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Live from the Quebec Pee-Wee Tournament

by Paul Strand / Carolina Hurricanes
Paul Strand

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For the eighth consecutive year, the Junior Hurricanes are competing at the International Pee Wee Hockey Tournament in Quebec City, Canada.  This season marks the 50th anniversary of this prestigious event in which the likes of Wayne Gretzky and Ron Francis have competed. The Hockey Tournament consists of 115 teams in three divisions all experiencing the opportunity of a lifetime!  Representing the Junior Hurricanes will be 18 players, five coaches, Le Capitaine, and a supporting cast of family and friends.

From February 12 to February 14, head coach Paul Strand and his fellow coaches will keep a running blog to keep us up-to-date on how the Junior Hurricanes are doing.

Saturday, February 21

It looks like the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes Pee Wee team has a new nemesis. Last year, a very powerful Jr. Hurricanes team faced the Hershey Jr. Bears in the third round of the Quebec Pee Wee tournament and went into the game as heavy favorites. The game was a hard fought battle that saw the game tied after three periods. In overtime with the Jr. Hurricanes on the power play, the Jr. Bears scored a shorthanded goal to end the tournament hopes of the Jr. Canes.

This year, the Jr. Canes were once again on a collision course with the Jr. Bears meeting once again in the third round. The Jr. Bears this year were slightly favored over the Jr. Hurricanes. The boys had all day off on Thursday to prepare for the game and after watching a few games at Le Colisee they were bused to the hotel to relax and prepare for the game.

It was the last game of the day and the coaching staff got the boys up and about through the old city a couple of times during the day to get their legs moving and to get some meals in their system. It would be a 7 p.m. departure to the rink and the boys seemed fired up and ready. The game started hard and fast for the Jr. Canes and they showed no signs of being nervous and kept Hershey on their toes. The action was end to end, but no side really giving up any quality chances.

It was the Jr. Canes who managed to score first as Luke Tetreault, the phenom from the Charlotte Checkers, picked the puck up behind the Hershey net and walked out of the corner all alone and put a shot high shelf past the huge Hershey goaltender.

Jr. Canes 1, Hershey 0 - end of 1st Period

The game became very exciting after that. The intensity of this game and sheer excitement was unparalleled by any other Jr. Canes game I have been a part of at this tournament. End to end action with neither defense allowing the other to penetrate for good scoring chances.  Even when they did, the goaltenders for Hershey and Mark Stallings for the Hurricanes came up big. The second period ended with the Hurricanes holding the lead.

Jr. Canes 1, Hershey 0 - end of 2nd Period

The Jr. Hurricanes played their best hockey of the tournament in the final frame. The kids were playing hard and tough, getting the pucks deep and not letting the Hershey team have any opportunities at all. It looked like this Jr. Canes team was going to pull off the upset and send Hershey home. However, with 1:31 left in the third period, the Jr. Canes were called for a very cheap, but albeit honest, penalty and they went down a man shorthanded.

The Hershey team then pulled their goaltender to go up two men with a 6-on-4, which proved to be too much for the Jr. Canes penalty-killing unit. After killing off the first 40 seconds, the Jr. Canes could not clear the puck. A Hershey player pick pocketed the puck and tucked the tying goal past Stallings with 40 seconds to play.

Jr. Canes 1, Hershey 1 - end of regulation

Overtime was uneventful, and for the third time in four years the Jr. Canes headed to the shootout to decide their fate. First up was the Hershey team and the player came in straight and labeled a shot in to game MVP Mark Stallings' glove. Stallings had no problem and made a spectacular save. Next up was Luke Tetreault who came swooping in from the right like former Canes pro Erik Cole and almost tucked a shot past the short side, but to no avail.

Round one, 0-0

Hershey’s next shooter, Harmar Rappaport, a huge player and the leader of the Hershey group was next and would prove to be the difference maker. Rappaport came in hard and fast and went to his backhand to Stallings' left and put a shot high into the shelf over Stallings' blocker. Captain Stephen Arnold was next up and came in on the left side and was met with a poke check from the Hershey 'tender.

Round two, 0-1

The last round began with the next Hershey shooter missing the net high and wide to give the Hurricanes a chance with its last shooter. David Swan would be the final hope and he came in straight at the tender and just caught the pads for the Hershey stop and victory.

Hershey wins 2-1 in shootout (1 to 0)

It was a very exciting game for the Jr. Hurricanes. They played with tremendous passion and Tournament Director Patrick Dom came by the dressing room after the game to tell the coaches and the players how exciting the game was to watch. There was not a dry eye in the room and the boys were devastated, but it will be something that they will never forget.

