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Thursday, May. 24, 2018
Three on three tournament should equal shinny hockey fun
by Randy Pascal

By its very nature, the Skater’s Edge 3 on 3 Challenge is likely to provide a different experience for the Northern Ontario hockey talent that swarmed Sudbury over the Easter weekend.

Be it the mantra of the tournament itself, to provide a “shinny-like” fun end of the year atmosphere for the youngsters following several months dealing with the inevitable competitiveness of the minor hockey scene, or maybe adjusting to the rule changes, that sees icing calls discarded in favour of free-flowing hockey for periods that run twelve minutes straight.

Or perhaps it was those overwhelmingly large ice surfaces, on either side of the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex on championship Sunday, tackled with teams that were often manned by no more than six to seven skaters.

In any event, it was a pretty safe bet that the Nakiuk Polar Bears, competing in the Minor Bantam Rep grouping, would have been just fine without another curve ball thrown their way. Yet here they were, not quite at the mid-point of their semi-final encounter, dealing with an injury to netminder Zack Primeau.

Certainly no back-up goaltender on the bench, at least no one already equipped with goalie pads. Enter 13 year old Tanner McCosham, until this point a forward for the Bears. “Sometimes in practice, I would go as a goalie, and the goalies would go as players, but definitely no games,” noted the Nickel City Hockey Association “AA” product, minutes after helping his team to a 5-2 win in the morning game.

“The monkey suit is huge compared to my equipment, so there’s not as much movement, and going down and up is a bit weird.” Other than donning his own skates, the changeover would involve throwing on pretty much the entire kit and caboodle borrowed from his traditional puck-stopping teammate.

And then there was the small matter of best friend Skyler St Pierre, a member of the “AAA” Peewee Sons one year ago, barreling in on a clear cut breakaway. “As soon as he was coming down, I kind of read what he was going to do,” suggested McCosham. “As soon as he got ready for the shot, I kind of knew where he was going, so I stuck out my pad that way, and it ended up hitting my pad.”

St Pierre would get the better of his friend, on a second attempt, but the Nakiuk lads would move on, taking the final 6-5 over the Northern Ice, powered by an attack led by a troika of Devon Savignac, Josh Kavanaugh and Zacharie Giroux, with the team scrounging up a regular netminder for the final.

Still, for the life of me, I have a hard time justifying shortening a bench with six minutes to play in a three on three tournament. Getting the proper message across remains one of the regular challenges for organizer Bernie Rancourt, manning his post for all eleven years that the event has been in existence.

“I like to suggest to teams that at the end of the year, instead of having a team party, split the team in half and bring them to the three on three tournament and just have fun,” he said. “We’re starting to see it now.”

It’s certainly a thought not at all lost on the Major Bantam talent, who are back on the ice this week for the Minor Midget “AAA” tryouts, knowing they are likely to face the most stress-filled season of hockey ahead, hoping to garner the attention of OHL scouts.

“This is fun,” said Hunter Brazier, having just helped to lift the Gong Show (Letterkenny Irish) crew to a 5-4 win over the Warriors, with a number of very familiar teammates on both sides of the ice.

“You come out here and mess around with your friends, try out some new moves,” added Brazier, who finished second only to Joe Jordan of North Bay in the NOHL scoring parade this past season.

“It’s always fun to play against your friends, for bragging rights.” At the other end of the rink, Warriors goaltender Mireille Kingsley may have to endure some friendly ribbing from some of the male hockey contingent at Collège Notre-Dame, but she will gladly take it, finishing off an unbelievable season in style.

The only goalie with the Sudbury Bantam “AA” Lady Wolves this season, Kingsley had more than filled her quota of games, even as she tackled the challenge of trying to track shots at least a couple of players or more who will be able to call themselves OHL draftees in about twelve months time.

“I think you have to be really quick here, especially with these guys,” she said. “They’re really good. The guys play a completely different game, they get shots off their stick so quick. It took me a while to get adjusted to it.”

The three on three experience, however, is not limited to just local talent. With 26 or so of the 56 teams in attendance travelling in from various points in the north, the fun can be shared with boys and girls from Hearst, Kapuskasing, Iroquois Falls and Wawa, the selection grounds for the Small Town Heroes team that reconvened for a third consecutive year, albeit in a completely different setting.

“We did tryouts three years ago, and then pretty much stuck with that team,” noted Makai Manttari of Wawa. “Last year, we played regular (spring) tournaments in Ottawa and Toronto. This year, we decided to play three on three.”

“There’s more passing and skating, you get more time with the puck, and more time on the ice, too,” he added. No surprise then that Rancourt, who has seen it all in the past decade or so, offers some friendly advice for those taking part for the very first time.

“They are always surprised at how tired they get, trying to go with a short roster,” he said. “It just doesn’t work.” And on the opposite side of the equation, with tryouts in many camps already in full swing or right around the corner, the takeaways can prove beneficial, providing just a touch of fine-tuning to their game.

“For the younger kids, they are starting to learn that three on three can make them better when they go back to five on five,” said Rancourt. “They have to move the puck.”

Following are the rosters for a few of the championship teams that were crowned over the weekend:

Minor Midget Rep
Dekes of Hazard 6 Vegetables 5
Dekes of Hazard: Adam Bertrand, Josh Boucher, Ian Denomme, Matt Belanger, Nathan Stagg, Jacob Peterson-Galema, Jacob Fahey, Kam McCue

Major Bantam Rep
Gong Show 5 Warriors 4
Gong Show: Hunter Brazier, Blake Cornthwaite, Gavin Brown, Dario Beljo, Cole Molyneaux, Joel Robillard, Eamon Dolphin, Joel Coulombe

Major Peewee Rep
Swamp Rats (SSM) 5 Raising the Bar 1
Swamp Rats: Devin Mauro, Calem Mangone, Curtis Hubbard, Mathew Schuurman, Wyatt MacLachlan, Dillon Ritchie, Wyatt Hawthorne, Conner Wilson, Brooke Davidson, Noah Metivier

Major Atom Rep
Small Town Heroes 7 Green North Stars 1
Small Town Heroes: Stephane Lieshieki, Damien Lemoyne, J-P Audras, Makai Mantarri, Spencer Thibodeau, Brendan Gagnon

Minor Bantam Houseleague
Sudbury Stealth 4 Dragons 1
Sudbury Stealth: Alessio Capasso, Gavin Roy, Yanick Loiselle, Evan Boulanger, Isaac Campeau, Ian Mackey, Alex Barriault, Jacob Lorraine

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