The annual Richmond International Midget Hockey Tournament is a big one.
So big, in fact, Whitehorse’s Cinderwood Midget Mustangs had to defeat teams from California and Las Vegas to reach the semifinal and finish third out of 20 Tier 2 teams in B.C. last week.
“Overall, to go down there, play six games and only lose one, I’d have to say the tournament was a success,” said Mustangs head coach Jay Glass. “Third out of 20 Tier 2 teams is pretty good.”
“The tournament went pretty well. We didn’t finish first like we would have liked, but we did fairly well and were able to compete in all the games,” said Mustangs captain Mike Hare. “Even in the game we lost, we competed fairly well.”
The Whitehorse rep team finished the tourney with a 6-2 loss to the Hawks, of Littleton, Colorado, another undefeated team that went on to win the tournament.
“They were probably one of the best teams we’ve played this season,” said Hare. “It wasn’t that our team didn’t play well – we all played pretty well – the other team was good and played well also.”
In the semifinal game, which saw goals from Mustangs’ Wyatt Gale and Brayden Kulych, a total of 46 penalties were called. Unfortunately for the Mustangs, who shared the penalties with the Hawks, they just couldn’t get their power play firing.
“In that game there were a lot of penalties called both ways – that referee called a lot of penalties and it was really hard for us to get rolling,” said Glass. “We got down early and then were under pressure. And then our power play – we pushed it and tried too hard.
“Had our power play been on … we’d be a bigger force to be reckoned with,” he said.
The Littleton Hawks scored an empty-netter to end the game.
In the quarterfinal the Mustangs rolled over the previously undefeated Vancouver Spirit 5-0 with two goals from Gale, plus individual goals from Kulych, Riley Pettitt and Tyler Wiens. Goalie Patrick Soprovich got the shutout.
“It was a tougher game than the score would indicate,” said Glass. “I think it was our best game of the tournament.”
The Mustangs went 2-0-2 in the round robin with a 7-5 win over the Las Vegas Wranglers to open the tournament and later a 6-0 win over the California Wave in Game 3. Pettitt led the way against the Wranglers with two goals and two assists while Gale produced three assists.
Surfing over the Wave, Hare amassed four assists, Kulych had two goals and an assist, Gale had three assists and Pettitt got one of each. Soprovich got the shutout stopping 38 shots.
“There was a number of players who played well. There were a bunch that played well throughout the tournament, including both our goalies (Soprovich and Nigel Sinclair-Eckert),” said Hare. “Both our goalies played exceptional throughout the tournament.”
However, the round-robin saw a couple disappointments as well.
Tied 2-2 against the Kelowna Junior Rockets, the Mustangs scored what should have been the winning goal. The shot ricocheted out of the net as quickly as it went in. However, after first declaring it a goal, the ref flip-flopped and took it back. Had they got the win, the Mustangs would have taken first in their pool and received a bye to the semis. Instead Kelowna got the top spot.
“The referee was a little off all night. He called it a goal and all of a sudden he waved it off,” said Glass. “All three of our forwards saw it hit the back of the net, so did a couple of our spectators standing right behind the net. There was no doubt that the puck was in.”
“It would have been nice to win that game and we all felt a bit unhappy about it afterwards,” said Hare. “But it didn’t affect us too much in the long run. We still made it to the next round, so it wasn’t too big a deal afterwards, but at the time it was sort of unpleasant for us.”
Before the quarterfinal, the Mustangs let a 4-1 lead slip through their fingers, tying the Campbell River Tyees 4-4 in Game 4. Pettitt and Wiens racked up four points, each with a goal, while Gale had two points with a goal and assist.
“It was a really fun tournament to go to because there were so many teams in it,” said Hare. “It was the biggest tournament I’ve been to. So it gave us the chance to see where we stacked up against a lot of other teams.”
In their first tournament of the season, the Cinderwood Midget Mustangs rolled over the competition at the Abbotsford Midget Memorial 2011 Tournament in November. The Mustangs were never in a losing situation and racked up high-scoring victories en route to winning the Tier 3 tournament. Not even the final was close, as the Mustangs defeated the hosting Abbotsford Hawks 9-1 for the gold.
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