Bon Match Jr. Canes.

February 17, 2009

With a few days in between tournament games, the boys met their second European team in two days for an exhibition match.  Exhibition games keep the team active and offer different types of opponents. The European teams are always fun to compete against because they play a different style of hockey than squads from North America and it provides a rare opportunity for the boys.

The exhibition games are slightly different in atmosphere. The games are played at outlying rinks and the fans are fewer then the Colisee (the premiere arena used for the tournament). This game was being played in Val Belair, a suburb north of the city, in a two-sheet facility.

Jr. Hurricanes vs. Zurich (exhibition match)

The game began much like the last two as the scoring chances were slim. The Jr. Canes were feeling the other team out as Zurich was from the AA division, which tends to have some stronger teams. The Jr. Canes were working hard and this was a good sign, but they could not generate much offense. The Zurich team was playing a chippy style of hockey and was finishing some checks. Coach Sabo, who emphasizes hard, checking play, told the team to start playing a little tougher. Initially this resulted in a few extra penalties, which the team killed off, but eventually it began to give the team a lift.

Jr. Canes 0, Zurich 0 - end of 1st Period

The second period started with some good end-to-end play. At the seven minute mark, the Jr. Canes were given a penalty that coincided with a goaltender change as Mark Stallings came out and George Schmitt went in. It is not a good idea to put in a fresh goalie on a power play, but it was an exhibition game and it was time to change. Twenty seconds into the power play Zurich scored on their first shot to make the score 1-0.

A couple of minutes later, the Jr. Hurricanes were dealt a blow and another goaltender change.  However, this time it was unplanned.  The Zurich team charged the net violently on a play and ran into goaltender Schmitt. He did not get up. Schmitt lay on the ice with a twisted knee and left the game. Stallings was back in and the team was not too happy. Running the goaltender is not something to take lightly.

Cameron Conover started the comeback with an end-to-end rush that did not result in a goal, but it was great to see the confidence and intensity that the assistant captain displayed. The next line fed off this and Anthony Masica took a pass from Chris Lappin and fought his way to the net and slammed a puck past the Zurich goaltender with five seconds to play in the second frame.

Jr. Canes 1, Zurich 1 - end of 2nd Period

The third period was much of the same. The referee warned that body checking was not part of Pee Wee hockey. This was an indication of just how rough the play was getting. Coach Sabo teaches the kids this play throughout the season and sometimes it is hard to get them to slow down. The team was playing well though and fighting for the pucks. So far they had killed off eight penalties, most for checking. However, it would be a Zurich penalty that would tell the tale of the game. Zurich took its own checking penalty with two minutes left in the 3rd period and the Jr. Hurricanes put a power play unit on the ice.

Josh Wilkins worked the puck on the boards and passed to Conover at the point who rifled a shot on net. Brock Martin was screening the goaltender and the puck bounced out through his legs. As he laid sprawled scrambling for the loose puck, Martin scooped it up and spun around tucking the puck past the Zurich goalie’s right side.

Junior Canes 2 Zurich 1- FINAL

The Jr. Canes record is now three wins and no losses. They have two exhibition games on Wednesday against England and the Columbus Blue Jackets.  The next tournament game will take place late Thursday against arch-rival Hershey Bears.  Stay Tuned!

Monday, February 16

Monday marked the second tournament game in what has turned out to be the most unusual schedule in the Jr. Hurricanes eight-year history at the Quebec Pee Wee tournament. Six days since leaving Raleigh, we had only played one game - a 3-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche. So far our only game had been in Le Colisee and now today our second game would be in Le Colisee.

The thought process has always been that we could get a few exhibition games out of the way in order to get the team’s nerves under control. However, the way the winner and loser bracket schedule was set up, exhibition games were not possible on the weekend after our first win. So we entered our second round game against Germany with only one game under our belts.

Junior Hurricanes vs. Germany- 2nd Round (winner’s bracket)

Germany was a small team with some very hard workers. They were not to be taken lightly, but if the boys played their game then it should be no contest. At first, the lack of playing showed the same results as the past few Jr. Hurricanes' teams in the tournament as the boys came out flat and with a lack of confidence.

