B’s Invade Edmonton
EDMONTON, AB-The 2002 Junior Bruins “Brick” team landed in the heart of Wild Rose Country on Friday and Saturday in preparation for the 2012 Brick Super Novice Invitational. The Brick is as good as it gets when hit comes to amateur hockey. No tournament boasts the talent the Brick does nor the production level of the games. All that surrounds the tournament is at the highest level possible. The top 2002′s from all parts of North America are represented in Edmonton and the level of play, pace and talent on ice is “off the charts”.
The team’s last two week have had its share of ups and downs and the travel to Edmonton was no different. Two weeks ago, just prior to the Icebreaker tournament the team lost its leading scorer and one of the top, if not the top, player who would have been at the Brick in forward Thor Griffith. In its final weekend tournament in preparing for the Brick the team struggled to score in its final two games and were bounced in the semi finals. That was a wake up call for the team and they recognized they had a lot of work to do to reestablish their identity.
The team responded and had a great week of practice adjusting to the new lineup and looked to be prepared for the start of round robin play on Monday (July 2). The team had an exhibition at the West Edmonton Mall, site of all tournament games, on Sunday but they were shorthanded for that game as well as the team’s travel issues prevented a full lineup. Traveling to Edmonton this year saw one player, Ian Moore, not make it till Sunday night with plane delay issues and three others having to wait for their equipment to arrive in time. Yet another player had to adjust their flights to get to Chicago and then had to drive to Edmonton, 12 hours, in order to make it for the exhibition Sunday morning with the Winnipeg Jr. Jets.
Sunday morning, missing Moore who was stuck in Calgary waiting for his equipment to make it, played very well for the first 33 minutes of the game with the
Jets, one of the pre tournament favorites. A Phil Tresca goal tied the game at 1-1 in the second period but the B’s ran out of gas in the final six minutes and lost 3-1.
The team then spent the rest of the day Sunday checking out the mall, playing golf and hitting the pool.
Monday, July 2
Detroit Jr. Red Wings-3
The B’s came into this game having scored only two goals in their last nine periods, so the team was still looking to click offensively and needing to do it against a team as strong as the Wings would be no easy task.
The B’s had tied and lost to the Wings in the Toronto Invitational in late April of this year so the teams were familiar with each. The B’s got off to a great start in the first 5 minutes with two scoring flurries but came up empty and the offensive frustration continued. The teams would end the first tied at 0-0 with the B’s with a narrow 5-4 SOG advantage.
The Wings got on the board first when the B’s lost a neutral zone face-off at the start of the 2nd and gave up an odd man rush that resulted in a rebound goal. Just two minutes later the Wings would score a power play goal and the 2-0 lead, given the teams scoring drought, looked larger than it was. The B’s, proving to be a resilient group, got on the board and cut the lead in half when Matt Powers went top shelf from the left point on the power play. The play was executed just had you would draw it up. Off the face-off Matt Beniers won the draw back to the left point, Powers then slid it to Alex Nazarian across the blue line who quickly moved it back to Powers who ripped a wrist shot that found the net. The Wings goalie, never saw it, as the B’s forwards all did a good job screening him and clogging up the slot.
Momentum looked to be on the B’s side with that goal…but it was short lived. Very short lived. On the ensuing face-off the Wings skated down the ice after a neutral zone turnover that led to a near breakaway and goal just 13 seconds later.
The score stayed that way into the third and that is when the B’s, who had played well over the first two periods, played their best in over a month in the final frame. Carrying the play and out shooting the red and white by a 13-6 margin they stormed back and tied the game. The lead was cut to 3-2 when Jacob Waterman banged home a rebound on the power play five minutes into the period with Beniers and Collin Graf assisting on the goal. Less than two minutes later Graf took a chipped puck off the defensive zone wall from Charlie Spence and raced down the right wing lane into the Wings zone and ripped a shot, short side, tying the game.
