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Steeler pull out heart-stopper win to stay alive in Allan Cup tourney

Story and Photos by Denis Gibbons

Hamilton Steelers were 27 seconds away from elimination when they pulled a rabbit out of the hat.

The Hamilton Steelers now know how Mark Twain felt when he once said, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

Facing elimination from the Allan Cup tournament in Dundas, the Steelers edged the Innisfail Eagles from Alberta 6-5 on a goal by Hamilton native Andrew Whalen with only 27 seconds left on the clock Wednesday night.

Because the Steelers had already lost two games, they needed a win in regulation time to stay alive. So coach Bryan Walker took the highly unusual step of pulling his goalie Daniel Svedin with the score tied 5-5.

Whalen, who played his junior hockey for the Grimsby Peach Kings, made him look like a genius when he beat Innisfail goalie Matt Climie, who has five NHL games with Arizona and Dallas to his credit.  

Hamilton, Innisfail and the host Dundas Real McCoys remained tied for second place with one round robin game left to be played tonight (Thursday) between Dundas and the Newfoundland-bound Clarenville Caribous, who are undefeated and on top of the standings.

Dundas needs only a tie in regulation time to clinch second spot. That would leave Hamilton and Innisfail deadlocked for third and the Steelers would secure the final playoff spot because they beat the Eagles head-to-head.

However if the Real McCoys lose, Dundas, Hamilton and Innisfail would still be tied and goals for and against differential in the games played among those three teams would be used to decide the playoff seedings.

In that case Dundas would take second place, Innsfail third and Hamilton would be eliminated.

If the Real McCoys beat Clarenville in regulation time, they clinch first place while the Caribous and Steelers play in Friday’s semifinal.

The Allan Cup championship game is set for Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at the Grightmire Arena in Dundas. The Real McCoys won the Allan Cup in 2014. It has been 104 years since Hamilton won it, the old Tigers Hockey club performing the trick in 1919.

Without Svedin, who is plant manager of Sunrise Spas in Grimsby, Hamilton probably wouldn’t have had a team. As late as November, he got a call from longtime senior hockey promoter Don Robertson in Dundas saying the OHA Senior AAA League needed a fourth team.

“I got on the phone, and I started with the Ruberto twins, to see if they wanted to play,” Svedin said. “And here we are. Now we want to finish this thing off Friday and Saturday.”

The Ruberto twins are Matt and Mike, who during the daytime manufacture Muskoka chairs at their plant My Custom Sports Chair in Stoney Creek. Now 39, they are the sons of Bruno Ruberto, former sports editor of The Burlington Gazette.

– Mike Ruberto (10) plays for the Hamilton Steelers when he’s not building Muskoka chairs.

Whalen, who runs the Whalen Hockey School in Brantford, also assisted on the tying goal by Michael Riley, with just a minute and 28 seconds remaining.  

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