The 2006 Metro Jr. Jets finished in second place after battling a team from New York, the Amherst Knights (ranked sixth in the state) and holding them scoreless in 34 minutes of play in the championship game of the Blizzard Challenge Tournament in Niagara Falls, N.Y., this past weekend.
The Jr. Jets held strong protecting their lead after center Kevin Cronin scored in the second period to put the Jr. Jets up 1-0. The game ended regulation time tied 1-1 after Amherst put in a rebound shot with 1:57 left in the third period.
“The game-tying goal was a result of a bad bounce while trying to clear the puck out of our zone,” said Jr. Jets 2006 coach Gary Blanck. “It was a bad break, but they happen from time to time.”
The teams then battled it out in sudden-death overtime without a decision.
The game came down to the wire when they went into a three-round shootout where Carson Hermani, goaltender for the Jr. Jets who already faced 45 shots, blocked Amherst’s first attempt.
“Carson came out and played it as well as could be played, showing a great deal of patience not often seen in young goaltenders,” said Blanck.
Forward Davis Belt went first for the Jr. Jets, taking a shot to the right that bounced over the goaltender’s leg – only to land a half-inch short of the goal line
“I really thought the puck rolled in and the game was over, but the referee waived it off,” Blanck said. “It was a great effort by Davis and a great save by their goalie.”
Amherst scored on their next shot with a fake and hard shot, putting the pressure back on the Jr. Jets. Center Ethan Scaife answered with a backhand, top-shelf goal to tie the game 2-2.
“Ethan really came through for us with a clutch goal to tie it up once again,” said Blanck.
Amherst scored on their third shot, making the score 3-2. The Jr. Jets had a chance to tie again with Cronin, who took a shot off a side fake that was blocked by Amherst’s goaltender.
“Once again, the pressure was on our team,” said Blanck. “I asked Kevin what move he was going to do and he told me a side fake. I remember telling him that was a good choice, let’s see what happens. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, but it was a great effort.”
The Jr. Jets entered into this tournament to gain some experience playing unfamiliar teams at a higher level to help prepare them for districts.
“Playing higher-level teams that you have never played before allows the team to work on making quick adjustments in your normal game plan,” Blanck said. “This can be a very difficult task with young players because it only takes one player to blow their new assignment and you can have a total breakdown on the ice.”
To start the tournament, the 06 Jr. Jets faced Amherst in the first game on Saturday, only to lose 4-0.
“Amherst came out attacking and I don’t think our players were ready for their speed,” said Blanck. “As a result, they scored three goals on us in that first period on 21 shots. We had to make some major adjustments in our scheme and get the kids to believe in their speed and skills. The second and third periods were much different, holding them to just six and eight shots, respectively. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get our offense going.”
The Jr. Jets then went on to face Monroe County from Rochester, N.Y., in their second game, winning 8-0 to give Hermani the shutout.
“I thought the kids responded well after the loss the day before and came out with dominating speed and puck control,” said Blanck. “You couldn’t ask for a better effort coming off a loss like we did.”
Next, the Jr. Jets faced the Niagara Falls Flyers from Niagara Falls, Ontario, on Monday morning and won 5-1 in a game that saw over 38 penalty minutes and witnessed the coach from the Flyers get ejected and a game misconduct for coming onto the ice to challenge the officials.
“You really hate to see that kind of behavior from coaches or players,” said Blanck. “We are supposed to be setting a good example for our players. Sometimes, the calls just don’t go your way, but you need to rally your team and get them to play harder and play through it. Life is not always fair. We kept reminding our players to keep their heads on a swivel and be smart, let the other team self-destruct and maybe we can take advantage.”
The 2006 Jr. Jets start district play against the 2006 Troy Sting in Fraser next Wednesday.