The B’s then had two great scoring chances late in the game but couldn’t capitalize and the game ended in that 3-3 tie. While the team played their best game since mid May it would not have picked up the point and the tie were it not for the stellar play of goalie Mason Kucenski who was very sharp all game and made a handful of big time saves.
“The players did a great job not getting down on the bench when they scored to make it 3-1. There was a big shift in the momentum at that point and the kids did a great job keeping their composure and sticking to the game plan,” coach Chris Masters commented. “The showed a lot of heart and character coming back the way they did, they deserve a lot of credit.”
Up next is a Tuesday tilt with the Atlantic Selects.
Tuesday, July 3
Atlantic Canada Selects-1
The Bruins continued their strong play from Monday, in the third period especially, in a convincing 4-1 win against the Atlantic Canada Selects. The B’s got off to a good start scoring the first goal of the game for the first time in their last five when Aidan O’Leary finished off a beautiful play that saw four players touch the puck before it found the back of the net. Linemates Zach Stewart and Nick Amaya earned helpers on the goal and staked the B’s to a 1-0 lead. The period would end with that score and the black an gold with an 8-2 SOG advantage.
In the second it was O’Leary again who skated down the right wing side of the ice and ripped a shot that had so much steam on it that the Selects goalie couldn’t handle and it found its way over the goal line for a 2-0 lead.The teams would head to the dressing room and the B’s were just 15 minutes away from picking up their first “W” of the tournament.
With just over five minutes to play the B’s got sloppy in their own zone and out of positional defensively and the Selects cut the lead in half. Just as they did the day before they answered back quickly as Collin Graf picked up a Matt Beniers cycle in the right wing corner and ripped a shot, short side shelf, that brought the score to 3-1.
The Selects made a push in the final minute pulling the goalie trying to score two quick ones and salvage a tie. Beniers picked up his second assist of the game when he found Phil Tresca open in the neutral zone and Tresca skated over the red line, to assure there wouldn’t be an icing called if he missed the net, and snapped a shot from just over the blue line that found the dead center of the empty net and put the game out of reach, 4-1.
“The players did a great job, are playing with enthusiasm, getting to pucks first and are wining a lot of 1-1 battles,” coach Masters commented following the game. “You can see the confidence coming back to the team and seeing the Stewart, O’Leary and Amaya line lead the way early was a big key for us. It was nice to play with a lead and put some pressure on the other team instead
of playing from behind. We will need to continue to make a push to get better with each game…it doesn’t get an easier on Wednesday against Toronto Pro Hockey.”
The B’s have a big game with Toronto Pro Hockey on Wednesday. Pucks drops at 10:50 AM.
Wednesday, July 4
Pro Hockey Development (Toronto)-2
The B’s celebrated Independence Day with a late morning test with the 2-0 Pro Hockey Development (PHD) team out of Toronto. A turning point came in the early stages of the game when the B’s let a PHD player wide open in front of goalie Mason Kucenski. Kucenski was down and out, having made a save on a shot from his right side. The loose puck ends up on the stick of the PHD forward with a totally wide open net. Kucenski, somehow, flashed out his glove (see picture) and made a miraculous save that kept the score at 0-0.
The B’s would have to come from behind again as PHD made it 1-0 halfway through the first period. The team did not have a good first and needed a change in their effort and compete level or they would have had a long game. The made that change and slowly, shift by shift, turned the momentum their way and got back into the game. They tied the game when Nolan Hayes found a blocked shot in the slot and ripped it to the net making it 1-1.
The Bruins went to sleep for a few seconds and didn’t get to a rebound in the slot and PHD made it 2-1 just a minute after the Bruins had tied the game. The Bruins went back to work but couldn’t tie the game and headed to the locker room down 2-1 and needing another strong third period to come out of the game with points.
They did just that and got the game tying goal on a highlight reel goal off the stick of Brett Berard. Berard was fed the puck from Matt Powers and worked his way down the left wing. As he entered the offensive zone he toe tucked and undressed a PHD defensemen, walked around him and then ripped a laser top shelf to make it 2-2. It may well be the goal of the tournament to date.
