Bubble Wrap

Tales from the Timebox: March 22nd, 2018
Another year and another terrific provincial final hockey tournament held right here in Elk Point this past weekend. Hats off to the tournament chairperson Candace Bendixen for taking on the task and to her committee; Twila Stafford, Melisa Rogal, Lisa Van Maarion, Margaret Bayduza, Jackie Ludlage, and yours truly from the time box.
Not many associations would try and host a provincial final two years in a row, but it just goes to show you what kind of volunteers we have. Everyone in the Elk Point  minor hockey association and many, many from our community stepped up in some way and made it a very special event for the players, coaches and their families.
Valleyview Ice Bears winning the gold medal in a double overtime final over Hanna who won the silver. Our Bantam Avalanche can be proud knowing they only lost by one goal to the gold medal team, Valleyview in the round robin in the A pool. And lost to Hanna, who was first place in the B pool in the semi final game by only one goal as well. The only teams to defeat the Avalanche were the two top teams in the tournament.
Maybe at the beginning of this hockey season the Bantam Avalanche coaching staff should have bubble wrapped their team before every game and practice. Seems like every time they turned around another players was heading to the hospital for a xray. One injury after another all year.
Staring the season with a small squad, only 10 skaters registered, there was a number of times they played with only 8 or less skaters.  And boys being boys , you can count on a few suspensions throughout the year too. But somehow they always managed to win games. Playing Tier # 1 in the North East League, they could hold their own with any team and were better than most.
The coaching staff, head coach Marty Bendixen, assistants Tyson Stafford and Greg Van Maarion taught them how to play smart hockey. Pass the puck, because the puck can travel much faster than any player can possibly skate and that saves energy. Don’t take yourself out of the play wasting time to run over a guy who is not even involved in the play. And pace yourself. And stay out of the penalty box. Easier said than done!!
Starting the provincial finals this past weekend they were already down one of their most a solid stay at home defenseman,  Jace ‘the Stafford Streak . He suffered a broken wrist earlier in the season. His wrist was all healed up right after Christmas and he was ready to go. Then the worst was about to happen.  Playing in his first game back he broke his elbow. This injury was bad. No way could he play- doctors orders.
His side kick defenseman  Evan ‘Batman’ Ockerman had missed the last week of hockey with a bruised arm,  but he sucked it up so he could play.  ‘The team also brought up the peewee aged rookie Dean ‘the Machine’ Ockerman bringing the roster back up to  10 skaters to start the provincial tournament. But early in the first game against the Bow Island Rebels right after the opening ceremonies on Thursday night,  they lost one of their top snipers. Rugged winger Jaden ‘Jet Stream’ Van Maarion. He separated his shoulder.  He’s usually good for a goal or two or three and plays a hard nosed game. But as team captain ‘Lightning Liam’ Ludlage told his team mates in the dressing room after the heart breaking semi-final game that they lost 4 to 2 to Hanna.
You can’t use injuries as an excuse, other teams have injuries too. ‘Lightning Liam’ suffered lots of bruised himself during the season and being shadowed all weekend long, he really took a beating during the games. But still was the point leader when the tournament ended getting 7 goals and 7 assists in four games, and that’s what good coaches do. Send a player out to ride shotgun on the top players of the other teams.
 In the first game against the Rebels the boys ran into penalty trouble right off the opening face- off. Five minutes into the game with two men in the sin bin they found themselves down two goals. But being in that situation many times before, they battling back and tied the game 3 all by the end of the first. Then started a rally and took the lead in the second , the final 7 to 4 for the Avalanche. The player of the game, Dallas ‘Cowboy’ Bristow with a hat trick and two assists. ‘King Cole’ Bendixen, ‘Lightning Liam’, and Mathew ‘Quick Draw’ Quinney with the other goals. Charlie ‘Chuckles’ Rogal and ‘Batman’ with two assists each. ‘Danny Boy’ Cardinal with one assist and more than one trip to the sin bin.
The second game Friday afternoon the boys were down two goals once again, this time to the eventual gold medal winners Valleyview. A tougher challenge this time though, ‘King Cole’ Bendixen scoring the only goal late in the third period. Goalie ‘Sexy Slader’ Hardcastle named the player of the game.
Saturday morning at 8 am the third and final round robin game, was a must win game against the Airdrie Lightning. The Avalanche coming out strong winning this one 9 to 2 . ‘Lightning Liam’ named player of the game, lit the lamp four times, adding three assists. ‘Batman’ , ‘Danny Boy’ , ‘King Cole’ and ‘Cowboy’ and ‘Chuckles’  all scoring.  Odin ‘the Wall’ Smith with an assist and some very solid body checks.
Sunday morning it was quite evident  the boys had butterflies. Skating around not wanting to make any mistakes, once again they found themselves down by two goals right off the bat. ‘Lightning Liam’ finally slipping one in half way through the game, assisted by ‘Dean the Machine’ and ‘Chuckles.
Our boys with the monkey finally off their back would gaining momentum  , ‘Danny Boy’ buried one shortly after, ‘Lightning Liam’ assisting.
 Anybody’s game now. But Hanna was a good defensive team, they put up a wall that was almost impossible to penetrate . Plus a big solid goalie.  Hanna adds two more. The score 4 to 2 for Hanna until 1.48 left in the game when  ‘Lightning Liam’ doing it all alone would score his second of the game. 4 to 3 for Hanna now. Time out called. The goalie out for the extra attacker. The Avalanche pressuring, the boys playing their hearts out, ‘ Batman ‘ ringing one off the post, close but not enough.
Game over. ‘King Cole’ the player of the game.
Tears of course, the boys played their hearts out. What a team!  Proud of you guys!!
But don’t go away. We still have a chance to win a provincial medal. This coming weekend our Midget Avalanche are in Rimbley playing in the provincial C final there. And all the way up to La Crete our Peewee’s will be playing in the provincial B final there. Lets go Avalanche, bring home some hardware!!
And now for the K.A. Campbell quote of the week. ” Sports do not build character, they reveal it.” – Heywood Hale Brown