As the Atom development hockey team prepared to head over to Merritt for a weekend tournament, sickness weighed heavy on their minds. Three players were struggling against serious flu symptoms.
With two wins and two losses heading into the final, the Atom kids were looking to beat opposing Quesnel for third. For two periods, the Atom players fought for a goal. Finally, in the second period, Quesnel snapped one in at 13:30. Princeton was unable to shoot one by Quesnel’s big goalie – the human refrigerator.
Third period was different. Coach Ryan O’Neil put out a strong line off the get go. Austin O’Neil, Liam Zieske, Marcus, Brodie, Grant Yee and Quinn Clark lined up for the face-off and boy were they ready. Forty eight seconds later, #13 O’Neil had tied the game. Quesnel clawed their way back and a little over a minute later were up one again. The score was 1-2 Quesnel.
The tides changed soon after. Assisted by #12 Kirk Scallon and #10 Mason O’Neil, Austin tied the game. At 11:29, #7 Keaton Fraser and #4 Case Brodie hustled the puck up ice and to the Quesnel net. Matt Maynard was in position for a rebound and snapped it over the goal line giving his team their first lead. At 10:43, Princeton rallied again. Case Brodie assisted with #18 Zieske for another O’Neil goal. Austin now had a hat trick.
The big goalie from Quesnel who had stymied his opponents for two periods was slowing down. At 8:19, it was Zieske’s turn. Scallon and O’Neil assisted. Next up was a hard skate for #2 Marcus Brodie. A long pass from defenceman Grant Yee to Brodie found net, and at 8:05, the Minor Posse were tightening the noose on Quesnel.
For the next five minutes, both teams scrambled, smacking the puck out of their end. Then, at 3:04 Marcus and Keaton assisted another Austin goal. Next defenceman Clarke dug out the puck and passed it off to Fraser. Fraser found Austin and Austin found a gap. The game ended with 8-2 for Princeton and a trophy for third place in the tournament.
Keaton Fraser, Austin O’Neil, Carson Thibert, Case Brodie and Grant Yee all received Player of the Game toques during the tournament. The “Mighty” Quinn Clarke battled the puck away from opponent after opponent deep in his own end. Nathan Silbernagel, Austin O’Neil and Marcus Brodie played both offense and defense adding value to both positions. Grant Yee was a solid and psychologically frustrating D man. His calm straight up style and fast skating kept opponents from reaching Princeton’s goalie. Case Brodie showed his opponents he had some wheels and strength. Trenton Vegara knocked many pucks away forcing the opponents to regroup over and over. Mason O’Neil and Keaton Fraser were the two youngest players. They raced up and down the ice and found opportunity after opportunity to play good hockey. Kirk Scallon’s sheer determination made him a strong player. He added to his points balance. Forward Matt Maynard got out front of the net and stayed there when he could. Liam Zieske and Carson Thibert used their fast skating to rush the ice many times. Their speed tired the other players. Jayden Simon and Jett Larsen kept pucks out of their net and end as much as possible. Even when they were down, they never gave up. Both boys were solid in net.
“It came down to who wanted that trophy the most,” said Coach Ryan O’Neil. “I kept reminding the kids that there was a trophy waiting for the team who won. They played hard the whole game and were all dripping in sweat when they hit the dressing room. I think this was their best game all season and they deserved the trophy…sick and all.”