At the International Pee Wee Hockey Tournament of Quebec, the first real game of the tournament is always extremely important, but Friday night’s game for the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) took on unprecedented weight. The opponents were L’Equipe Quebec Feminin, an all-girls all-star team chosen from over 200 players from the Province of Quebec. The Quebec All-Stars were coached by three different Canadian Women’s Olympic hockey players – Caroline Oulette, Kim St-Pierre, and Marie-Philip Poulin – who had nine Olympic gold medals among them. Of course, the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) coaching staff issn’t too shabby either as it’s led by hockey icon Mark Messier, along with his father Doug Messier and Stanley Cup winning former Rangers teammate Mike Richter. To say the least, there was considerable attention focused on this game, as the abundant television news crews gave evidence.
The game was played in the stunning, brand-new Videotron Centre with more than 8,000 hockey fans in the stands as the game got underway.
Perhaps a little lost in all the pre-game publicity was the fact that the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) had some significant girl-power on their side as well – goaltender Katie Desa. Katie got the nod in nets and proved herself to be an all-star in her own right as she faced the pressure and the Quebec attack with real poise and skill. Early in the match the Quebec girls went on the power-play. The New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) were tested repeatedly but held firm, thanks in large part, to big saves from Katie Desa.
The first period was marked by great back and forth action. The goaltender for the Quebec All-Stars was superb as well turning back shot after shot. One great attempt came from Beanie Richter who stick-handled around three different Quebec skaters and got off a hard, high shot only to be denied. Finally, with less than a minute and a half left in the first period, the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) pressed the attack. Joey Potter grabbed a loose puck near the left face-off circle and fired a remarkable wrister that found the upper right corner of the net, Oliver Flynn and Nick Zocco, assisting on the goals. The NY Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) were in the lead 1-0. After the game, Katie Desa mentioned the importance of that goal remarking, “When we scored, that took a lot of pressure off. I really felt comfortable after that.”
In the second period, the action continued at both ends with no goals to show for it, but the momentum was slowly starting to gain in favor of the Americans. At one point, late in the period, the New Yorkers briefly had a 5-on-3 power-play opportunity but once again were thwarted by the Quebec team.
The skill and determination of the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) really started to shine through in the third period with most of the action taking place in the Quebec end of the ice. Nevertheless, the score remained 1-0. Despite the dominance of the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA), the game was only a shot away from being tied. The final minutes brought incredible tension. Kate Desa’s composure was outstanding throughout, but would really be tested in the final minute when the Quebec All-Stars were awarded a power-play. Katie held the fort, and Alex Luff seized opportunity by the throat scoring an unassisted empty-net goal to seal the victory 2-0.
A superb hockey game had come to an end. To say the teams were evenly matched would be a compliment to both teams as they battled their hearts out. It was a great night for girls' hockey and all of hockey. The New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) won their first tournament game standing up to all the pressure of the moment. The defense was outstanding – backchecking forwards, great goaltending, and a solid unit of six defensemen: Owen Kroboth, Mika Petersen, Lukas Klemm, Shea Thibault, Alex Luff, and Joey Potter. The entire team played unselfishly keeping their shifts short and their spirits high.
After the game coach Mark Messier said, We knew it was going to be tough. Both goalies played great. Katie made all the saves she had to, and that was the difference.”
Saturday brings a little rest and relaxation and a trip later in the day to La Cabane Sucre, the Sugar Shack, for some old-time French-Canadian fun – a little Quebecois culture, dining, and music. Everybody is looking forward to it.