Moving on to the elimination games is a turning point in any tournament. With the importance of the task at hand firmly in their minds, the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) arrived at the Videotron Center with a sharp sense of purpose. The opposition this night would be the Drakkar from Baie-Comeau, Quebec. Baie-Comeau is small paper mill town on the St. Lawrence river, a little more than 240 miles northeast of Quebec City. “Drakkar” is the French word for Viking boat, an image of which is featured prominently on their crest. New York’s mission was to sink the Drakkar, and doing so would no doubt take a hard-skating effort.
With a crowd of more than 6,000 on hand for the 5:00 pm start, the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) fired an opening salvo at Baie-Comeau a few minutes into the first period with a strong shift from the line of Beanie Richter, Connor Welsh, and Michael Mumm, a shift which finished with a wicked Mumm slapshot that just missed the net. More pressure came as Douglas Messier stickhandled his way to a great chance and Nick Zocco followed with a strong bid as well. Despite New York’s effort, there was nothing to show for it, yet, on the scoreboard. At the other end, Katie Desa, coming off her strong performance in the first game of the tournament, appeared rock solid again this night. The first period ended with the score 0-0, and the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) on a powerplay.
Within seconds after the New York powerplay expired at the start of the second period, Tristan Aitkenhead, on his way to a very successful evening, pushed the puck over to Connor Welsh in the neutral zone. Welsh skated across the blue line, wheeled around the Drakkar net, and spotted Alex Luff in the slot. Luff fired a top-shelf wrister that flew past the Drakkar goalie’s shoulder. 1-0 New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA). Seven minutes later Tristan Aitkenhead was in the right place at the right time as he finished off a goal-mouth scramble that was assisted by Nick Zocco and Connor Welsh, who gained his second helper of the game. The scoreboard now read 2-0 in favor of New York. The Drakkar had a powerplay opportunity with 1:51 left in the second period and applied some real pressure, but Katie Desa and her teammates held firm to end the period with the two goal lead.
Back and forth action ensued at the start of the third period, but the critical moment of the game came midway in the period. A Drakkar skater pressing the attack from the left wing rang a high, hard shot off the crossbar narrowly missing a goal and the chance to pull Baie-Comeau within one. Sure enough, New York defenseman Owen Kroboth gathered the puck and slid it over to Tristan Aitkenhhead who alertly head-manned the puck sending Tatum Fitzmaurice in on a breakaway. Fitzmaurice shaked, baked, and lifted a beautiful backhander past the sprawling Baie-Comeau goaltender for a classic goal. 3-0 New York.
Yet there was still half a period to play. The Drakkar did all they could to get the puck past Katie Desa but to no avail, eventually pulling their goalie with more than two minutes left. Then, with 1:08 left to play, captain Nick Zocco applied the finishing touch with an empty-netter, Alex Luff and Oliver Flynn picking up the assists. The New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) skated off with a 4-0 victory, and the chance to play in the quarter-finals on Friday night. Very exciting stuff.
After the game, Nick Zocco pointed out the difference in the game saying, “We outworked them.” Coach Mark Messier agreed noting that “our kids skated really well. It was a complete team effort. Of course, we will need more of the same on Friday.”