Rangers assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson has seen it all in his lifetime of hockey, both as a player and now as a coach. But one thing he loves to see the most? His four children taking the ice.
His youngest, 15-year-old Adam, recently won Gold for Team USA at the 2016 Youth Olympics in Lilliehammer, Norway. Although he wasn't’t be able to see the games live, it’s another moment this hockey dad will cherish.
“He’s been working hard at it,” Ulf said prior to the tournament. “This is a real fun opportunity for Adam to go over there and play with some really good players, and against some really good players.”
The youngest of four children, hockey has been around Adam since birth. His two older brothers, Philip and Henrik, are both currently playing in the Arizona Coyotes organization, while their sister, Victoria, is playing college hockey at Penn State.
Adam said he learned a lot from his family, namely to never take anything for granted, both in life and on the ice.
“Just to be humble,” Adam said when asked what his siblings and father taught him. “I learned a lot from them to not be cocky or anything.
“I get a lot of support, especially from my dad and mom,” Adam continued. “Me and my dad go over the games a lot, see what I can improve on. My mom just helps me with everything. I can talk to her about everything.”
The elder Samuelsson, who spent 16 seasons in the National Hockey League, including two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the early 1990s, said for he and his wife, Jeanette, their proud of what their children have accomplished thus far playing the game they love.
“We’re obviously really proud of our children,” he said. “Every parent is. Hockey has been phenomenal to us. Look at the things I’ve done personally. Me and my life have gone through my whole career and now get to enjoy the same thing through our four children. We’re really blessed that we’re able to stick with hockey. We really love it.”
But why? What is it about this game that has been such a cornerstone on the Samuelsson family? Ulf said it goes beyond the game itself.
“There’s a lot of fun with hockey, not necessarily just the sweat and the work,” he said. “It’s the group, the camaraderie. There’s so many fun things with hockey. You can pick any of them as your favorite.”
Adam, who plays defense for the Connecticut Junior Rangers, said he began to take the sport more seriously around 11. Today, he’s working out three times a week with his teammates, quite a change from just a few years earlier. But while the game is becoming more work as he moves up the ladder, the defenseman was quick to offer advice to youth hockey players.
“Just go out there and have some fun with your friends,” he said. “That’s what I’ve always been doing. That’s the biggest advice I would say to them.”
While the game is getting more serious for Adam, Ulf said that was never the goal when Adam was younger. Like Adam said, it was about fun.
“Nothing was ever serious,” Ulf said. “It was ‘you want to play? Play.’ It comes to that point when you’re 13 or 14 when it’s like ‘OK, mom is taking you at 4 in the morning somewhere, you better play your [butt] off.’ Those were the only rules we had. Other than that, we had so much fun.”
Following their victory over Baie-Comeau the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) had advanced to the Quebec Tournament’s AA quarter-final round. History makes clear that each stage of tournament becomes more difficult, and the New York coaching staff was well aware of that as the team prepared to face LSA Select Suisse Romande, the Leysin Sports Academy Selects from the Romande section of Switzerland. Hockey in Switzerland has skyrocketed in recent years. NHL players Roman Josi, Mark Streit, Jonas Hiller, and Nino Niederreiter are all proof of that. The LSA Selects were further proof as they won their first two tournament games - one against the San Jose Jr. Sharks and the other vs. Finland’s Espoo Jr. Blues - by a combined score of 9-3. The Swiss had few holes. They were big, fast, and skilled. But the Americans had stared down adversity in their two prior games winning both by shutouts. The Friday evening tilt at the Videotron Center promised to be a hard fought battle, and that’s exactly what it turned out to be.
Before the game, the coaching staff reminded the New York team that there were three important tasks to perform: 1) swarm on the forecheck; 2) play strong down low to protect the American net; and 3) battle hard along the boards. Once again, Katie Desa, two tournament shutouts to her credit, was in goal for the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA). As the game began, she and her teammates held firm against an early Swiss onslaught. The Swiss, as expected, had come out aggressively. Just seven minutes in, they picked up their second penalty of the period. The first one wasn’t costly, but the second one was as Connor Welsh won a draw in the Swiss end. Defenseman Owen Kroboth moved the puck to Michael Mumm who sent it over to Welsh who batted it home. The New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) took a 1-0 lead at 7:13 of the first period. Yet little more than two minutes later, the Swiss replied with a seeing-eye screen shot from the point that somehow made its way into the Americans net. The first period ended 1-1.
