The whole organization should be proud of us, as we know the Red team has received a lot of praise throughout the year as well. Way to go both Squirt teams
Six months of hard work, solid development and team bonding on the ice culminated in a weekend to remember for both Florida Junior Panthers Squirt A squads at the SAHOF Championships.
When the ice shavings settled at the Palm Beach Skate Zone in Lake Worth, two of the top three teams in the state called the Panthers Ice Den home, with the Squirt A Blue team finishing second and the Squirt A Red finishing third. It marked a combined 11 times this season out of 12 possible championship games in tournament play that the Junior Panthers were represented.
Opposing coaches, players and parents from the six other teams in the Gold Division paid homage to the quality of play exhibited by the Junior Panthers with constant praise, and the SAHOF organizers called Sunday morning’s semifinal between Blue and Red the most exciting game of the weekend.
Based on how the two teams fared against each other in seven previous head-to-head meetings, it came as no surprise that this final showdown went to overtime. Jake Gelman’s goal in the extra 10-minute sudden death period lifted the Blue team to a 4-3 victory and a spot in the championship later that afternoon against the Jacksonville Jets, which the Jets won 7-2 to claim the title.
But the semifinal had all of the drama, with the Red team storming back from a 3-0 deficit to force overtime. Goaltender C.J. Sehlke turned in another stellar performance in net to keep Red in the game, making a number of acrobatic saves, while his Blue counterpart, Justin Howerter, matched him on the other end of the ice with quality stops of his own. The end result led to an identical 3-3-2 record against each other this season for Red and Blue.
Each and every player on both benches made their presence known throughout the weekend, with courageous performances all over the place. Last week’s two-day cold snap resulted in a fair share of runny and stuffed noses, sore throats, coughs and sinus blocks. Hockey players are notoriously tough, so a measly cold wasn’t going to keep any of the boys off the ice.
Opening night of the tournament saw both teams pitch shutouts, with Blue blanking the Daytona Racers, 2-0, and Red pulling away from the Palm Beach Blackhawks, 5-0. The next morning, Blue took care of the Junior Everblades by a 5-1 score and Red knocked off a tough Clearwater Scorpions team, 4-1. Saturday afternoon’s games didn’t go well for either squad, as Blue fell 6-1 to the Jets and Red came up short against the Orlando Junior Knights Major, 4-1.
That set up Sunday morning’s epic battle, as Red claimed the top seed in the A bracket After all three teams finished 2-1.. by virtue of a better goal differential over the Junior Knights and the Scorpions after all three times ended round robin play with identical 2-1 records. Blue was the No. 2 seed in the B bracket.
In addition to Gelman and Howerter, goaltender Noah Merrick, defensemen Lucca Casacci, Maddox Damiani, Barry Kent, Brandon Renaud and Leo Wites and forwards Noah Lasker, Wyatt Levy, Michael McCoy, Austin Moran, Christian Renaud, Brad Shapiro and Kristian Snowden excelled for head coach John Griffin’s Blue team. Casacci and Kent also took some shifts at forward and Shapiro selflessly moved back to defense on Sunday when it became clear that an under-the-weather Kent wasn’t 100 percent and was limited in his ice time. Assistant coaches Jared Merrick and Brian Renaud had to get creative with the lineups and answered the call for Griffin.
Meanwhile for head coach Marco Sturm’s Red team, netminder Jake Rudolph was equal to the task and he and Sehlke got plenty of help from defensemen Garrett Cerda, Linus Gustafsson-Persson, Emil Kaustinen, Tanner Levin and Mason Sturm. Forwards Kyle Ames, Bradley Benson, Justin Hooper, Oscar Linden, Jece McKinney, Bennett Rainone, Reese Schlageter, Cole Vaccarella and Justin Wild were very effective on offense. Wild and Levin were among those players battling a cold who toughed it out all weekend. Assistant coaches Randy Hooper and Rich Rainone ran things from the bench while Sturm was being honored in Santa Clara, California at the outdoor hockey game between his former team, the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings.
Now the two teams can reflect on what was an incredibly successful 2014-15 season. The Blue players can hold their heads high knowing that they played a very tough Jets team close for two periods and can lay claim to being the No. 2 team in the entire state of Florida
Try out dates are as follows:
WEDNESDAY MARCH 11:
THURSDAY MARCH 12:
From Oscar® nominated and Emmy award-winning filmmakers, RED ARMY is a feature documentary about the Soviet Union and the most successful dynasty in sports history: the Red Army hockey team. Told from the perspective of its captain Slava Fetisov, the story portrays his transformation from national hero to political enemy. From the USSR to Russia, the film examines how sport mirrors social and cultural movements and parallels the rise and fall of the Red Army team with the Soviet Union. RED ARMY is an inspiring story about the Cold War played out on the ice rink, and a man who stood up to a powerful system and paved the way for change for generations of Russians.
Gabe Polsky (Director of RED ARMY) grew up in Glencoe, IL and put on his first pair of skates at the age of six. He played hockey competitively throughout his youth, first as a Winnetka Warrior and ultimately for Yale University. Gabe has a lot of Chicago pride and is a huge Blackhawks fan. The chance to bring RED ARMY to his hometown is an enormous gift.
RED ARMY will be released on Friday, February 6 in the following theaters: