A Columbus youth hockey team competed against some of the best peewee hockey players in the world, and have the hardware to show for it as they return to central Ohio from Quebec as the winners of their class.
The 55th annual Quebec City Peewee Hockey Tournament hosts about 2,300 competitors from more than 15 countries, making it one of the largest peewee hockey tournaments in the world. The competition is top-notch for five different categories of peewee teams. The 12-year-olds on the Ohio AAA Blue Jackets spent more than a week immersed in the French-speaking culture of Quebec with billet families, explored the area with their teammates and families, and played some of the best hockey they've ever experienced.
The 2001 AAA Blue Jackets competed in the class AA-Elite group and won the tournament, registering five wins and allowing just 11 goals against in those games.
Let's take a look at their path to victory.
Game 1: Blue Jackets 5, Bratislava 1
Following an eventful (but scoreless) first period, the Blue Jackets found themselves on the penalty kill to start the second. After several incredible saves by Andrew Vidrick, the team scored twice in a span of 3:30 to make it a 2-0 game at the end of 40 minutes of play. Bratislava made it 2-1 early in the third period, but the Jackets scored three goals in the final minutes to ensure the win.
Game 2: Blue Jackets 6, Lanaudiere Pionniers 4
Just :42 into the game, Alex Vineyard scored to give the Blue Jackets the lead and the team never looked back. Drake Barnish made it a 2-0 game on the power play at the end of the first period. Lanaudiere came back to tie the game 2-2 in the second, but two quick goals by Marco Giambrone and Callen Dailey made it a 4-2 Blue Jackets lead heading into the final period.
Six minutes into the third, the Pionniers tied it at four apiece, but the Blue Jackets put on the pressure and scored twice to seal the victory heading into a two day break before the next match-up.
Exhibition games: NSWC 4, Blue Jackets 2 and Blue Jackets 4, Shawinigan Cataractes 3
The Blue Jackets had two days off between games, so in order to stay sharp, the coaches had the team participate in two additional exhibition games as a tune-up for the elimination round. The team fell 4-2 in their first game, despite goals from Fleet and Vidrick. They learned from their mistakes and came back to dominate the second exhibition game, winning 4-3 over the Cataractes thanks to goals by Carper, Vidrick and Giambrone.
Quarterfinals: Blue Jackets 3, Mortagne Noir et Or 2 (shootout)
After a scoreless first 40 mintues of play, both teams scored two goals apiece and needed not just extra time to determine who would advance, but a shootout to determine who would play the Select de Suisse team in the finals. An exciting shootout ensued, but the Blue Jackets would emerge victorious to advance to the semifinals.
Semifinals: Blue Jackets 5, Hershey Bears 2
Coach Todd Ehrie got his revenge this year after losing to the Hershey Bears as the coach of the 1997 Blue Jackets four years ago as the Blue Jackets went on to score four goals in a row to take control of the game and secure their trip to the finals against the Swiss Eastern Selects the next day.
Championship game: Blue Jackets 4, Select de Suisse 2
The final game had several thousand fans in attendance, cheering on two teams of hockey players in one of the biggest games in their young careers. The game was close the whole way through, including a 3-2 score at the end of two periods, but the Blue Jackets held on and scored once again in the third period to capture the title.
At the end of the tournament, the best players on the team were leading scorers Anthony Vidrick (4G-8A-12P, 5 GP, 2.4 PPG), Charles Landshof (5G-4A-9P, 5 GP) and John Sam Carper (6G-1A-7P, 5 GP), as well as goaltender Andrew Vidrick (1.600 GAA, seven goals allowed, four wins).
For more information about the Quebec City Peewee Hockey Tournament, check out the event website and the event Twitter account.