At 2:25 into the second period the Swiss, on a quick shot from the slot, scored again to take a 2-1 advantage. Though it didn’t feel that way at the time, with more than half the game still to be played, that was the end of the scoring this night. What followed for the better part of the two remaining periods was hard-fought, up and down hockey, with a number of penalties called on both sides by a ref who seemed to have a rather idiosyncratic understanding of the rule book. The most egregious moment came when a Swiss player took a headlong run at goaltender Katie Desa early in the third period. Unflappable, Katie collected herself and continued to do what she does best -stopping the puck.
The power plays, penalty kills, and 4-on-4s changed the momentum of the game and the rotation of the lines. There were numerous stops and starts. Every American gave it everything he or she had. Captain Nicholas Zocco worked every shift, forechecking and backchecking to the max. The defensemen, Lukas Klemm, Mika Petersen, Alex Luff, Shea Thibault, and Owen Kroboth were stalwarts shift after shift. All the forwards – Beanie Richter, Tristan Aitkenhead, Michael Mumm, Joey Potter, Connor Welsh, Oliver Flynn, James Walker, Douglas Messier, Tatum Fitzmaurice, and the aforementioned captain Zocco played with total effort and heart.
The New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) pulled out all the stops and had back-to-back powerplay advantages in the game’s final three minutes. With the goaltender replaced by an extra skater, everything was thrown at the Swiss net, but their goaltender made some key saves. The final horn sounded, and the Swiss emerged victorious, squeaking out the 2-1 win.
For the New York Americans(Pee Wee Rangers AA) the 2016 International Pee Wee Tournament of Quebec was over, but the memories, accomplishments, and the lessons learned will remain throughout their lives. Over the games and practices, the boys, individually and as a team, made huge progress. Off the ice, at the Cabane Sucre or tubing or just exploring the streets of old Quebec, the fun and opportunities were equally as great.
In the seven games, including exhibitions, played over nine days in Quebec, the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) went 5-2 with 21 goals for and only 8 against. A special mention goes to goaltender Gavin Moffatt, who played brilliantly in the exhibition games and supported his teammates unselfishly throughout the tournament.
At the end of the day, the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) fell short of their dream of a championship. But that’s what can happen in a single-game elimination tournament where the bounce of the puck can make all the difference. All players on the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) achieved their goal of developing their skills under the glaring spotlight of the greatest Pee Wee tournament in the world. The memories and lessons learned from Old Quebec will never be forgotten.
There was no mistaking the magnitude of the task at hand. Belle Tire entered the 2016 International Pee Wee Tournament of Quebec as the prohibitive favorites at the AAA level. They are a club team that practices and plays together all year. In their first two tournament games, Belle Tire did nothing to change the predictions, winning both games by a combined score of 14-1. Though the odds were long, the New York Pee Wee Rangers, a select team, were undaunted as they arrived at the Videotron Center to prepare for the 9:15 a.m. puck drop. The Pee Wee Rangers had won their first two games by a combined score of 9-2, with a highly effective combination of scoring punch, solid defense, and excellent goaltending. There was also the factor that the Pee Wee Rangers wore the BlueShirts colors so proudly. Both teams would be ready for this winners’ bracket quarter-final matchup, of that there was no doubt.
It’s a tribute to the love that the people of Quebec City have for hockey and the importance of the tournament that more than 6,000 people were in the stands this Friday morning. There was definitely an electric atmosphere as the game got underway. In the early going, as expected, Belle Tire came out swinging. Pee Wee Rangers goaltender Tommy Heaney, who had played so well and so calmly in the prior games, had to be at his best, and he was, turning aside repeated shots. But around the seven minute mark, the tide started to turn. New York was spending more time in the Detroit end. On one rush, the Belle Tire goalie misplayed the puck and left a gaping net wide open, but the Pee Wee Rangers were unable to cash in. Nevertheless, the New Yorkers pressed the attack and ended the scoreless first period strongly.
