Up-and-coming Falcons blank Canucks
Matt Busby of the St. Catharines Falcons tangles with a Niagara Falls Canucks defender as Canucks teammate Justin Kyle (4) looks on in junior B hockey action Friday in St. Catharines. — Bob Tymczyszyn/Standard Staff
The St. Catharines Falcons junior B hockey team celebrated their 50th season at home in winning fashion, downing their arch rivals the Niagara Falls Canucks 5-0.
Frank Girhiny, who is entering his seventh season as the Falcons general manager, was pleased with how the evening turned out.
“It was great to have the mayor of St. Catharines and one of our title sponsors Rankin Construction in house. As the season goes on, you will see a lot more celebrations,” Girhiny said.
“We are going be doing decades and we have recently renovated the Falcons Nest downstairs, our traditional beer garden that has all of our old memorabilia and trophies from year’s past. We plan to cap off the season with our Sutherland Cup team. We couldn’t have done this without the support of the City of St. Catharines and our sponsors.”
The Canucks outshot the Falcons 12-8 in the first period, but 2016 GOJHL goaltender of the year Owen Savory blanked the Canucks snipers the entire game. Freshly appointed captain Michael Davies continues to make his presence felt in the Falcons lineup, netting his fourth goal of the season midway through the first period. The Falcons offense was efficient in the second and third period, scoring five goals on 21 shots.
Newly appointed head coach Dan Fitzgerald has been overwhelmed with support from the Falcons organization since being hired to lead the team.
“Everything is first-class from top to bottom, getting to work with these players has been fun. We have a really great group, great staff and unbelievable support from executive,” Fitzgerald said.
“To be with an organization like St. Catharines is humbling and I’m honoured to be head coach.”
Fitzgerald left the Cambridge Winter Hawks of the Midwestern Conference in the GOJHL to coach the Falcons this season. He’s been impressed with his squad’s early production, considering the team’s roster consists of 10 players at the age of 17.
“We got some really young guys on the team but we also have some real workhorses that have been around the block, guy’s who have won their own league championship and now have their eyes set on a Sutherland Cup.” Fitzgerald said.
“They’re all sponges, the players want to learn and become better hockey players and it starts with the 20 year-olds that want to improve. If you’re not getting better you’re getting worse.”
One of the Falcons’ 20 year-olds eager to improve is Falcons captain and the 13th overall draft pick from the 2013 OHL Priority Draft, Michael Davies.
“I have always been told throughout my career that my biggest weakness has always been my skating, so I will continue to work at it and improve.”
Davies is an intimidating presence out on the ice, standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing 190 pounds. He grew up playing minor hockey for the St. Catharines Falcons program and returns back to the Garden City with a plethora of playing experience. Playing in 217 OHL games, Davies registered 33 goals and 30 assists for 63 points.
Davies’ heart never left St. Catharines and with the roster boasting a great mix of youth and veterans, it was a no-brainer. He is expected to be among the team’s top point producers and is off to a sizzling start. During the first three games, Davies has produced four goals and three assists.
“To come back in the 50th year and have the coaching staff we do; it was an easy choice to return home. We have a solid group of players, it’s surreal playing for my hometown team,” Davies said.
The Falcons captain was thrilled with his team’s play against the Canucks on Friday night and was happy to get the victory for the fans in attendance.
“Right to the end every player was working hard. We are all on the same page and know what our team goal is and at the end we want to be successful,” Davies said.
“You’re going to see this type of play a lot this year, we have players who can score and play a stellar two-way game, it’s a great balance for a team to have.”
It’s been an easy transition for Davies and he learned some valuable lessons playing 217 games in the OHL that he will pass off to his younger teammates.
“Little things I picked up were perseverance and never letting yourself get too low or too high. You have to balance those two traits, you will have a lot of team success which then breeds player success,” Davies said.
“Everyone in the room is buying in, every player knows their role and work hard in every practice, which is nice coming onto a team I didn’t know too much about.”
Falcons 5, Canucks 0
Postmedia Network star of the game: St. Catharines goaltender Owen Savory stopping 34 shots for his first shutout of the season.
Scoring for St. Catharines Falcons: Davies (2), Smilsky, Matt Baumann, Mitch Pellarin and Evan Miller.
Goaltending, shots-saves: St. Catharines, Owen Savory, 34-34; Niagara Falls, Zach Moore, 18-23; Noah Fortuna 7-8
Power play, goals-chances: St. Catharines, 1-4; Niagara Falls, 0-10
Penalties, in minutes: St. Catharines, 34; Niagara Falls, 10
Attendance at Jack Gatecliff Rink: 281