‘91-Born Prospects Tournament – Toronto, Ontario
This was our first year attending the Prospects Tournament and we were very impressed. The competition was excellent and very challenging. This is our first year for our ’91 program and is the first event of this season. We did very well, finishing third out of 31 teams at 5 wins and 2 losses. We lost in the semifinals to a team we had beaten earlier in the tournament while our only other loss was to the eventual champion.
This tournament is very difficult because the playoff rounds are only one 30-minute period with no timeouts. This obviously allows for very little margin of error and there is no time to “re-group”. That being said, it is equal for every team and very exciting hockey for everyone involved. I personally feel that there were eight to ten teams that could have won this tournament on any given day.
Day 1: Thursday
We began Day 1 with a practice on Thursday evening. It was just an opportunity to meet one another, to implement some basic team systems, and to evaluate our players as coaches. Because our team is comprised of players from all over North America, we never have any opportunities to practice. That makes it imperative that we build team chemistry and cohesiveness in a very short time period.
Day 2: Friday
Our first game was against the Upstate Selects. It was a very difficult first game for us having to squeeze out a victory in overtime, 5-4. Due to the fact that most of our players come from different teams, our first game always seems to be the most sloppy. This one proved to be no different. We seemed to communicate well and work together, however, overcoming a two goal deficit late in the third period to force overtime. It was a great come-from-behind victory and a great team character builder for the rest of the tournament.
Our second game that evening was against the Pittsburgh Predators, where we won 5-0. We seemed to click almost instantly and played a complete hockey game to get our second victory of the tournament.
Day 3: Saturday
Going into Saturday, we knew we were in good shape with four points already earned. But we also knew that we had two very difficult opponents ahead of us who were also 2-0. Our goal was to win one of the two and to play two complete hockey games to get ready for the Sunday playoff round.
Our third game of the tournament was against the Niagara Falls Outlaws (who were the eventual champions). This was a great game that went back and forth. Niagara was the biggest and most physical team of the tournament. We seemed to be “snake bitten” in this game as we had numerous odd-man opportunities, including a few breakaways, but we could not finish our chances. We fell in this contest 3-1. It was a very even game and a good test for us to prepare for our next game, and it would also give us a good idea of what to expect for the rest of the tournament.
Our final preliminary game that night was against the Minnesota Blades. This was our best game of the tournament so far, as we played a complete team game in winning 5-1. We made very few mistakes and seemed to click from start to finish. We scored three uneven-situation goals in this game (two shorthanded and one power play). We also had spread out our offensive production with five different goal scorers. This was a good test for us and we developed great momentum heading into the playoffs.
Day 4: Sunday Playoffs!
Our first game was a tough one, drawing the Toronto Blacknights (who had won the ’89 tournament the weekend before). We were prepared and hungry to play, though, and we came out strong. After many good chances to score, we went down 1-0 on a power play goal five minutes into the 30-minute playoff game. Knowing that there is very little room for error in these playoff games, we could not afford to go down two goals. We were very pleased with our play and knew that all we had to do was just start capitalizing on our opportunities. But then we took our second penalty of the game. Fortunately for us, we scored a shorthanded goal during this time, which completely turned the momentum of the game in our favor. From there, we began to take advantage of our scoring opportunities and won the game 6-2 with an empty-net goal.
With only one hour to rest, our next game was against the highly skilled Ontario West Central team. Ontario West won the tournament last year allowing only 7 goals against and scoring over 70 goals. They also went undefeated in the preliminary round and had never lost a game in this tournament. We knew that we needed to play a complete error-free team game.
Just like in the Blacknights game, we gave up the first goal to go down early seven minutes in the contest. But as in the first game, we were controlling most of the play and just not capitalizing on opportunities. We were fortunate to be strong on special teams in this game, going 2-for-3 on power play and 4-for-4 on the penalty kills. Our first two goals were on the PP and we finished the scoring with two more even strength goals. This was a tremendous team victory that was very emotional.
Our next team drawn that day was the Minnesota Blades who we had beaten the night before. We knew that the Blades would be a much tougher opponent this time, however, as they had beaten some very good teams as well. We had another hour’s rest between games to prepare. We had a short meeting just to make sure that we were prepared for this team and fully understood not to expect an “easy” game this time around. Our team understood and was prepared to play.
Unfortunately, we got down two goals in this game and could never recover. Again, we controlled a lot of the play and had numerous opportunities to score but hit the post a few times and their goalie made some nice saves. Their team played a very good game and took advantage of their opportunities. We scored a PP goal to make it 2-1 but couldn’t seem to get anything else by their goaltender. They scored an empty-net goal to put the game away. We scored with about twenty seconds left to make it 3-2.
We had a lot of fun and this was a great opportunity for our players to see what to expect at the higher levels. It was also good for them to see that there is very little margin for error when there are two good teams on the ice.
1991 East Coast Selects Team Roster for this particular tournament:
Mercer Chiefs 90
Washington Little Capitals
Baie D’Urfe, QC
Washington Little Capitals
Detroit Little Caesars
Grand Blanc, MI
Halifax Hawks AAA