Sure enough, that momentum continued into the second period. Less than two minutes in, PJ Neal forced a turnover at the redline, pushed the puck ahead to himself, and charged in on a breakaway. The Detroit goalie was caught off guard as PJ’s wristshot went top-shelf to the goalie’s left. PJ Neal’s unassisted goal gave the underdog Pee Wee Rangers a 1-0 lead over mighty Belle Tire. It was the first time the Detroiters had trailed in the tournament. To their credit, Belle Tire responded - and quickly at that. A New York turnover in the Detroit end resulted in a rush up the left wing. At 3:29 of the second period, the game was tied 1-1. Back and forth action ensued, each team getting its chances. But with 1:34 left in the period, just as a Belle Tire powerplay ended, Detroit took advantage of puck possession in the Pee Wee Rangers end to take a 2-1 lead. That hurt, but another Detroit goal – just 26 seconds before the end of the period – hurt even more. A disappointed group of Pee Wee Rangers players, all of a sudden down 3-1, headed off to their lockerroom as the horn sounded.
Yet co-coaches Jeff Devenney and Noel Rubin, so well-attuned to the pulse of their players, wasted no time lifting spirts and making adjustments. Returning to a fresh sheet of ice with a fresh mindset, the Rangers were prepared to grind their way back in to the game. But aggressive play sometimes lead to penalties, and, sure enough, the Rangers drew one early in the third. Detroit sniper Adam Pietila connected on his second goal of the game to give Belle Tire a 4-1 lead. Regardless the Pee Wee Rangers fought on – taking chances, battling through, as the coaches and the players pulled out all the stops through the remainder of the game. And, oh they came close – a couple of hit posts, a couple of shots just wide, and, of course, some excellent saves by the Detroit goalie thwarted the New York comeback. The game would finish with the scoreboard reading 4-1 Detroit.
After the game, coach Devenney reminded his players that they were “all better players than when they got to Quebec last week.” He told them that they “wore the logo with pride, gave everything they had, and played unselfishly, and that’s all a coach can ask for.”
Coach Rubin thanked everyone from the bottom of his heart as he reminded the boys that “the luck of the draw and bad bounces” make a single-game elimination tournament that much harder.
Pee Wee Rangers captain PJ Neal reflected on the entire experience. He said, “It was amazing. Literally everything. The tubing, the billets, the Videotron Center, and the best hockey I’ve ever ever been a part of.”
For the New York Pee Wee Rangers the 2016 International Pee Wee Tournament of Quebec was over, but the memories, accomplishments, and the lessons learned will remain throughout their lives. Over the games and practices, the boys, individually and as a team, made huge progress. Off the ice, at the Cabane Sucre or tubing or just exploring the streets of old Quebec, the fun and opportunities were equally as great.
In the six games played over eight days in Quebec, the Pee Wee Rangers went 5-1 with 23 goals for and only 9 against. The goaltenders, Thomas Heaney and Daniel Gerst were excellent as were the defensemen Luke Lappe, Michael Rubin, Jake Geraci, Chase Ramsay, and Nicholas Wallace. The nine forwards – PJ Neal, Jake Bongo, Michael Emerson, Greg Spitznagel, Evan Brown, Dante Palombo, Daniel McKiernan, Joe Luff, and Jamison Moore – gave the Rangers timely scoring and committed backchecking every shift.
At the end of the day, the Pee Wee Rangers fell short of their dream of a championship. But that’s what can happen in a single-game elimination tournament where the bounce of the puck can make all the difference. Every player on the New York Pee Wee Rangers achieved his goal of developing his skills under the glaring spotlight of the greatest Pee Wee tournament in the world. The memories and lessons learned from Old Quebec will never be forgotten.
Moving on to the elimination games is a turning point in any tournament. With the importance of the task at hand firmly in their minds, the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) arrived at the Videotron Center with a sharp sense of purpose. The opposition this night would be the Drakkar from Baie-Comeau, Quebec. Baie-Comeau is small paper mill town on the St. Lawrence river, a little more than 240 miles northeast of Quebec City. “Drakkar” is the French word for Viking boat, an image of which is featured prominently on their crest. New York’s mission was to sink the Drakkar, and doing so would no doubt take a hard-skating effort.
