

Aiden Reddick and Riley Grimmon would go hard on a forecheck and it was Grimmon getting the final touch, shovelling the puck past Gravelle with just 11 seconds left.

In the second and third, it was MacMullen and Gravelle shutting the opposing offences down.

In particular, the Kings got great milage from MacMullen. The Belleville native came to Prince Edward County in the early fall and has looked at home in the PECMHA crease.

“We’ve been very happy with how our goaltending has developed over the season,” Kings coach Chris Rice said. “Aaron and Jack Hatch have really blossomed this year and we couldn’t be happier with what they’ve brought to the team.”

The Ainsworth Funeral Home Kings travel to Barrie to participate in the Tier 2 championships April 8-10.

MacMullen along with Ben Smith and Gerrit Kempers have been affiliate players with the Picton Pirates while Riley Grimmon made a splash in the Provincial Junior Hockey League Playoffs with the Frankford entry. In the recent series between the two club, the skaters combined to amass seven points in the five game set.

“You really can’t put a price on that type of opportunity to develop and play junior hockey games this time of year,” the coach added.

For the Lehigh squad, besting the Napanee Stars in a one game play in contest was the culmination of a season of hard work and development under the tutelage of first year Kings bench boss Brant Leggett.

The Kings posted an overall record of 21-7-4 in the 2021-22 season and the play of net minder Alex Pickle was a key reason for the locals success.

Facing a deep Stars club that had previous OMHA championship experience, the Kings were put to the test time and again in the contest March 21 at Lehigh.

A 0-0 deadlock was broken at the end of the second period when Mitch Sills managed to beat Stars net minder Joaquin Murray with a nifty individual effort at the 3:11 mark of the frame.

The defensive core of Clay Taylor, William Theakston, Cam Billing, Jake Banfield Nolan Elmy and Josh Vader did yeoman’s work in front of Pickle to stymy Eastern Ontario Minor Hockey League U15 top scorer Carter Slaven.

In the final moments of the contest, Jax Payne would fire the puck into the Stars net with six seconds left to salt the game away and earn a 2-0 win.

The Kings are off to Barrie this weekend to play in the Tier 1 OMHA championships.

The U11 Otter Energy Kings have been developing and honing their skills throughout the regular season and decided to put on a show in the 2022 EMOHL Playoffs.

The locals posted a 10-0 win March 13 in Wellington against the visiting Bancroft Jets.

Kings net minder Ben Kelly had the goose egg in the County net while Bennett Terpstra,  Matthew Parsons, David Vincent, and Bane Baverstock-Wood all had multi goal games while Connor Simmons and Wyatt Colton fired singles.

“It’s been a process but we’ve really improved our team play and figuring out how to play without the puck which is the biggest challenge at this level,” Kings head coach Brad Quaiff said. “I know the players are really excited to travel to Windsor this weekend and take part in a tournament of this scale.”