Pat Cruickshank has about a week to re-acquaint himself with his loved ones before he’ll be back at the rink in his role as Silver Stick Tournament Director.
“Yeah, I’ll definitely get back to seeing the family for a bit,” Cruickshank said Monday. “Then I’ll go back to living at the rink.”
If the second weekend of the tournament — which will be Jan. 22-25 — goes as smoothly as the first, Cruickshank and the rest of the officials who run the tournament will be very pleased. The first weekend, which began this past Thursday and wrapped up Sunday evening, featured no major incidents, games running pretty well on time, agreeable weather conditions, and good hockey.
“We’re very happy with how things went,” co-Tournament Director Nick Prevost said. “With the teams on the ice, we had no major issues. The committee chairs ran smooth; the volunteers ran smooth.
“The weather was a little cold for us, but the snow held up. Usually it never fails that every Silver Stick weekend, we have a major snowstorm.”
Cruickshank credited the volunteers who work long hours at the tournament to make the tournament go. He said he received several compliments on how smooth the operation is.
“We couldn’t do this without the volunteers, how well they do,” Cruickshank said. “They’re the ones who make it run smooth.”
The good hockey — and a team in each final that hailed from Detroit and featured Blue Water Area players — helped to bring in quite a crowd on Sunday. There is no admission for Silver Stick, so there is no official attendance figure, but a rough estimate would put it between 1,200 to 1,500 people at McMorran Arena on the final day.
“I was impressed with the crowd for the final two games,” Cruickshank said. “A lot of local people came down to watch it, along with the parents.”
The Bantam AAA final was the highlight of the tournament, as the Chicago Mission defeated Honeybaked 4-3 in double overtime. Brady Smith’s goal in the final two minutes of the second overtime ended a game that featured hard-hitting, back-and-forth action which left fans on the edge of their seats.
Some other tournament highlights:
•Obviously one has to look at Little Caesars, which featured four players from the Blue Water Area, winning the PeeWee AAA tournament. Fort Gratiot’s Jacob Truscott, St. Clair’s Mark Estapa and Marysville’s Tiernan and Travis Shoudy were not just members of the team, but played an integral role in Caesars taking home the title with a 5-0 win against the ISS Kings.
While the relatively drama-free final may not have been the climax of the tournament for fans, Little Caesars battled to a 2-1 overtime win against the North York Rangers in the quarterfinals, and held off the Chicago Mission with a 5-4 win in the semifinals.
•The Bantam AAA final wasn’t the longest game of the tournament, as that honor went to the Bantam AAA quarterfinal between the York Simcoe Express and Toronto Red Wings who played three overtimes. The Express ended the game with a goal early in the third overtime to win 5-4.
•For the first time since 2012, the AAA finals didn’t feature a Canadian team. That year, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Jr. Knights defeated the St. Louis Blues in the Bantam AAA final, while the Chicago Mission defeated Little Caesars in the PeeWee AAA final. The last time that had happened prior to 2012 was 2001.
•There’s a lot of talk leading up to Silver Stick about which players have gone on to the NHL, but from our viewing, here’s a list of some to watch in the future (this is a very small list, because we are not hockey scouts):
Honeybaked Bantam AAA defenseman Bode Wilde: He’s big, fast and good at seeing an opportunity to jump into the play offensively. He took a shot in overtime of the final that went bar down, but hit the ice just outside of the goal line before bouncing harmlessly away. Had there not been a goal, and glass and buildings in front of him, the shot probably would have wound up in Canada.
Honeybaked Bantam AAA goaltender Christian Stoever: It was his counterpart, the Chicago Mission’s Nicholas Grabko, who made the game-defining save in the final, and his teammate Zach Borgiel of Fort Gratiot who won a Silver Stick title as a PeeWee, but Stoever was incredible under pressure for Honeybaked in the final, and earned game MVP honors despite the loss. Honeybaked has had a good amount of success with goalies, too (Jack Campbell and C.J. Motte to name a couple).
North York Rangers PeeWee AAA goaltender Nicolas Sangha: He was lights out against Little Caesars in the quarterfinal, willing his team into overtime against the top-ranked team in the United States.
Syracuse Nationals PeeWee AAA forward Ryan Kirwan: None of us were able to see him, but he scored seven goals in his team’s first two games of the tournament. That has to count for something.
Contact Paul Costanzo at (810) 989-6251 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s on Twitter @PaulCostanzo.
INTERNATIONAL SILVER STICK FINALS
•The showcase of youth hockey moves to Sarnia this weekend, with action in Atom (age 9 and 10) and Midget (ages 14-15).
•Competition returns to Port Huron next week (Jan. 22-25) with play in Pee Wee (players born after Jan. 1, 2001) and Bantam (born after Jan. 1, 1999).