We had seen this situation so many times before at the Quebec Pee-wee tournament and we are positive that we will see it again.
|Paul Strand |
Each year there are 109 teams that for the most part experience the Quebec Pee-wee tournament and most of them will witness the awesome power of Le Colisee and what it does to the nerves of parents, coaches and players alike.
For a week now, the Junior Hurricanes team has been rolling over its opponents. This was something new to the kids from down south. The Carolina kids have had good teams but rarely have they rolled over the other teams. Now this may have been new to our team, what we knew was coming was at least one game like last night and more then likely two or three of them.
This was hard to convey to the kids and we were doing our best to prevent it or at least prepare them, but what we learned last night is that it is almost impossible to prepare them for shaking the nerves of this tournament. We did our normal routine, warm-up, relaxed, played music and emotional speeches, anything to get the team fired up. They were alright and pumped all the way until the first puck was dropped. Then the tension hit.
The first couple shifts were even, but something was off. There were missed passes, panic shots and giveaway after giveaway. Then the unthinkable, for these boys anyways, Colorado scored first. Six minutes into the game a giveaway in our zone produced a wide open player in the slot and Britt League had no chance on the top shelf shot.
Then the nerves got even worse. We have seen it every year. The short periods and the crowd start to overwhelm the kids. The period ended and the kids were called in. I have seen that look every year I have been in Quebec with the Jr Canes. It was a deer in the headlight look. Blank stares and silence. It is the hardest thing for most adults to take charge in the face of adversity, but when you are 11 and 12 it is overwhelming in that atmosphere.
The second period was not much better. As a coaching staff we tried to rally the kids, but we have seen this too many times before and we were hoping to just get to the dressing room only down by one and hopes of changing the results from years past. The end of the period could not come fast enough.
With a Colorado player in the box at the end of the period, the Hurricanes pressured and pushed for a tying goal. Coach Mehm was screaming for a defenseman to stay back as the Avalanche player's penalty was over with 17 seconds left. With both defense up on the blue line, the Colorado defender sent a nice pass up ice for a breakaway.
I can not tell if the breakaway was in slow motion or fast forward. It was the toughest five seconds I have coached. The Avalanche player streaked in with our tournament on the line. A two-goal lead going into the third is extremely tough in this tournament to overcome. The Avalanche player went right and came back left, Britt League stretched his legs as far wide as he could and made one of the most spectacular saves in Jr Hurricanes history. He quite possibly saved our tournament.
In the dressing room it was silence. A team that had outscored the opposition 21-2 in the previous three games and was a buzz of noise in the previous three intermissions was completely silent. The coaches did our best to sort the situation out and give the kids some hope. We knew what type of team we were capable of being; we just needed to find a way to bring the confidence out. Time was short in the third period. Fifteen minutes go fast when you are down by one goal in le Colisee in the quarterfinals.
The team started out the third with a little more jump, but they were still tentative with their tournament lives on the line. Slowly we started generating some chances, mixed with some nervous turnovers. The team was pressing though and then the other nerves started for Colorado. The nerves that come when you know you have played well, but maybe you did not do enough to get a bigger lead.
It happened the day before with the Boston Jr. Eagles and the Philadelphia Flyers. They played the day before and the kids got to watch as the Boston team went into the third with a one goal lead only to see the Flyers keep the pressure on and come back to win 2-1. As time ticked down and we put the pressure on, someone on the bench reminded the kids of that game.
All that is needed in a game like this is one spark of confidence, one person to just take charge, one shot, one rush and it all changes. For our game it changed with assistant aptain and second year player Mitch Glabicki. Earlier in the game Glabicki was called out by the coaching staff. He was a leader, a veteran and he was supposed to be leading, but he was faltering. During the second period he was told to “get it going”.
With less then 5 minutes left Glabicki picked the puck up in the neutral zone and came down the left side and forced his way past the Avalanche player and deep into the Colorado zone. Driving to the net, he fired a shot low from the corner and the puck took a strange bounce off the inside of the goalie's pads and into the back of the net.
The monkey was off.
The relief was instant. The players screamed and yelled and the coaches stood in disbelief.
Moments later the momentum continued. Captain Riley Stillman picked the puck up in the corner on the next shift and slid the puck on the same side of the net as Glabicki’s. This time the puck went off the outside pad and slipped behind the goalie and the place erupted. The Hurricanes fans and le Colisee jumped and yelled. It was an amazing sound.
Three minutes remained, but Colorado would not quit. They kept coming and it would take a great defensive effort to keep Avalanche at bay. With 35 seconds left, assistant captain Bradley Ingersoll stepped in front of an Avalanche point shot and blocked it off his knee. He took a few steps over the blue line and fired the puck into the empty net to make the score 3-1 Hurricanes.
This one will go down as one of the best for our Junior Hurricanes teams regardless of the tournament outcome. This was one of the toughest victories these kids will ever experience.
Junior Hurricanes 3, Colorado 1
Next up is Anaheim in front of 10,000 people at Le Colisee 3:30 pm.
Vive le Pee-wee Du Carnival!