The Canandaigua Knights midget team entered the Steelers 29th Annual Tournament with a total of five wins in nineteen games. Hot off the Big Thaw tournament (where they scored three goals in each of their three games), the Knights were feeling confident.
On Night One of the tournament, the Knights faced the Hamburg Blue Team 🙂 The Knights scored about four minutes in, and never looked back (except when back-checking). With help from the top line the Knights dominated Hamburg, with most of the play being in the offensive zone.
Ryan Mack, Neale Van Stralen, and Jeff Frelier all scored in the first. The first two goals were attributable to great skating and awesome diggles* (I’m looking at you Mackie). Jeff’s goal was a matter of being in the right place at the right time. He was in front of the net, and no one saw all six feet and four inches of him there. He capitalized, and the Knights went up 3.
- *VERB Diggle DIG-uhl: a move that corkscrews an opponent into playing surface; usu. esp. ice.
- Plu. Diggles
- VERB Diggle DIG-uhl: When one uses a diggle. Mack said, “I’m going to diggle through you because I can.”
This mind you, with out the top two scorers on the team, Justin “Rolfie” Rolfe, and Hunter “Hunter” Goldstin. And after a season averaging just 2.45 goals a game.
Hamburg got a controversial goal towards the end of the first period. The refs called a good goal, but after looking at instant replay Ian Campbell offered (among other things) to buy the referees glasses.
Adding two more goals in the second, the Knights moved past the Hamburgers with four out of five points from the game. Final score: 5-2
Neale Van Stralen, who had an excellent night (1 goal, 2 assists, great back-checking and fore-checking) received the MVP for the Knights.
Confidence radiating throughout the locker room, team leader, Lucas Ruckle was settling down the younger guys. “We’ve still got six more periods, guys, six more till the championship! This isn’t over yet. But we’re four points closer!!!” [Eruption of applause–locker room style]
The team rested well that night, and everyone was ready to go for the second game. Still missing their top scorers and the MAP (Most Awesomest Player) Nick Colucci, the Knights were looking to the top line (Ruckle, Mack, Neale) for some offense. What happened next wasn’t according to the game plan.
The Knights were spanked.
They were playing the Steelers. The game opened up with a little back and forth action, but quickly it became obvious the ice was tilted, as they say. With about 80% to 85% of the play in the Knights’ defensive zone, the few chances they had were turned away.
“I don’t remember most of the goals,” says Campbell, the goalie. “But I’m sure they were good ones. Okay, except the first one.” He smiles. “Trillaud kinda took me out of that play.”
Short memory is necessary to survive as a goaltender, and Campbell’s memory had to be infinitesimally short, if he was going to have a chance. While he stopped around (most likely upwards of) 40 shots, the Steelers still scored five goals. The final score was 5-0.
Ian Campbell got the MVP of that game for the Knights. “That’s a tough one to swallow,” he says. “But the medal is helping me realize that we just didn’t have a chance after a while. I’m glad I was able to leave it all out there.”
Then the second game of the day was played. It was between the Canandaigua Knights and the Amherst Knights. Amherst was in second place, and Canandaigua needed 3.5 points to make it to the championship.
The game was an even match for the first period, with great offensive chances for both teams, while both goalies played hard, stopping all the shots. Then, in the second, Neale opened up the scoring. WIth a coast to coast skate, Neale got to the other end, shot top shelf, and beat the goalie, and excited the whole team. Rather shortly after (I believe) Ryan Mack scored, going up two in the second. The Knights held on to the lead going into the third up 2-0.
It was very important to score in the third. With one point per period, the points awarded so far were .5 for Amherst, to Canandaigua’s 1.5. If the third period was tied, then Amherst was in. Coach Phil Priolo let his team know it wasn’t over yet.
“Coach said we still had one more period,” says Tim “Timmy” Trost. “We could clean up some passing, and make sure we continued forechecking and back-checking, and we’d score and be able to come away with the victory.”
The Knights, both Amherst, and Canandaigua, came out firing. Amherst’s burst died out quickly, after a few shots. Canandaigua’s burst did not. After the first three minutes, the play was nearly entirely in Amherst’s defensive end. Jeremy Trillaud scored first in the third, to go up, and the Canandaigua Knights never relinquished it. One more goal was added by (someone on the team, you know who you are) to seal the victory.
Final score: 4-0
Ian Campbell had a 34 save shutout, and was again awarded the MVP of the game. Everyone on the team was extremely excited.
Coach Priolo gave everyone a 12:00 am curfew, and told everyone to be ready for the championship. For a team who had previously only won five games, any type of championship was legendary stuff.
Sunday March 16th, the Canandaigua Knights versus the Dunkirk-Fredonia Steelers. Uh-oh.
With the confidence bubbling over from a much-needed victory, the Knights came into the game with a burning desire. The last game of the season, everyone wanted to give their all. With two defensive pairs and three offensive lines, the Knights were prepared to have an offensive game.
Quite unluckily, very early in the game, Knights captain, and tournament points leader, Neale Van Stralen was hit (“illegally,” in Campbell’s opinion) and he sustained a lower body injury.
Without Neale, the coaches were forced to shuffle the lines a bit, and the consequences were unfortunate.
Without Neale, the Knights were again dominated, and forced to play defense most of the game. Even with Roger Panara back for the championship game, no one was able to get the offense going for Canandaigua. The Steelers got six goals over the whole game. Dean Campese scored three of them. “And assisted the other three probably,” Campbell says. “That guy was on fire.”
“I wasn’t able to get the puck,” says Panara. “We were defending for ninety-nine percent of the time, so their D were pinching hard. It was too difficult to break out of our defensive zone, and so we didn’t get many goals when that happened.”
Not many goals is as good a way as any to describe being shutout, and for the Knights it was difficult to swallow. 6-0 is never fun.
“They’re way out of our league,” Lucas Ruckle says. “Literally. We found out that they’re actually a [bad] travel team. They were eighth in their league, but they dominated against us because we’re a house B team. I don’t really know how to react, but it was fun to play in the championship.”
Tough to swallow, losing the last game always hurts. But with a returning defensive core (Noah Van Stralen, Jeremy Trillaud, Jared Priolo, Jake Corey) following in the footsteps of Blaise Michael, a defensive standout and senior :-(, the Knights only need to worry about compensating for offensive losses like Jeff Frelier and Neale Van Stralen. Again 🙁
With Ryan Mack, Hunter Goldstin, and Roger Panara returning, most likely stronger than ever, offense should be strong. Tim Trost, in his first midget season, has developed quite nicely, as the game slowed down for him. With his great stick skills, and skating ability Tim can only tell what Tim will do next year.
The 2013-14 Canandaigua Knights were amazing. A great bunch of guys–a band of brothers. With a bright future for the midget team, it’s sad to say good-bye to the seniors. Once more, 🙁
But as the crazy cycle of players continues, one can only look forward to next year, remembering what once was, and remembering who once were.
That, and score goals 🙂