With a crowd of more than 6,000 on hand for the 5:00 pm start, the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) fired an opening salvo at Baie-Comeau a few minutes into the first period with a strong shift from the line of Beanie Richter, Connor Welsh, and Michael Mumm, a shift which finished with a wicked Mumm slapshot that just missed the net. More pressure came as Douglas Messier stickhandled his way to a great chance and Nick Zocco followed with a strong bid as well. Despite New York’s effort, there was nothing to show for it, yet, on the scoreboard. At the other end, Katie Desa, coming off her strong performance in the first game of the tournament, appeared rock solid again this night. The first period ended with the score 0-0, and the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) on a powerplay.
Within seconds after the New York powerplay expired at the start of the second period, Tristan Aitkenhead, on his way to a very successful evening, pushed the puck over to Connor Welsh in the neutral zone. Welsh skated across the blue line, wheeled around the Drakkar net, and spotted Alex Luff in the slot. Luff fired a top-shelf wrister that flew past the Drakkar goalie’s shoulder. 1-0 New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA). Seven minutes later Tristan Aitkenhead was in the right place at the right time as he finished off a goal-mouth scramble that was assisted by Nick Zocco and Connor Welsh, who gained his second helper of the game. The scoreboard now read 2-0 in favor of New York. The Drakkar had a powerplay opportunity with 1:51 left in the second period and applied some real pressure, but Katie Desa and her teammates held firm to end the period with the two goal lead.
Back and forth action ensued at the start of the third period, but the critical moment of the game came midway in the period. A Drakkar skater pressing the attack from the left wing rang a high, hard shot off the crossbar narrowly missing a goal and the chance to pull Baie-Comeau within one. Sure enough, New York defenseman Owen Kroboth gathered the puck and slid it over to Tristan Aitkenhhead who alertly head-manned the puck sending Tatum Fitzmaurice in on a breakaway. Fitzmaurice shaked, baked, and lifted a beautiful backhander past the sprawling Baie-Comeau goaltender for a classic goal. 3-0 New York.
Yet there was still half a period to play. The Drakkar did all they could to get the puck past Katie Desa but to no avail, eventually pulling their goalie with more than two minutes left. Then, with 1:08 left to play, captain Nick Zocco applied the finishing touch with an empty-netter, Alex Luff and Oliver Flynn picking up the assists. The New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) skated off with a 4-0 victory, and the chance to play in the quarter-finals on Friday night. Very exciting stuff.
After the game, Nick Zocco pointed out the difference in the game saying, “We outworked them.” Coach Mark Messier agreed noting that “our kids skated really well. It was a complete team effort. Of course, we will need more of the same on Friday.”
After a day-off from hockey spent in a tubing winter paradise, the New York Pee Wee Rangers were back in action on Tuesday as they traveled out to the Quebec City suburb of Charlesbourg to a rink named after former NHL goaltender Rejean Lemelin. It was fitting, then, that a goaltender would feature in the game’s storyline, and that was certainly the case as Danny Gerts had a great day backstopping his team to a shutout win.
But there was more to the story than strong goaltending. This exhibition game against the Anaheim Jr. Ducks was a solid team effort across the board. Following their victory in the tournament opening game, the Pee Wee Rangers know their road will only get tougher as the week continues, and that attention to detail becomes more important every time out.
From the game-opening draw, the Pee Wee Rangers were on it. Nearly six minutes into the first period, Jamison Moore made a sharp pass to Joe Luff in the slot. Luff then awed the spectators as he practically did a 360 to spin away from his check and find Daniel McKiernan closing in on the net. Luff’s pass was right on the money and so was McKiernan’s shot to give New York a 1-0 lead. Just two minutes later, following a face-off in the Anaheim zone, Dante Palumbo deftly found the back of the net to make the score 2-0 Pee Wee Rangers, Evan Brown and Greg Spitznagel assisting.
