Another weekend, another tourney for the Devil and her team. Tournaments are good tools for team building, working on line combinations and in-game tactics and gauging team strength against competition they don’t normally get to see.
In this tournament, the girls started with a game against a very familiar rival. Coincidentally, or not, their closest local competitor has turned up in three of the same tournaments; this in addition to an exhibition game and four scheduled regular season games. This will be the same team the girls will have to go head-to-head against in their quest to play in the provincial championships. In five previous games so far this year, these two teams have skated to a virtual draw with either one-goal wins for either team or ties. Game one of this tournament was no different. Our girls unfortunately came out of the gate a little slow and fell behind by one and then two goals. They would turn the play around in the third period, but were unable to tally more than one goal against. They dropped this latest challenge 2-1.
In round robin tournament play, losing game one generally forces a need to win the next two, depending, of course, on the strength of the other teams in your division. With a win at stake, the coach set a strict curfew for his players, who were scattered in hotels around the small host city. Not a problem for the Devil, who was wiped out from the school day, a 90 minute drive, followed by an 8pm hockey game. This was likely the case for her teammates as well.
The next morning, the Sharks came out with a vengeance against what seemed to be a stronger competitor. After giving up the first goal despite dominating the play, the girls came storming back. They scored three unanswered markers of their own; renewing their chances of advancing to the playoff round.
However, in order to reach the playoffs, they would have to contend with a decidedly larger and reportedly even stronger team. Indeed, as the puck dropped for game three, the Sharks were at a noticeable size disadvantage. That being said, the girls certainly didn’t back down. They were all well aware of what they needed to do in order to move on. For two periods of scoreless hockey, the Devil and her mates skated as hard as they’ve skated all year. They battled in the corners, stood their ground in front of the net at both ends of the rink and had a few good scoring chances. Unfortunately, in the third period, their strong opponent was able to break through with a first goal. Undaunted, but slightly overmatched, the Sharks never gave up. Their counterparts, who would eventually go on to become tournament champions, scored two more times.
As the game neared its conclusion, the manager informed the team that they needed one goal to have a chance to move on. That goal never came.
And indeed, as it turned out, the girls would end up in a three-way tie for second place in their division. A tie-breaker would ultimately determine that they would miss making the semi-finals by a single goal. Ironically, they would give way to the team they beat in their second game, who happened to have a better goals for/goals against differential. Such is the tournament format, where a slow start can come back to bite you in the proverbial ass. A tie or win in game one against the weakest of the three teams they faced would have done the trick.
It would have been nice to make the semis where there is always a chance to proceed further in a single game knock-out situation. In fact, the team our girls beat in their second game went on to play and lose to the team from the third game in the Championship final. The Sharks were obviously in the tougher of the two tournament divisions. There was definitely no disappointment for the coaching staff or the players based on how the team performed against increasingly stiff competition. Its heartening to see how they can play at their full potential. The challenge with this team, as with all teams in all sports, is realizing that potential on a consistent basis.
I believe this ends the tournament schedule for both the Boy and the Devil. At least tournaments I know about at this point. Sometimes end of season tournaments are added depending on how long a team’s playoff run is. And so, we’ll hope there are no more tournaments this year, signalling a long and prosperous post-season run for each squad. There are still a handful of regular season games for both teams, which will ultimately determine their rank and playoff match-ups. Plenty of fun and games yet to come.