The first period could have been one of the worst in the history of the tournament for both teams. Turnover after turnover resulted in exactly one shot on goal per team. It was like neither team wanted to make any mistakes at all. Even for the most talented teams of years past, Le Colisee, with the ghosts of Peter Statsny, Real Cloutier, Marc Tardif and many memorable NHL playoff series when the Nordiques were in the NHL, tend to make the kids tighten the grip on the sticks.

Junior Hurricanes 0, Germany 0 - end of 1st Period

This may have been alright for the German team, but the Jr. Canes had more in them and Coach Sabo let the kids know that during the first intermission. The second period began much like the first ended and it seemed that the boys were still very nervous, but slowly they began to get their feet moving. They were starting to put on some pressure and at the 8:17 mark Captain Stephen Arnold broke down the left wing on a 2-on-1 with Charlotte native Luke Tetreault. After taking a chip off the boards from Nicholas Keith, Arnold attempted one pass into the German player’s skates, grabbed the puck back and slid it over to Tetreault and his sweet hands. Tetreault buried it in the back of the net for his fourth goal of the tournament and gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead.

This put the spark in the boys and the very next shift the line of Anthony Mascia, Brett Horn and Akul Gupta kept the puck in deep in the German zone. Masica took a nice feed from Gupta and slapped it past the German goaltender. Masica said he would get a goal today and he did it. Assists go to Gupta and Joshua Herrera.

Jr. Canes 2, Germany 0 - end of 2nd Period

The intermission rest was welcome and with a two goal lead came a little relief as the nerves were starting to subside. The shots on goal total heading into the third period were six shots for and two against.  More was to be expected, but at least the kids were picking it up and getting their feet and legs going.

The German team started the third with a power play and a fluke shot off the sideboards found the far post and slid past netminder George Schmitt to bring the Germans within one goal, 2-1.

This seemed to be the spark our boys needed. It was like they finally realized that they may end up losing this lead and then the game and their tournament would be lost. The thought of only having exhibition games left jump started the boys. The team began to play their best hockey in a couple weeks. One man forecheck and perfect play and reaction in the offensive zone resulted in 10 third period shots to Germany’s three. It was nice to see the confidence come back and to see the possibilities. The shot total, which started so poorly, ended with the Junior Canes outshooting Germany 16-5.

Jr. Canes 2, Germany 1- FINAL!

Next up in the tournament is a rematch of last years third round overtime loss, The Hershey Bears.

Sunday, February 15

For the first time since I have made the trip to Quebec City, the Junior Hurricanes had the entire first weekend off. Our 3-1 win on Friday against the Colorado Avalanche meant our second game would not land until Monday the 16th. With over 100 local youth teams playing their league games on the area rinks, weekend ice is hard to find in Quebec. After attempting to get an exhibition game on Sunday AM with no result we decided to see the sights for the weekend.

First up was a get together of the boys and billets at a local outdoor hockey rink to see our Carolina boys get schooled in the vastly different game of POND hockey. Pond hockey takes different skills then the traditional hockey game. Last year the locals gave us a lesson in how to control the puck and this year was no different. The puck possession and anticipation is something that can only be learned on the outdoor rink without the guidance of a coach or adult. Like being on the basketball courts in the Carolinas, the outdoor rink is where the real grace of the sport can be viewed.

Next on the list was the Carnival. The first Saturday of the Pee Wee Tournament is the last day of the Carnival, so Old Quebec becomes a mass of humanity. The cars begin to line up along Honor Mercier early in the morning and finding your way back into the Old Town and the Hotel is difficult and slow.

There is much to see at the Carnival. Heading up to the Plains of Abraham from the Palace Royal you come to the ice fort that is a standard at the Carnival. A mammoth structure of ice that is complete with tours and a stage for shows throughout the Carnival week. It pales in comparison to the Hotel De Glace, The Ice Hotel, that is one of only two in the world. The other one exists in Norway. The Hotel is complete with amenities and a nice toasty hotel room.

Every year the rooms have different themes, from the Quebec Nordiques to the 50th anniversary of the Quebec Pee Wee tournament. The walls are carved and are truly amazing works of art. The bedrooms come with showers and beds covered with bear rugs and sleeping bags. At $200 CDN per night it is an experience to remember (from what I have heard).

As you walk the rest of the Carnival you see a scene that combines the state fair with Mardi Gras. There are vendors selling products and snow sculptures that represent countries from Peru to India. Artists from many countries design snow sculptures that represent themes and the culture of their regions. The sculptures are incredibly intricate and as works of art they are surpassed by few other mediums.