That line continued its scoring ways in the second period when Dante Palumbo banged the puck over to Greg Spitznagel at the half-wall. Spitzy was nifty as he deked and dangled his way to the net and hung the Ducks goalie out to dry. 3-0 New York. Following a successful penalty kill, the Pee Wee Rangers continued to press the attack. The line of PJ Neal, Evan Brown, and Michael Emerson had some glorious chances but failed to cash in as the second period came to an end.
Just 65 seconds into the third period, defenseman Chase Ramsay, who continues to impress, joined the play and banged the puck past the Anaheim goalie to put the Pee Wee Rangers up 4-0. Joe Luff picked up his second assist of the game as did Jamison Moore. With a four goal lead in the closing minutes, the focus was now on Danny Gerts and preserving the shutout. Gerts throttled a Jr. Ducks two-on-one break and the three good shots that quickly followed it. Then with 2:18 left to go, the Ducks were awarded a powerplay. Nothing helps a penalty kill more than keeping the puck in the other team’s end, and that’s exactly what the Pee Wee Rangers did. The game finished 4-0, Danny Gerts skating off with the shutout.
Afterwards, Pee Wee Rangers co-coach Noel Rubin commented, “We were in full control. Our passing was great, and the defense held well. We had some great chances and could have scored more, but I’d much rather see us cash in when we play our next tournament game. Puck luck will come our way.”
That next tournament game comes on Thursday, February 18th against a strong team, the Chicago Young Americans. The Pee Wee Rangers practiced Tuesday afternoon, and will do so again on Wednesday to make sure they’re ready when the puck drops again for real on Thursday morning.
Like the legendary U.S. postal couriers of days gone by, neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow – and we had all three in Quebec City on Tuesday – could deter the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) as they faced-off against the Moncton Wildcats in an afternoon exhibition game at the Complexe Trois Glaces in Quebec City.
As we’ve seen in other games, the Canadian teams like to come out hard. In the early going, goaltender Katie Desa faced a barrage of shots and traffic through her crease. Nevertheless she easily held her ground, swatted the puck aside, and received more than enough moral and physical support from her teammates, who backed her up 100%.
Having spent the previous day away from the rink, romping in a tubing winter paradise, the New Yorkers were a little slow to find their legs, but when they did they came back hard at the Wildcats controlling the puck in the Moncton end of the ice. Nevertheless the first period ended 0-0.
It was much the same in the second period. Both teams had powerplay opportunities. Neither team was able to convert. At the mid-way point of the game, Katie Desa, who continues to shine in goal, was replaced by the equally capable Gavin Moffatt. Nothing changed. Moncton was thwarted on every attempt as backchecking forwards and a versatile defense corps consisting of Lukas Klemm, Mika Petersen, Alex Luff, Shea Thibault, Owen Kroboth, and Joey Potter continued their stalwart play. The second period ended with the score still deadlocked at 0-0.
At the beginning of the third period, goaltender Gavin Moffatt turned back a serious Moncton scoring threat. Both teams continued to trade chances, but this was a day that defense ruled the ice. At least until there were less than four minutes remaining in the game. Taking a feed from Tatum Fitzmaurice, Tristan Aitkenhead made a razor-sharp pass to Joey Potter, who was now playing forward. Potter closed in on the Moncton net and made no mistake to give the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) a 1-0 lead with just 2:15 remaining. As the final 135 seconds ticked down, the Wildcats were not only unable to score, they were unable to pull their goaltender as the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) kept them bottled up in their zone. Final score 1-0. The New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) grinded out a hard-fought win over Moncton, Katie Desa and Gavin Moffatt combining for a shutout victory.
But as soon as the game was over, attention turned to the task at hand: a real tournament game on Wednesday, February 17 against the Baie-Comeau Drakkar at the big house - the Videotron Center. From this point on, all tournament games are elimination games. The plan is to survive and advance.
As such, coach Mark Messier reminded his team that “it was critical to get rest,” and he set an early curfew for the players. Afterwards, the coach commented further saying, “We knew it was going to be a good, hard game for us. There were great chances on both sides. I was really happy with the pace. We’ll be ready for tomorrow.”