This tie would not come easy as the Bruins were called for a very questionable call with 1:28 left and would need to kill of the power play to ensure they walked away with a point. The quartet of Matt Beniers, Phil Tresca, Ian Moore and Matt Powers did a masterful job of killing off the penalty and not giving up a shot in the process.
Kucenski, who made 17 saves, was named the #1 star of the game.
“Another great effort,” Coach Masters commented. “They just do what they need to each game to get points and put themselves in a position to win games. We control our own destiny and that is what you want at the halfway point of this tournament. Thursday is a big day playing two very tough teams so we will need to continue to execute and outwork teams.”
Thursday has the Bruins playing the Minnesota Blades in the morning and the Chicago Jr. Blackhawks in the nightcap. A good day for the Bruins and they could lock up a spot in the playoffs.
Thursday, July 5
The Bruins came out and played their worst period of the tournament and they could never recover from the 2-0 hole they found themselves in against Minnesota. The Blades scored goals just two minutes apart early in the opening period and were out shot by a 7-3 margin and thoroughly outplayed.
The B’s got it going in the second and played an even period but could not close the deficit and headed into the third needing a big comeback.
They played their best in the final stanza, out shooting Minnesota 6-2 but could not solve goalie Corbin Hillman, and were shutout for the first time in the team’s Brick history. The Blades added a late empty net goal to close out the scoring at 3-0.
“We came out flat and we are not built to play catch up from a two goal deficit. The players have been great all week and we still control our own destiny but now have a smaller margin for error. What I have learned about this team is that they are a resilient bunch and I am sure they will come out and play tough tonight,” coach Masters commented.
Thursday, July 5
Chicago Jr. Blackhawks-1
Thursday night was the start of the playoffs, for all intents and purposes, as the B’s this year need to win their final two round robin games to advance. A loss and the team was 100% out and a tie made it all but impossible to advance. A tie meant they would need help from three different teams and would still need to beat Saskatchewan and would need to win big.
The game with the Blackhawks turned out to be one of the best of the tournament. The teams battled for 39 minutes and put tons of rubber on net (Chicago: 23 SOG/Bruins: 21 SOG) and the game ended with both teams pulling the goalie and playing 6 on 6. Chicago also needed a win to control their own destiny but a tie could still see them advance with less help from other teams.
The Bruins got out to a 1-0 lead when Matt Beniers collected a Charlie Spence pass in the slot and beat Chicago goalie Nicholas Addante. Mason Kucenski was brilliant in net in the second period making 11 saves. “We got tremendous play from both Mason and Drew (Commesso) all tournament,” coach Masters commented “and at this tournament you certainly need it. With scoring at a premium we couldn’t afford to have either goalie not be at their best and we got that from them.”
In the third the B’s poured it on putting 13 shots on net but never getting that elusive second goal. The ‘Hawks scored a power play goal about halfway through the third to tie the game and that made for a furious finish to the game.
With about 1:30 remaining the B’s pulled Kucenski for the extra attacker and then with :20 left Chicago pulled their goalie as well. We have seen that once before, at the junior level, at a summer tournament where both teams needed a win and played 6 on 6. Tournament Director, Craig Styles, who has been at the Brick since day one, 23 years ago, said it was a tournament first that both teams had pulled their goalie.
When neither team scored on the empty net the game ended in a 1-1 tie and 34 players left the ice crushed that their tournament hopes looked bleak.
“The kids played their hearts out,” Masters continued, “and to come out with the effort they did, having already played a game 8 hours earlier and Chicago playing their first game of the day, is all we can ask for as coaches. The game had a great pace to it, big plays, great saves and certainly a crazy finish with both goalies pulled.”
The B’s now need a Minnesota win, a Detroit win and they need to make up a 10 goal differential between the B’s and Pro Hockey.
