It’s St. Valentine’s Day in old Quebec City, and no better time to thank all the lovely moms who do so much to support each and every member of the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA). You are all sweethearts and much appreciated. As romantic a place as Quebec City is, and it really is, it is also cold, really cold. This Sunday morning we woke to a polar-like -15 degrees Fahrenheit. But no matter the weather, the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) were up at ‘em and headed back to the Galeries de la Capitale, the largest shopping center in eastern Canada, for an exhibition match with the Foreurs from Val-d’Or, Quebec. “Foreurs” means “Drillers,” and it’s an apt name for a team that came to the rink ready to rumble. Val-d’Or is a tiny town of just over 31,000 people about 450 miles northwest of Quebec City. It is a rugged mining town, and you can bet hockey plays a major role in daily life there.
As you might remember, the rink at the Galeries de la Capitale is in the middle of the shopping center, and it is surrounded by a roller-coaster. Roller-coasters go up and they go down. So do the fortunes of hockey teams. As easy as the exhibition was yesterday for the New York Americans, this game was tough. The Foreurs played hard and took an early 2-0 lead in the first period. On the second goal, Americans’ goaltender Katie Desa took a stray stick to the back of her head, leaving her momentarily stunned. In the process, Americans teammate Alex Luff was called for a cross-checking penalty in the goalmouth melee. Katie hung tough, stayed in the game, and helped to kill the penalty to see the period end with the Foreurs up 2-0.
At the start of the second period, Katie Desa made two more excellent saves leaving no doubt she was fine and back on her game. Soon thereafter, James Walker, who is so evidently gaining confidence with every game, fought hard in front of the net, outworked the defenseman checking him, and banged home a goal to get the Americans on the board, Tristan Aitkenhead assisting. Nevertheless, Val-d’Or upped the ante a few minutes later to make the score 3-1 in their favor.
Mid-way in the period, both teams changed goaltenders – Gavin Moffatt coming on for Katie Desa. The pace of the game remained fast and hard along the boards and in front of the net. With less than three minutes to go in the period, Oliver Flynn worked the puck up to Douglas Messier in the neutral zone, Douglas made a right-on-the-money pass to spring Nick Zocco free, and the Americans' captain flew in and scored – Messier and Flynn receiving assists. At the end of the second period it was 3-2 in favor of Val-d’Or.
The New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) carried their upward momentum into the third period and were giving Val-d’Or all they could handle. 5:30 into the third, Alex Luff made a sharp pass to Nick Zocco in the slot. Zocco connected on his second goal of the game, and the score was tied 3-all. But it only remained that way for less than three minutes when the Foreurs took a 4-3 lead. Despite the spirited efforts of the Americans down the stretch, the outcome was locked when Val-d’Or tallied an empty-netter in the final minute to close out the match at 5-3.
This was a close, hard-fought game that brought out the best in both teams and held the attention of more than 200 spectators watching from the surrounding arcade of the shopping center. After the game, venerable Americans’ co-coach Doug Messier noted that the Foreurs “are a very good team. They play together all year. This was probably their 50thgame. But I thought our kids, once they got going, played really well and battled back hard. Unfortunately, today, we just came up a bit short.”
Monday is a day off from the rink. The temperature is starting to climb, and the kids will be having a ball on the tubing hills of the winter playground of Villages Vacances Valcartier.