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MARVELLOUS MUSTANGS – The U11 Jr. Mustangs pose for a pic at the Ridge Meadows Remembrance Day tournament, Nov. 11-13 in Langley, B.C.

U11 Jr. Mustangs take Remembrance Day tourney title

The U11 Jr Mustangs headed down to Langley, B.C. Nov. 11-13 for the Ridge Meadows Remembrance Day tournament.

By freelancer on November 21, 2022

The U11 Jr Mustangs headed down to Langley, B.C. Nov. 11-13 for the Ridge Meadows Remembrance Day tournament. For a many of these kids, it was their first time donning the Mustangs jersey and there was a vibrant energy in the hours leading up to puck drop amongst the crew.

The squad started off it’s first game scoring early and often with Evander Jerome leading the way with two goals in the first period, accompanied by singles by Saul Kinney and Alex Berkers. The trend continued with the team scoring twice in both the second and third while only allowing the Langley team two of their own.

Scoring in the second and third were Tait Cripps, Max Labelle, Kolter McHale and Oliver MacDonald. While a convincing victory, the team was still struggling with playing as a group rather than relying on individual skills but that would evolve as the tournament continued. Kyan Ordish and Aaron Fontaine contributed assists and were buzzing on the forecheck all game.

The game MVP was Evander Jerome and the team awards a “Grinder” award for the player that does the hard things and puts team first. The inaugural winner was Alex Berkers, who was a menace to play against, using his size to win pucks and create chaos.

In what turned out to be the most closely contested game of the weekend, the Mustangs faced off against the Richmond Jets. Richmond got off to a great start, putting one behind Henry Benedet to take an early lead before Ethan Fedus potted a goal in the dying minutes of the first period.

This was a game where the coaching staff got nervous, as the Mustangs launched a barrage of shots towards the Richmond net but weren’t rewarded, as Richmond’s goaltender was a brick wall, keeping the Mustangs at bay for the entire second period. Saul Kinney again stepped up and put the good guys ahead but Richmond answered back almost immediately. The pattern continued, with the Mustangs swarming and the Richmond tender kicking everything aside until Evander Jerome scored the winner with a little over five minutes left.

Whitehorse outshot the Richmond squad 39-12 but there was still another level to their game which involved more of a five-man puck possession system than end-to-end rushes.

Ethan Fedus was awarded the MVP after scoring a big goal with time winding down in the first to tie the game and Aaron Fontaine was given the Grinder belt, as he was being his pesky self, digging pucks out and winning battles all over the ice.

Next up was Hollyburn, a young, short-benched team that had been struggling in the tourney to date. The game against Whitehorse would be no easier. Evander Jerome continued his torrid pace, putting three goals away. Alex Berkers and Mack Johnson each had two and singles came from Ryker Long, Ethan Fedus and Oliver MacDonald.

Even more importantly was the way the team played. Given that they were up by quite a few, the team was instructed to work on coming out of the zone with support and the puck on their stick and utilizing other players for D to D and offensive zone opportunities. The real question was would this stick as the competition increased or was it a one-off…

Game MVP was Caleb Martin, contributing two assists, moving the puck with precision and playing his usual steady defensive game. The Grinder was given to the Hollyburn team for battling in some tough conditions.

The quarter final opponents were the home team Ridge Meadow Rustlers, a young fast group that had the home crowd advantage. Again starting “on time”, the Whitehorse group put four goals into the net in the first seven minutes.

The group continued to press and scored another before the period ended and then 11 seconds into the second.

The rest of the second the team was a little flat, perhaps too comfy with their lead, and it resulted in the team losing a period for the first time in the tournament, 2-1.

The team regrouped in the third and scored three more times, allowing the game to finish 9-2. The most impressive aspect was the puck movement, possession mindset that stayed with them from the Hollyburn game. Adding this to the team’s tenacious back check and rock solid back end and they were going to be hard to beat!

The scoring was spread out with Alex Berkers getting two and singles from Copper Sinclair, Ryker Long, Max Labelle, Kolter Mchale, Oliver MacDonald, Carter Coates and Saul Kinney.

Carter Coates, with a goal and an assist, as well as adding his usual sandpaper antics, was awarded the MVP and “Big Mak” Johnson was given the Grinder, as she found her footing and led some nice rushes while refusing to cough pucks up, using her skating to find great outlet passes.

Semiahoo was the opponent for the semifinal as the stakes kept getting higher. A tentative first period saw Whitehorse carry the play but were only able to find the back of the twine once just before the period ended. The team provided steady pressure, near perfect defensive play and just plain effort as they added two goals in each of the second and third periods to seal a spot in the final. Alex Berkers had another standout game with two goals and an assist and singles came from Evander Jerome, Kolter McHale and Mack Johnson.

Kolter McHale was given the MVP with a clutch goal and was buzzing, creating offensive chances all game. In an ironic twist of events, Big Mak Johnson handed the Grinder to her buddy Mack “Small Fry” Johnson for hounding opponents down, covering his adventurous D and always having his motor going.

The team was off to the final to play perennial powerhouse Kamloops and was feeling confident but slightly nervous in the first final at a Rep tournament for a lot of the team. The Kamloops team on paper was their toughest opponent. Tait Cripps ripped an absolute bullet top corner from the point a minute and a half in to get the Mustangs out to a lead. Pucks were poured at the net but the team could only muster a single additional goal before the end of the first.

Thankfully old reliable Al Berkers scored a minute into the second to give the group some breathing room. Copper Sinclair, Ethan Fedus, Evander Jerome, Caleb Martin and Aaron Fontaine added singles. The team played a consistent, effort-based game and their disciplined play led to a convincing 7-1 win and a championship banner to hang at good ole Takhini arena.

Overall the growth of the team in the way they played – the shift from individual tactics to team-based play – took the team from a group of good hockey players, to a good hockey team. Maybe more importantly, you could see the groups of kids start to meld into a team, which happens on these hockey trip weekends, and is as important to on-ice success sometimes as the other things. While the team’s play sheltered the goalies for the most part, both Ewen Wheeler and Henry Benedet had crucial saves at points when the outcome in games was far from determined. The team now gets back to work as they prepare for a tournament later in the year.

– Submitted by Dan Johnson

Comments (1)

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Eileen Dean on Nov 22, 2022 at 5:17 am

Reading your article made me feel like I was in the crowd cheering the team on. Great team work! Enjoy your time together.

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