The Tri Pen Ice AAA peewee team captured the gold medal at the 2014 Bell Aliant Atlantic AAA Peewee Championship in Fredericton, N.B., March 27-30. The Ice defeated the EDZA East Canadiens of New Brunswick 5-1 in the championship game. Members of the team are: front (l-r) — goaltenders Caleb Andrews and Riley Petten; middle — Luke Akerman, Cole Mackey, Dawson Mercer, Kyle Petten, Shailynn Snow and Ethan Crosbie; back — coach Bo Bennett, Lucas Russell, HNL representative Dec Lecour, Liam Best, Dawson Laundry, Micheal Ingram, Taran Leonard, Ethan Pollett, Lucas Adams, Riley Mayne, Tyler Dohey, Tyler Green, Mark Davis, coach Craig Mercer, manager Carolyn Petten and trainer Roger Akerman.
Ask anyone around the Tri Pen Ice AAA peewee team’s Atlantic championship run and they will tell you it is an amazing story.
Although, Tri Pen’s story did not start out like it was going to be amazing.
The Ice defeated the EDZA East Canadiens 5-1 in the championship game at the Grant-Harvey Centre in Fredericton, N.B., March 30.
Tri Pen got goals from Dawson Mercer (2), Kyle Petten, Shailynn Snow and Ethan Crosbie. Mercer would also add two assists for a four-point game.
Comprised of players from associations in Bay Roberts, Clarenville, Marystown, Harbour Grace and Whitbourne, the Ice started out 0-2 at the Bell Aliant Atlantic AAA Peewee Championship.
First, there was a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the EDZA East Canadiens on March 28.
“It’s not that we were terrible, but we did have a shaky start,” said coach Nelson Bennett.
That was followed by a razor thin overtime 3-2 loss to the host EDZA West team.
“We dominated them, the pucks just didn’t go in the net for us,” he said.
In a tournament such as this one, no wins in a team’s first two games is not the best way to start.
“Usually it’s a death sentence,” said Bennett.
However, the Ice had other ideas.
Needing to win its remaining two games and a little bit of help, Tri Pen bore down.
The team doubled the Antigonish, N.S., representatives 4-2.
Heading into the final round robin game with Summerside Capitals of P.E.I., the Ice needed to win by at least 6-0 to even give themselves a chance at the gold medal game.
“We discussed it as a team. This is what has to happen. We have to collapse to our net, we have to protect our goaltender,” said Bennett. “We chipped away and chipped away. We didn’t dominate them by any stretch but we just kept going.”
The Ice got the 6-0 shutout, but they needed the PEI squad to defeated the No. 1 EDZA East Canadiens.
Tri Pen needed a miracle.
“That’s what we were saying in the hotel: we need a miracle,” said Bennett.
And, they got it. Summerside doubled EDZA East 4-2.
“The respect I have for those kids on that team for what they did,” said Bennett. “They didn’t have to. You’re a last place team, it’s really easy to fold the tents, but they battled.”
It’s the first Newfoundland and Labrador team to win in the Atlantic AAA peewee championship tournament since the St. John’s Aliant Pioneers turned the trick in 2009.
The title game did not start out well for the Ice. It was a rematch of the first round robin game.
“We didn’t want it to happen again,” said Bennett.
EDZA jumped out to the early 1-0 lead. However, the team quickly tied it up before making it 2-1.
“At 2-1 things were starting to go our way, but it was still hard going,” said the coach.
Then Kyle Petten poked a loose puck behind the EDZA goaltender.
“At 3-1 the game totally changed,” noted Bennett.
Tri Pen would notch two more goals to make the score 5-1. When the final buzzer sounded, all 18 skaters piled on top of goaltender Riley Petten.
A league of their own
Offensively, the Ice were led by standout forwards Kyle Petten and Dawson Mercer.
Petten, a centre, and Mercer, a right winger, each notched 11 points during the round robin. Petten picked up eight goals and four assists, while Mercer’s registered six goals and five assists.
Both received the award for top scorer in the tournament, while Dawson was named its top forward. Not do be outdone, Petten picked up the award for most valuable player.
By all accounts, both players were in a league of their own at the tournament.
“Every team was solid and deep, but they never had the superstars we had,” said Bennett.
But, a team is more than two players. Defenseman Lucas Russell was a standout on the back end, while Shailynn Snow was her usual self, along with Ethan Crosbie, Riley Mayne, Ethan Pollett, etc.
“We believed we also had the best goaltender in the tournament,” said Bennett.
He was talking about Riley Petten. Petten finished just shy of the tournament’s top goaltender award.
For a regional team to be successful, players have to come together quickly. The Ice did not have that problem. Parents and players came together, made the commitment and the result was a championship season.
“We’re a family,” said Bennett.
The victory has ignited the hockey world in the Trinity-Conception-Placentia region and beyond. Bennett said his cellphone has been “going crazy” since the final buzzer.
People like Doug Moores and Bennett’s mentor, Dick Power, have reached out offering their congratulations on the impressive victory.
“Parents kept telling me it’s karma, it’s destiny,” said Bennett.