It’s St. Valentine’s Day in old Quebec City, and no better time than now to thank all the lovely mothers who do so much to support each and every member of the New York Pee Wee Rangers. You are all sweethearts and so very much appreciated. As romantic a place as Quebec City is, and it really is, it is also cold, really cold. This Sunday morning we woke to a polar-like -15 degrees Fahrenheit. But no matter the weather, the Pee Wee Rangers were fired up for their afternoon meeting with a team from Oakville, Ontario, who just happen to call themselves the Rangers as well.
So it was the New York Rangers vs. the Oakville Rangers at the magnificent new Videotron Center in the first game for both teams that really counts at the 2016 Pee Wee tournament. The outcome would determine the bracket and the path to a possible championship for either team. With more than 6,000 Pee Wee fans looking on as the teams took the ice, the chants of “Let’s Go Rangers” echoed down. Neither squad had a problem with that.
For the New York team, the only drawback going into the game was the absence of smooth-skating defenseman Nicholas Wallace who suffered an off-ice injury to his arm and would be out of commission. His teammates and coaches wished him well.
From the game-opening draw, it was pretty clear that New York had the better Rangers team this day. The Oakville goalie made two beautiful saves early on, and the Oakville squad even had an early powerplay chance but were unable to cash in. Soon after the penalty ended, Luke Lappe made a pretty pass to Greg Spitznagel who bobbed and weaved his way around Oakville’s skaters and goaltender to tuck the puck in the net for a 1-0 NY lead. Just 40 seconds later Michael Emerson capped off a scramble in the Oakville crease to give New York a 2-0 lead, Jake Bongo and Mike Rubin assisting. The first period ended with New York holding that two goal lead.
There was no scoring by either team in the second period. The biggest challenge for the New York Pee Wee Rangers in that frame was to kill off another penalty, and they did it with ease.
As the boys headed back to their dressing room for the second intermission, the concern for coaches Jeff Devenney and Noel Rubin was that the New York Pee Wee Rangers were losing focus. Between periods, the team was warned to stay sharp, and did that ever pay dividends. The result - a stunning three goal outburst in the first 4:06 of the third period.
Just moments after the opening face-off of the third, PJ Neal knocked the puck over to Jake Bongo, who made a beautiful pass to Michael Emerson, who connected for his second goal of the game. 3-0 Pee Wee Rangers. Less than a minute later Jamison Moore cleverly deflected a strong shot from Luke Lappe from the point. 4-0 Rangers. 2:05 after that, Greg Spitznagel converted on a goalmouth scramble for his second goal of the game as Mike Rubin gained another assist. 5-0 Pee Wee Rangers.
With 10:54 remaining in the game, the New York Pee Wee Rangers now led the Oakville Rangers 5-0. Goalie Thomas Heaney, spotless throughout, took a breather as stalwart New York goaltender Danny Gerts came on to get his work in. But the Pee Wee Rangers skaters were still firing away. At the 11:33 mark, Dante Palumbo pounced on a juicy rebound to make the score 6-0 Pee Wee Rangers – Evan Brown and Greg Spitznagel gaining assists. 40 seconds later, a beautiful Mike Rubin to Jamison Moore to Joe Luff passing combination resulted in a goal for Luff, and an assist for Moore and another assist for Rubin who now had three on the day.
The Oakville Rangers finally mustered a goal to complete the scoring. As the final horn sounded, the Pee Wee Rangers skated off the Videotron Center ice with a 7-1 triumph, and that guaranteed that all their remaining tournament games would be played in the “winners” bracket and all would be played at the big new building.
The New York Pee Wee Rangers victory was a total team effort: excellent goaltending from Tommy Heaney and Danny Gerts; super defense from Chase Ramsay, Jake Geraci, Mike Rubin, and Luke Lappe; and well-distributed scoring from all three lines. Nevertheless, after the game, coach Jeff Devenney was cautious as he told his team, “This is just the first step. The next game is going to be a lot harder. We must stay focused.”
Monday is a day off from the rink. Fortunately the temperature is starting to climb back up, and the kids will be having a ball on the tubing hills of the winter playground of Villages Vacances Valcartier. Then it’s back to hockey and taking care of business on Tuesday.