There were no bikini-clad dancers this year as there have been in years past. The year I saw them it was -30 below freezing so perhaps some frost bite that year caused them to rethink the decision. There was however, the maple syrup on a stick that you roll in a thin line of snow. Rolling the maple syrup along the snow-lined bench is a highlight of the Carnival.

On Sunday we headed out to the Falls at Ste. Anne De Beaupre. In the four years of my trips to Quebec this was the first sight of these amazing waterfalls that flow into the Saint Lawrence Seaway. The waterfalls are visible from the highway and are very impressive. A bridge hangs high above the earth just over top the falls and they are accessible by a tram year round or by a stairway up the side of the escarpment during the summer time.

During the winter the falls are partially covered in ice and the lower part is frozen completely. At the base of the falls, a huge mound has formed which apparently does this every year as groups of locals are sliding down the bank in the middle of what would normally be a pool of water in the summer time. There is also a separate mound that rises high above the smaller mound, that looks to be formed from the mist that splashes in the air and freezes as it lands to form a 30 foot high land mass.

At night we met for our 8th annual billet family meeting at Mount Tourbillion. This traditional get together features an introduction of the boys, families, billets and coaching staff. It is always a great get together and the view of the mountain houses and lakes makes for a beautiful venue. This year the celebration was marked with a gift to Billet Captain Alain Desfosses. We presented him a Carolina Hurricanes black third jersey as a token of appreciation for his dedication to making this tournament such a success.

The time for sight seeing and rest was a welcome addition to this years trip, but it is time to get back to playing the games. Tonight we face the Baden Wurttemberg team from Germany in a tournament game. After that we have a few exhibition games lined up squaring off against Zurich on Tuesday morning and on Wednesday we will play the Columbus Blue Jackets team and England.

The rest of the schedule will be determined by the result tonight. Germany is a solid team and they will not be easy to get through. The kids seem ready for action and have stayed loose through the weekend with some pond hockey with the billets.

In anticipation for tonight’s match Ich seh, Gut Gluck! 

Friday, February 13

Welcome to game day! This is what the boys and the coaches have been waiting for! With a warm up game against the Jr. Hurricanes Bantam 95’s on Tuesday and a practice on Thursday, the boys were ready and geared up for the first tournament game against the Colorado Avalanche team out of Colorado Springs. The Avalanche hold a tournament each year to determine who will represent their program at the prestigious Tournoi Du Pee Wee.

This year marks the first time that the Jr. Hurricanes initial game in Quebec City would be an actual tournament game at Le Colisee. The jury was out as to whether nerves would get the 11-12 year olds. Coach Steve Sabo took the boys outside for preparation. The team at this time of the year has learned how to prepare themselves from Coach Sabo, but with the atmosphere of Le Colisee, Sabo wanted to make sure the kids were on the right track.

The Avalanche won the coin toss and opted for their dark jerseys and the home bench. We would be in white and the visitor’s bench. The team had to get their team picture taken which is customary before the first tournament game and then Coach Sabo had them in the dressing room for their pre-game ritual. A slight delay as the game before us went into overtime, but a quick goal by the Lemeiux Academy out of Phoenix got us on the ice.

The format for tournament games is a 10 minute first period, 10 minute second and 15-minute final frame. The secret to the tournament games is to get an early lead and put the pressure on. This first game turned out to be the Luke Tetreault and Mark Stallings show. Tetreault is from Charlotte and plays for the Charlotte Junior Checkers. Tetreault very nearly made the team last year and was the only addition to this year’s squad, which consists of the Jr. Hurricanes Pee Wee AAA team. On to the game…

Tetreault took a long pass from Josh Herrera down the right side in front of the Avalanche bench and made a nice move to the middle of the slot and labeled a backhand shot top shelf past the Avalanche goaltender to put the Canes up 1 to 0 (Goal Tetreault, assists to Herrera and Josh Wilkins). It would seem that the Jr. Hurricanes nerves were not there, but this would prove to be a different type game. The Jr. Canes did not put the pressure on and were actually spending a lot of time in their own end. Passes were soft and attempts to clear were weak. This caught up to us and with 40 seconds left in the frame the Avalanche tied to the score to end the first period 1 to 1

Canes 1 Avalanche 1

After a swift kick in the pants the Jr. Canes came out with some jump, but the Avalanche kept the pressure on. The Avalanche were out shooting the Canes but late in the second period we made a necessary play. Herrera threw a hard clearing shot off the board near the Avalanche bench. It bounced off the changing Colorado players and right on the stick of a streaking Luke Tetreault and he went in all alone and slid his second goal of the game past the Avalanche goalie with 2:31 to play in the second period.

