The 2004 Metro Jr. Jets fell 2-0 in the finals of the Big Bear Hockey Tournament at Miami of Ohio’s Goggin Arena yesterday to the Atlanta Fire Select tournament team.
Coach Mark Thornton entered into this tournament knowing the other teams consisted of primarily 2003 birth year players and used this situation to get his team ready for district play next week.
“I wanted the boys to play to their strengths and use speed and skill,” said Thornton. “The size of the other teams reinforced what we have been training for. Most teams were 20-60 pounds heavier and 12-20 inches taller on average than our team. The style of play we encourage is speed, skill and puck possession. Most teams towered over the Jets players, but that didn’t stop the 04’s from scoring 17 goals in five games and only giving up seven.
“We surprised most teams. They laughed at us because we aren’t big, but you can’t hit what you can’t catch.”
The Jr. Jets down the Vernon Hills Ice Dogs 5-0, then followed up 7-2 win against the Jr. Trojans. Then they lost 2-1 against the Atlanta Fire only to rebound with a 4-1 semifinal win against the Kirkwood Stars.
The team then came out flying in the final and were all over the Fire and scored two minutes in, only to have the goal disallowed.
“This would have changed the entire game,” Thornton said. “It’s never easy to overcome that, but the boys battled back, but we just couldn’t get another one in.”
Over the weekend, the Jr. Jets goaltending was stellar with one shutout and no games with more than two goals allowed. With the new team defensive style “sag /overload” play in their own zone, the team constantly outmanned its opponents in the slot.
“We minimized good scoring chances the entire weekend,” Thornton said. “Our forwards supported the ‘D’ all weekend and that made defending our zone much easier. The forwards proved to themselves that they are a force to be reckoned with coming up in districts. We had a balanced attack with all four lines scoring.
“Our goal from the start was to be playing our best hockey at districts, and we are.”