It’s St. Valentine’s Day in old Quebec City, and no better time to thank all the lovely moms who do so much to support each and every member of the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA). You are all sweethearts and much appreciated. As romantic a place as Quebec City is, and it really is, it is also cold, really cold. This Sunday morning we woke to a polar-like -15 degrees Fahrenheit. But no matter the weather, the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) were up at ‘em and headed back to the Galeries de la Capitale, the largest shopping center in eastern Canada, for an exhibition match with the Foreurs from Val-d’Or, Quebec. “Foreurs” means “Drillers,” and it’s an apt name for a team that came to the rink ready to rumble. Val-d’Or is a tiny town of just over 31,000 people about 450 miles northwest of Quebec City. It is a rugged mining town, and you can bet hockey plays a major role in daily life there.
As you might remember, the rink at the Galeries de la Capitale is in the middle of the shopping center, and it is surrounded by a roller-coaster. Roller-coasters go up and they go down. So do the fortunes of hockey teams. As easy as the exhibition was yesterday for the New York Americans, this game was tough. The Foreurs played hard and took an early 2-0 lead in the first period. On the second goal, Americans’ goaltender Katie Desa took a stray stick to the back of her head, leaving her momentarily stunned. In the process, Americans teammate Alex Luff was called for a cross-checking penalty in the goalmouth melee. Katie hung tough, stayed in the game, and helped to kill the penalty to see the period end with the Foreurs up 2-0.
At the start of the second period, Katie Desa made two more excellent saves leaving no doubt she was fine and back on her game. Soon thereafter, James Walker, who is so evidently gaining confidence with every game, fought hard in front of the net, outworked the defenseman checking him, and banged home a goal to get the Americans on the board, Tristan Aitkenhead assisting. Nevertheless, Val-d’Or upped the ante a few minutes later to make the score 3-1 in their favor.
Mid-way in the period, both teams changed goaltenders – Gavin Moffatt coming on for Katie Desa. The pace of the game remained fast and hard along the boards and in front of the net. With less than three minutes to go in the period, Oliver Flynn worked the puck up to Douglas Messier in the neutral zone, Douglas made a right-on-the-money pass to spring Nick Zocco free, and the Americans' captain flew in and scored – Messier and Flynn receiving assists. At the end of the second period it was 3-2 in favor of Val-d’Or.
The New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) carried their upward momentum into the third period and were giving Val-d’Or all they could handle. 5:30 into the third, Alex Luff made a sharp pass to Nick Zocco in the slot. Zocco connected on his second goal of the game, and the score was tied 3-all. But it only remained that way for less than three minutes when the Foreurs took a 4-3 lead. Despite the spirited efforts of the Americans down the stretch, the outcome was locked when Val-d’Or tallied an empty-netter in the final minute to close out the match at 5-3.
This was a close, hard-fought game that brought out the best in both teams and held the attention of more than 200 spectators watching from the surrounding arcade of the shopping center. After the game, venerable Americans’ co-coach Doug Messier noted that the Foreurs “are a very good team. They play together all year. This was probably their 50thgame. But I thought our kids, once they got going, played really well and battled back hard. Unfortunately, today, we just came up a bit short.”
Monday is a day off from the rink. The temperature is starting to climb, and the kids will be having a ball on the tubing hills of the winter playground of Villages Vacances Valcartier.
Coming off the emotional high of their pressure-packed first real game of the tournament victory over the Quebec All-Star girls team before 8,000 fans at the gorgeous Videotron Centre the night before, the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) might have needed a little time to come up to speed in an exhibition match Saturday afternoon at the Marcel Bedard rink in suburban Beauport. But once they found their legs, the Amerks gave the opposition, the Chaudiere-Etchemin Eclaireurs, all they could handle and then some. What was great for the New York team is that everybody got in on the action. Led by goaltender Gavin Moffatt, the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) played a complete game in all three zones.
Eclaireurs means scouts in English, and the Scouts from Chaudiere-Etchemin found themselves on the wrong end of a rout as the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) came to life late in the first period when Beanie Richter, positioned perfectly in the slot, banged home a beautiful pass from defenseman Luke Klemm. It was 1-0 Americans, and less than two minutes later Tatum Fitzmaurice capitalized on a goal mouth scramble to make it 2-0. Young Mr. Fitzmaurice was on his way to a special day.
