The Mites Attended the 1st annual Woodbridge Arenas Mite Challenge Thanksgiving Tournament over the weekend. This was the first tournament of the season and the kids had been playing great together leading up to the tournament. The teams participating in the tournament were the NJ Jr. Titans, the Shore Riptide, the Westfield Hockey Club and the Arenas Youth Hockey Team team which was made up from both the Woodbridge and Red Bank House teams, and they would prove to be the team to beat all weekend.
On day one the Titans had the first game and would face the Arenas at 7:30am. The kids started off a bit slow but had a 2-0 lead in the first thanks to Will S. and Dom T., but into the Second the Arenas secret weapon #1 would start to attack. The Arenas managed to score 1 goal in the second, but the Titans were starting to look like a different team. Instead of playing sound fundamental hockey like they had always done, they started to get goal fever. Titan players were fighting each other for pucks, and started to play individual hockey, which would lead to the Arenas scoring 4 goals to 1 in the 3rd period. I'm not sure what changed mid way in the game, but this did not look like the same Titan Mites that we were used to seeing. With a long break in between games, Coach Jason told the kids to think about thimportance of playing as a team, and get some rest before the next game at 6:30pm.
For the next game the Titans faced the Shore Riptide. The coaches spoke to the kids before the game about team work and made sure the kids understood the importance of playing as a team. The kids came out strong and were really moving the puck around well. Katie B. had a great game soring 2 goals, which one was assisted by Ryan K. Zach B. had his first goal of the season assisted by Jack, who also had a goal of his own. Tyler D. Dom, and Will managed to limit the shots on goal to only a handful while Tyler had 2 goals of his own and Will with a single goal. Overall a great game for the Titans and a much needed win after the morning game.
The next morning at 7:30am was the last game of the round robin. The Titans were facing the Westfield Hockey club, and this would be a nail biter. Like the previous day the Titans started off slow and found themselves down 2-0 after the first period. The second period was non eventful until Tyler D. took a shot from the point and Josh buried the rebound for his first goal of the season. With a score of 2-1 the Titans were right back in it. Then early in the 3rd the Westfield team struck early and put one past Joey H. to make it 3-1. Things looked bleak for the Titans, but with 1:17 left in the game Tyler D. buried a back hander to make it 3-2. Immediately after the goal the Titans called timeout and the plan was in motion. As the puck dropped Joey H. headed to the bench and the 6th skater was added. The Titans came on strong with an offensive push and with 33 seconds left in the clock, Zach B. found Katie all alone in front of the net and she put the puck in the lower left corner for the game tying goal. With that Tie the Titans had taken 2nd place overall and would have to face Westfield again in the Semi-finals.
Between games Select kids participated in a skills competition. Will, Katie, and Jack were selected for the 3 man/girl relay, Tyler D. was selected for the fastest skater and Dominic was selected for the shootout. Tyler and Dom both won their event, but due a collision with a none racer during the relay the Titans did not win the relay. Due to the fact that before the collision the Titans had the race won, the Tournament Director also awarded them with a first place certificate. Joey H. also came within one save of the goalie competition by only allowing 1 goal in the shootout, but the Riptide goalie pulled it out and denied every shot that came his way.
The next game against the Westfield team was very different than the first game. The Titans went up 2-1 in the first and then gave up a a tying goal in the second. After that goal the Titans struck again and never gave up the lead for the rest of the game. Tyler D. recorded 5 goals and 1 assist, and Will scored from the point late in the second. Katie, Jack and Zach all worked extra hard to win pucks on the boards. Tyler W. and DJ. Both were excellent in the offensive zone. Anthony and Joe A. were always in position and got some great chances that started with passes from the defense. Ryan and Josh both fought hard down low and did a great job in front of the Westfield goaltender. With this great team effort the Titans had won the game and made it to the Championship round at 6:00pm.
The Final game was against the team that gave the Titans their only loss, the Arenas Youth team. Before the game got under underway everyone had the same thing on their minds, how tired were the kids. After all they had just played 4 games in 2 days and this was their 5th and 2 hours before most of them go to bed. Right from the start #1 on the Arenas came out strong, but the Titan defense was ready this time. Every push up the ice by him was stopped by both defense men who forced him to shoot from outside of the Titan house. Toward the end of the first the game was tied 1-1 thanks to a great move by Dominic to get the only goal this period for the Titans. With 33 seconds left in the period the Arenas caught the Titans in the middle of a change and scored the go ahead goal. In the second period the Titans looked like this was their first game of the weekend and never stopped working. Thanks to Dom, Tyler, and some great teamwork by the rest of the kids, the 2 defensmen scored 2 goals and gave the Titans the lead 3-2. But then a common theme started to develop, and the Arenas followed up with a goal of their own. With the game tied at 3-3 going into the 3rd the Titans looked relaxed and ready to play, but the Arenas team started to look like the weekend was catching up to them. As the last period got underway the Titans started the attack immediately and within 27 seconds of the puck drop Josh scored off of a great screen, to give the Titans the lead. Again the common theme was in play and the Arenas scored 2 minutes later. At the 4 minute mark Tyler D took the puck end to end and put the Titans ahead again, only to be matched 45 seconds later by the Arenas to tie it all up at 5-5. At the end of regulation time both teams had played their hearts out, but know it was a whole new game.
The tournament rules were, in case of a tie, the game goes into OT played 4 on 4 for 4 minutes followed by 3 on3 sudden death until a winner is determined. Coach Jason asked the kids if they were tired followed by a simple question “Do you want to win this”? That question had not been asked all weekend, in fact the kids had never looked past their next game, but this game they wanted to win. Tyler ans Will started at Defense with Katie and Dominic playing up front. As soon as the puck dropped the Titans gave it everything they had. The puck never left the Arenas zone and when the Arenas #1 would gain control he now faced a fierce fore checker in Dominic. The only change made in the first minute was Jack for Katie and with fresh legs on the ice Dominic found Jack in front of the net and he put the puck in the back of the net to win the game and crown the NJ Jr Titans Champions of the Thanksgiving Mite Challenge.
The kids played their hearts out and really deserve this win and if you see them around the rink please congratulate them.