Following their victory over Baie-Comeau the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) had advanced to the Quebec Tournament’s AA quarter-final round. History makes clear that each stage of tournament becomes more difficult, and the New York coaching staff was well aware of that as the team prepared to face LSA Select Suisse Romande, the Leysin Sports Academy Selects from the Romande section of Switzerland. Hockey in Switzerland has skyrocketed in recent years. NHL players Roman Josi, Mark Streit, Jonas Hiller, and Nino Niederreiter are all proof of that. The LSA Selects were further proof as they won their first two tournament games - one against the San Jose Jr. Sharks and the other vs. Finland’s Espoo Jr. Blues - by a combined score of 9-3. The Swiss had few holes. They were big, fast, and skilled. But the Americans had stared down adversity in their two prior games winning both by shutouts. The Friday evening tilt at the Videotron Center promised to be a hard fought battle, and that’s exactly what it turned out to be.
Before the game, the coaching staff reminded the New York team that there were three important tasks to perform: 1) swarm on the forecheck; 2) play strong down low to protect the American net; and 3) battle hard along the boards. Once again, Katie Desa, two tournament shutouts to her credit, was in goal for the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA). As the game began, she and her teammates held firm against an early Swiss onslaught. The Swiss, as expected, had come out aggressively. Just seven minutes in, they picked up their second penalty of the period. The first one wasn’t costly, but the second one was as Connor Welsh won a draw in the Swiss end. Defenseman Owen Kroboth moved the puck to Michael Mumm who sent it over to Welsh who batted it home. The New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) took a 1-0 lead at 7:13 of the first period. Yet little more than two minutes later, the Swiss replied with a seeing-eye screen shot from the point that somehow made its way into the Americans net. The first period ended 1-1.
At 2:25 into the second period the Swiss, on a quick shot from the slot, scored again to take a 2-1 advantage. Though it didn’t feel that way at the time, with more than half the game still to be played, that was the end of the scoring this night. What followed for the better part of the two remaining periods was hard-fought, up and down hockey, with a number of penalties called on both sides by a ref who seemed to have a rather idiosyncratic understanding of the rule book. The most egregious moment came when a Swiss player took a headlong run at goaltender Katie Desa early in the third period. Unflappable, Katie collected herself and continued to do what she does best -stopping the puck.
The power plays, penalty kills, and 4-on-4s changed the momentum of the game and the rotation of the lines. There were numerous stops and starts. Every American gave it everything he or she had. Captain Nicholas Zocco worked every shift, forechecking and backchecking to the max. The defensemen, Lukas Klemm, Mika Petersen, Alex Luff, Shea Thibault, and Owen Kroboth were stalwarts shift after shift. All the forwards – Beanie Richter, Tristan Aitkenhead, Michael Mumm, Joey Potter, Connor Welsh, Oliver Flynn, James Walker, Douglas Messier, Tatum Fitzmaurice, and the aforementioned captain Zocco played with total effort and heart.
The New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) pulled out all the stops and had back-to-back powerplay advantages in the game’s final three minutes. With the goaltender replaced by an extra skater, everything was thrown at the Swiss net, but their goaltender made some key saves. The final horn sounded, and the Swiss emerged victorious, squeaking out the 2-1 win.
For the New York Americans(Pee Wee Rangers AA) the 2016 International Pee Wee Tournament of Quebec was over, but the memories, accomplishments, and the lessons learned will remain throughout their lives. Over the games and practices, the boys, individually and as a team, made huge progress. Off the ice, at the Cabane Sucre or tubing or just exploring the streets of old Quebec, the fun and opportunities were equally as great.
In the seven games, including exhibitions, played over nine days in Quebec, the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) went 5-2 with 21 goals for and only 8 against. A special mention goes to goaltender Gavin Moffatt, who played brilliantly in the exhibition games and supported his teammates unselfishly throughout the tournament.
At the end of the day, the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) fell short of their dream of a championship. But that’s what can happen in a single-game elimination tournament where the bounce of the puck can make all the difference. All players on the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) achieved their goal of developing their skills under the glaring spotlight of the greatest Pee Wee tournament in the world. The memories and lessons learned from Old Quebec will never be forgotten.