By Casey Wedge
Wrapped Up in Buffalo
While shutouts were the theme for Friday and Saturdays games, the Sunday games wrapped up the weekend in a very different fashion. We’re always doing our best to keep games on time and keep everything running smoothly. When games are running a little late you’re not the only one frustrated. However, when we’re slightly behind schedule because of games that come down the dying seconds and games that are too close to settle in regulation, it’s a much more satisfying.
Picking up where I left off with the Squirts in the past couple blogs, the semi final matchups were set. In the Gold bracket the Butler Cobras Blue met the Buffalo Warriors and were pretty unphased in the contest. They went on to win 6-0 and earn themselves a spot in the Gold Final. The powerhouse Mississauga Mission Rattlers met the Bandits AA, which ended up being the first of two Squirt semis that couldn’t be settled in regulation play. The Rattlers and the Bandits went back and forth throughout the game and neither team ever had more than a very brief two-goal lead. After burying 24 goals in their first 3 games, the Rattlers weren’t able to score when they needed it most and the Bandits AA capitalized on an odd man rush with a high glove shot to win the game and advance to the Final. In the Gold Final, the Butler Cobras Blue looked like they had it in the bag with a three-goal lead but the Pittsburgh Bandits AA battled back but weren’t able to get that extra goal to force an overtime period. The Cobras Blue won the game with a final score of 5-4 and earned themselves some gold medals to take to this weeks show-n-tell.
The Squirt Silver bracket also had a semifinal matchup where standard game time just wasn’t enough to determine a winner. The Pittsburgh Bandits A met the Butler Cobras Green in what proved to be a battle. The game went back and forth the entire time and I struggled to count the amount of opportunities each team had in the dwindling seconds of the game – it was such an offensively minded game. The Pittsburgh Bandits A were able to poke the puck loose on a battle along the boards and cut to the net with a good opportunity to bury and guess what? They did. The Bandits A buried the overtime-game winner and advanced to the Silver Final. The 6th seeded Steel City Snipers met the Butler Cobras Yellow and crushed them in an 8-0 game to advance to the Final game. Spirits were high and parents were anxious in the bleachers as the puck dropped. Both teams scored early but the Steel City Snipers were able to grab ahold of the game and beat out the Bandits with a final score of 4-2. The Steel City Snipers team celly was big but the smiles on the boys were even bigger.
With only six teams in the Peewee division the playoffs broke down a little differently. The number one seeded Tour Oakville Coyotes earned a bye to the Gold Final after going 3-0 and only allowing 2 goals in those games and the fourth seeded Pittsburgh Bandits AA earned a bye to the Silver Final after going 2-1 through the round robin games with 11 goals for and 11 goals against. The playoff games unfolded as follows: In the Gold playoff the Buffalo Wings met the Butler Cobras White where both goalies kept their teams in the game the entire time. Shots were coming in from every angle, all over the floor but the teams held each other at 3 goals a piece through regulation. The Butler Cobras White struck fast as the puck dropped in the overtime period and earned themselves the W and a spot in the Gold Final. The Silver playoff game followed suit. The Pittsburgh Bandits A faced off against the Butler Cobras Black in a slightly more defensive battle. Both teams capitalized on the opportunities they had and the clock expired with the game tied 2-2. A few minutes into overtime, the Pittsburgh Bandits A looked like they had shifted into an extra gear and were controlling the play entirely. They went on to bury that GWG to earn themselves a spot in the Silver Final where they met the Bandits AA. In that Peewee Silver Final the Bandits AA proved they were the superior team in the club and beat their own A team 4-1. With twin brothers and friends battling against one another in this game it proved to be a good one. After earning the #1 seed in the division, the Tour Oakville Coyotes proved they were the most dominant team in Peewees this weekend. They beat the Butler Cobras White with a final score of 5-1 in a team effort driven by puck possession and quick movement.
As the day progressed a common trend unfolded as the players got bigger and the game got faster. The Bantam division playoffs were structured the same way as the Peewee division and the Pittsburgh Bandits AA earned themselves a bye to the Bantam Silver final while the Brampton Warriors dominated their pool play and earned the number one seed in addition to a bye to the Gold Final. The theme for the day continued to show as another close playoff game unwrapped as the Butler Cobras Orange took the floor against the Butler Cobras Grey. Again coming down to the wire, the Cobras Orange were able to squeak out the 5-4 victory needed to advance to the Bantam Silver Final. Albeit the game remained relatively low scoring, the 4th seeded Bandits proved to be the better team and beat out the Cobras Orange with a final score of 3-0. With a good showing in the preliminary round, the Bandits A met the Pittsburgh Rebels in the Gold playoff game. The Pittsburgh Bandits looked a tiny step behind the Rebels from the drop of the puck and Rebels went on to win 5-0, controlling every aspect of the game. However, the Rebels weren’t able to continue they’re winning ways when the met the Brampton Warriors in the final. Although the Rebels found the back of the net on two occasions, the Warriors controlled the majority of the game and with a few power play goals were able to get right by the Rebels with a 6-2 win. The Brampton Warriors hit the road quickly after the game but left the building with some new hardware hanging around their necks.
Following the structure of the last two divisions, the Midget playoffs were broken down the same way. Tour Excitement Green met the Butler Cobras in the Silver playoff and were able to advance with a final score of 4-2. The Cobras had what it took to win the game, however, were unable to capitalize on opportunities when they needed it most. After earning the 4th seed and advancing directly to the Midget Silver Final, the Buffalo Wings were ready to take down the Excitement Green. A battle of defense prevailed in this low scoring game however the higher seeded Wings were able to edge out a victory with a 2-1 final score. In the Gold portion of the bracket the 2nd seeded team, Ehhh Canada met the 3rd seeded Pittsburgh Rebels. In a game with plenty of power play chances, neither team was able to capitalize more than once as regulation expired in a 1-1 tie. Unlike the overtime games throughout the weekend, the additional time was still not enough and this one was headed for a shoot out. Ehhh Canada struck first scoring on their first shot of the shootout while the Rebels missed their first three shots. The fourth shooter for the Rebels knew the game was on him shoulders and stepped up to the task beating the goal with a quick move and a low glove shot. Ehhh Canada had the final shot of the first round of the shootout and knew what they had to do – their fourth shooter played the patience card and made a good move to beat the goalie and waited and waited just until the right time to take his low-block shot. Carrying momentum from their shootout vicoty, Ehhh Canada looked to take down the undefeated Tour Excitement Black. Excitement came out knowing that it would take a disciplined game to beat the tough Ehhh Canada team and they executed their plan perfectly. Ehhh Canada took penalties and the Excitement were able to capitalized and give themselves the 4-2 W to cap off the night.
This is the last you’ll hear from me for about a month… Buffalo was a blast, met a ton of new people and watched so many close playoff games that really came down to the wire. After playing in NARCh tourneys for the last ten years it’s pretty cool getting a behind the scenes look at and being part of all the work that goes into making these tournaments happen. If you’ve never played at the Hershey Centre before it’s worth taking a look at some pictures from past NARCh finals or even searching Google. The facility is unreal and there aren’t many better feelings than warming up on the arena rink with anticipation building before championship games. If you have played there before I know you’re just as excited as I am to get back out on those rinks and fight for a chance to win one of those shiny NARCh cup. Can’t wait to see everyone at Finals in Mississauga next month!
From Itan and myself, thanks for a good weekend of hockey Buffalo and we hope you had as good of a time as we did.