Bonjour de la Ville de Quebec. Hello from Quebec City, the beautiful capital of the province of Quebec. This historic old city, truly a winter wonderland, is alive with electricity and excitement as teams from all over North America and the world arrive for the 57thedition of the Tournoi International de Hockey Pee Wee de Quebec – the Quebec International Pee Wee Hockey Tournament. It’s the oldest, biggest, and greatest Pee Wee hockey tournament in the world, and it never fails to delight the players, coaches, and families no matter the outcome of the games. Everyone is invited to dive right into all the good energy of the competition and to absorb all the warmth and style of French-Canadian culture.
Right now in Quebec City, just as the Pee Wee Tournament is beginning, the annual Quebec Winter Carnival is reaching its crescendo. Giant snow sculptures, ice palaces, parades, and parties add to the festivities. Between the Tournament and the Carnival, the whole city is surging with energy. It is unique and, as the French say, magnifique.
We woke this morning to a very chilly morning in Quebec City. As cold as it may be outside, the building intensity of the tournament is starting to generate enough heat to warm the North Pole. The New York Pee Wee Rangers had an early date this morning with the Colorado Thunderbirds for an exhibition game at the Trois Glaces Complex.
Right from the first puck drop, it was clear that the Pee Wee Rangers were in control. The line of PJ Neal, Michael Emerson, and Jake Bongo set the tone with an effective forecheck that kept the Coloradans hemmed in. Less than two minutes into the game Greg Spitznagel skated out from the corner, found a direct path to the net, and wristed a top shelf beauty to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Dante Palombo got the assist. Eight minutes later Dante Palombo found the back of the net himself to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead, Evan Brown assisting. The first period ended with the Pee Wee Rangers holding that 2-0 lead.
Early in the second period, a critical play unfolded. The Thunderbirds found themselves with a 2-on-0 breakaway, and only Rangers goaltender Thomas Heaney stood in their way. It looked like Colorado had a sure goal with a nifty pass from one skater to the other right at the goal mouth, but Heaney slid across and made a remarkable pad save that had everyone oohing and aahing. Minutes later Jake Bongo found the back of the net with assists from Michael Emerson and PJ Neal. 3-0 Rangers. In the final three minutes of the second period both Dante Polombo and Greg Spitznagel struck again, with Evan Brown notching two more assists. It was 5-0 Pee Wee Rangers as the second period drew to a close.
The shared goaltending duties performed by Thomas Heaney and Daniel Gerts was excellent. Final score 6-2 in favor of the New York Pee Wee Rangers. After the game, Pee Wee Rangers co-coach Noel Rubin was particularly proud of his players’s intensity, noting that “our kids cycled really well. The forecheck was outstanding from the very start. If we keep that focus, we’ll be in very good shape.”
Tomorrow another exhibition game and then an evening of authentic French-Canadian fun at La Cabane Sucre, The Sugar Shack, a maple syrup farm and restaurant twenty miles outside the city of Quebec.