The New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) found themselves on the powerplay early in the second period and immediately took advantage. Tatum Fitzmaurice made a sharp pass to Tristan Aitkenhead, who deftly tucked in a backhander to give the Amerks a 3-0 lead. Soon, thereafter, Tatum was Johnny-on-the spot again as he blew an unassisted wrister past the Eclaireurs’ goalie. 4-0 Amerks. Then, just before the end of the second period, Fitzmaurice completed a hat trick as he deflected a pretty shot from the point launched by defenseman Owen Kroboth. The second period ended with the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) out front, 5-0.
Firmly in command, the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) kept their focus in the final period. Four minutes in, Douglas Messier was right where he needed to be to deflect a shot from Shea Thibault at the point to put the Amerks up 6-0. Two minutes later, Tristan Aitkenhead picked up his second goal of the game, with an assist from James Walker, to complete the scoring at 7-0.
The only question at this point was whether Gavin Moffatt would hang-on for the shutout. But, in fact, there really was no doubt of that either as Moffatt was absolutely on top of his game stopping everything the Eclaireurs could throw at him. He was great with his glove and great with his pads, and, as the final buzzer sounded, the shutout was his as the New York Americans (Pee Wee Rangers AA) skated off with a 7-0 victory.
Next stop, La Cabane Sucre, the Sugar Shack, for some old-time French-Canadian dining, music, and fun.
It was up and at them early this morning as the New York Pee Wee Rangers headed out to the Quebec City suburb of Beauport to meet a Triple A local squad, the SSF-Cyclones in an exhibition match at the Marcel Bedard rink. One of the things that is always striking when you walk into any rink in Quebec City is how much attention and respect the New York Rangers uniform generates from the local fans. They really get a thrill out of seeing the jersey and the red, white, and blue colors, and it’s a reminder to the Pee Wee Rangers of the responsibility that comes with wearing that name and those colors. There is the tradition of the New York Rangers and the standards that go with that. Those standards are very high indeed, but what they ultimately boil down to is that we all have the honor of representing the New York Rangers organization, and that means treating everyone with dignity and respect.
The Pee Wee Rangers hit the ice for the 10:15 am start and found themselves going toe-to-toe with an eager and fast-skating team from the SSF organization in Quebec City, a group that consistently ices well-coached teams. Sure enough, the Cyclones came out hard, but once the Pee Wee Rangers found their legs, the momentum started to shift. Joe Luff had a breakaway as did PJ Neal. Both were turned aside. In the meantime, throughout the first period, goaltender Tommy Heaney turned back the Cyclones like they were nothing more than a warm summer’s breeze.
After a scoreless first, the Pee Wee Rangers kicked it into a higher gear five minutes into the second period when Greg Spitznagel forced a turnover and got off a quick shot that was turned back. But Dante Palombo pounced on the rebound and whipped it home to give New York a 1-0 lead. Evan Brown got an assist along with Spitznagel. But a little more than two minutes later, the Cyclones opportunistically took advantage of a goal-mouth scramble and tied the game. The second period ended with the scoreboard reading 1-1.
The third period was a tense affair, but the action of the game was clearly in the favor of the Pee Wee Rangers. There were a lot of shots, yet no additional goals to show for it until a draw in the Cyclones end resulted in a Greg Spitznagel shot, a rebound, and a pretty goal from Michael Rubin who made no mistake as he blew the rebound past the Cyclones goaltender. 2-1 Rangers.
With less than five minutes to go in the game, the Cyclones ramped up their attack, but goalie Daniel Gerts, who had come on mid-way in the game, flashed some excellent leather making a number of nice glove saves. Nevertheless matters got a little tense when the Pee Wee Rangers were called for interference with two minutes to go in the game. The Cyclones pulled their goalie to gain the 6-on-4 advantage, but it was to no avail as captain PJ Neal sealed the outcome with an unassisted empty-netter. Final score: 3-1 in favor of the New York Pee Wee Rangers.
After the game, coach Jeff Devenney was happy with how his team came together noting, “Our chemistry as a team is really starting to take hold. We started slow, but the guys fed off each other to get it going. Our defense was solid. We’re built from the back end out, and that will help us as we play our first tournament game tomorrow.”