Friday, July 6
Saskatchewan Jr. Pats-2
The B’s got ready for their final round robin game knowing they needed a win a lot of help. What they could control was the game with the Pats, the team that narrowly edged them out a year ago for the final playoff spot in their division.
The Bruins came out focused and ready to play and controlled the game from start to finish even though they entered the third period tied. Phil Tresca had a big game scoring two and adding an assist and he got the scoring started in the first finishing off a Brett Berard play.
The Pats tied the game minutes into the second period but the tied was short lived as Nick Amaya put the B’s back up 2-1. Collin Graf and Ian Moore assisted on the Amaya goal. The pesky Pats tied it up shortly thereafter and the teams headed to the locker room tied at 2-2.
In the third the B’s pulled away and finished the tournament on a very strong note. Ryan Prewitt ripped a shot from the point and that proved to be the game winning goal. Matt Powers and Matt Beniers both picked up assists on the go ahead goal. Tresca finished off his three point game when he put the game out of reach with under two minutes to play, with Berard and Graf picking up their second helpers of the game.
Not lost in the game was a big time save by Drew Commesso in the third when the game was still tied (pictured right). The Pats went in alone on a breakaway and Commesso flashed his right pad to make a big time save and keep the game tied and gave the team a spark to score the final two of the game and skate off with a “W”.
The B’s spent Friday playing golf as well as hitting the track while they awaited their fate and if they would get some help to sneak into the playoffs. The wait wasn’t long as Pro Hockey, who needed to lose big, beat Minnesota and ended the B’s hopes.
“For the second year in a row our guys stood toe to toe with the top teams and players in North America and the kids have a lot to be proud of,” coach Masters commented following the tournaments conclusion. “The line between winning and losing at the Brick is so razor thin that for the second year in a row our fate was decided by one goal. Had we scored one more or given up one less in any of our three ties this year we would have advanced to the playoffs. It goes to show you how hard it is to win at this level where every team is strong and every mistake seems to be capitalized on and the preparation for the Brick starts years in advance and the practices and tournaments leading up to the event are so critical.”
“There is no better youth hockey tournament in the world and the experience and memories the players and their families have will last a lifetime. This was a great group of players and families and they made for a memorable spring.”
The 2002 Junior Bruins “Brick” team ended with a 16-4-4 record.
The team finished the tournament with a 2-1-3 record and in a tie for third place. A year ago the B’s were tied for first place with a 3-1-2 record and lost a tie breaker that would have advanced them to the playoffs (in 2011 only two teams advanced while three advanced in 2012). So, for the second year in a row, the Boston boys were a tough team to beat only losing one game in each of their first two Brick tournaments. Their 5-2-5 record (15 points) over the last two years was only bettered by the Toronto Bulldogs (20 points), Chicago Jr. Blackhawks (17 points) and tied with Vancouver/CT. Yankees/Detroit (15 points).
2011 & 2012 Cumulative Records
- Toronto Bulldogs: 9-1-2 (20 points)
- Chicago Jr. Blackhawks: 7-2-3 (17 points)
- Boston Junior Bruins: 5-2-5 (15 points)
- CT. Yankees: 6-3-3 (15 points)
- Vancouver Jr. Canucks: 5-2-5 (15 points)
- Detroit Jr. Red Wings: 5-2-5 (15 points)
- Toronto Pro Hockey: 5-4-3 (13 points)
- Saskatchewan Jr. Pats: 4-5-3 (11 points)
- Winnipeg Jr. Jets: 4-5-3 (11 points)
- Team Brick Alberta: 4-6-2 (10 points)
- Minnesota Blades: 4-6-2 (10 points)
- Montreal Ice Storm: 3-8-1 (5 points)
- Atlantic Canada Selects: 2-9-1 (5 points)
- California: 1-9-2 (3 points)
The Junior Bruins will continue their selection process for the 2003 Brick team and the 2014 Brick team at the Brick Training & Evaluation Camp in August.