Canes 2 Avalanche 1

In the dressing room the kids rested and hydrated. Le Colisee is a very hot place and the kids were feeling it. They were in a good place though heading into the final period with a 2 to 1 lead. The third period however proved to be more of the same. The Hurricane players, like so many kids before could feel the pressure of the 5000 or so fans watching the game and passes were soft and nerves were noticeable. Goaltender Mark Stallings was standing on his head as the Hurricanes were getting out shot 18-12 for the game.

However, at 5:43 of the final period, the identical time of his first period goal, Tetreault once again took a clearing bounce pass as the Avalanche team was changing and went in all alone and tucked away his third of the game for the Hat Trick and to give the Jr. Canes a 3-1 lead.

Canes win 3-1

That would prove to be the final score and the Jr. Canes headed into a day off on Saturday with a victory.

Next game: Monday February 16 against Baden Württemberg from Germany.

Great Job Jr. Canes!

Thursday, February 12

This year marks the fourth time I have had the fortune of bringing a new group of 18 young men and women to the prestigious Pee Wee tournament in glorious Quebec City. The oldest city in North America (400 years old!) hosts the longest and largest running hockey tournament for 11-12 year olds. This year the tournament is celebrating its 50th anniversary and will hold a legends game on February 21 that will feature Pee-wee Tournament greats such as Real Cloutier, Pat Lafontaine and Mark Messier.

For the first time, we will begin this adventure auspiciously without a major traveling snafu. Each year the first few days are memorable for the rigors of just getting to this beautiful gem located three hours north of Montreal and nestled in the Plains of Abraham on the St. Lawrence Seaway. Flying into Quebec City direct with 18 hockey players, you are sure to find yourself short a few hockey bags and luggage. The planes are just not large enough to accommodate 44 large equipment bags and the luggage that accompanies a hockey team and coaches. We had tried every means of flying direct to Quebec City and the result was always the same- something was missing or delayed!

In my first year, many hockey bags, luggage and most importantly the sticks did not arrive on time. We had an exhibition game, so we had to purchase 18 sticks for the team. Seeing the kids play hockey with big wooden sticks instead of the $150 light composite sticks is both painful and amusing all at once. I felt extremely sympathetic for Jonathan Avedesian and TJ Rich as they played their first tournament game in near tears while wearing their billets hockey gear due to their equipment still being lost.

The second year, one of our flights got cancelled flying out of Toronto and I found myself in a hotel with eight boys and one girl. That was an adventure of mythic proportions and this time it was ME close to tears. If it were not for my sister, who lives in Toronto, coming to the rescue I am not sure I would have made it. The kids were fine and enjoyed the night off from the parents and they did not terrorize me too much.

Last year was a real treat (note the sarcasm). The plane was delayed and cancelled out of Newark, New Jersey, and the airline said it was so backed up that we would not get out for three days. The thought of spending three days in New Jersey with 18 boys aged 11 and 12 was not too inviting. So, a bus trip was arranged and less then five hours after landing in Newark we were all on a bus with our equipment (except the sticks as we decided to Fed-Ex this time around) headed for Quebec City.

This year, we decided on another option. We would fly to Montreal and then take a bus the three hours to Quebec City. There was some worry that with a 45-minute layover in Chicago’s O’Hare airport that we may miss the connection, or we would make the connection but our luggage would not. O’Hare is known for that and I was not optimistic. Fortunately, our connecting flight out of O’Hare was delayed about one hour. This gave us just enough time to grab a bite to eat and the ground crew enough time to get the equipment aboard the plane.

On the plane for Montreal everything was perfect, until I saw the ground crew cart away some bags. The plane's cargo area was too full and sorrow set in. We asked the flight attendant to find out which bags did not get on so we would know as soon as we landed. American Airlines exceeded our expectations and a list of missing bags was waiting in Montreal.

Here is the best part! As we were filling out our forms for lost luggage, all of our equipment arrived on a flight from Chicago and we loaded up the bus with all of our players, luggage and hockey equipment.

Today went off with out a hitch. The boys met at the Colisee and registered for the tournament. After walking some of Old Quebec and relaxing at the hotel, the coaching staff of Steve Sabo (The TALENT), Brian Mehm, Mitch Hodgkiss and myself put the kids through the paces.  The boys looked good and headed back to the billets for the evening.

First game is Friday February 13 at 5:40 PM vs. the Colorado Avalanche at Le Colisee.

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