More than 60 players from the ages of 9-60 traveled from as far as Kissimmee and Daytona to the Brandon Ice Sports Forum to compete in the newly reintroduced Tampa Bay Lightning Shootout Challenge.
In the all-day event contestants separated into three different age brackets – Squirt/Peewee, Bantam/Midgets and Over 30 – were broken up into two groups that consisted of shooters and goalies. Each shooter showed their best stick skills on each goalie in the competition. Depending on age, shooters were allowed three to five shots.
After the initial round the best 10 shooters and the top four goalies from each group went head-to-head in the semifinal round. Semifinal winners then advanced to the finals, which will be held at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on three separate occasions in March.
Jimmy Jones, 18, is one shooter who will appear during the intermission of the Lightning game on March 17 and has been playing ice hockey since the age of six.
"I got into playing with several friends when I grew up," Jones said. "We continued to play together for many years."
Jones, who plays for Freedom High School, was even on hand to watch Tampa Bay during Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals during the 2003-04 season.
"Every time I step on the ice in the Times Forum it is a huge thrill," Jones said. "I've been to so many games and to skate on the same ice as the best players in the world, I feel really lucky. The shootout challenge will be very exciting, especially in front of the fans."
In addition to bragging rights, finalists like Jones will receive free tickets to the game in which their age bracket is competing.
Here's All The Finalists Coming to an Intermission Near You:
Squirt/Peewee to appear on March 10
Finalists: Tucker Tassone, 13, shooter from the Scorpions Peewee AA team; Jonah Duchesne-Shaw, 12, goalie from the Gulf Coast Flames; Dillon Garasz, 11, goalie from the Jr. Bulls; Tyler Stowe, 11, shooter from the Scorpions Peewee AA team
Bantam/Midgets to appear on March 17
Finalists: Matthew Gelston, 15, shooter from Freedom High School; Jimmy Jones, 18, shooter from Freedom High School; Kyle Helmstetter, 18, goalie from the Seminole Sharks; Joey Robison, 18, goalie who plays at TBSA
Over 30 to appear on March 27
Finalists: Chip Erwin, 56, shooter; James Mickelson, 30, shooter; Kevin Mattison, 30, goalie; RJ Isom, 30, goalie