The Bay d’Espoir/Harbour Breton Bantam team demonstrated the perfect combination of spirit and skill to claim the gold medal at the 2012 Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Bantam H Division Tournament held at Port aux Basques on April 12-14.
Coming off a successful regular season, expectations were high entering the tournament. In the opening game of the tournament the Bantams faced the Springdale Braves, a team they had easily defeated in the regular season. Whether it was a case of nerves or overconfidence the team fell behind early. Despite a late rally, the Blizzard/Hurricanes ended up dropping the opening game 8-5. In a five team tournament, in which every win is critical to making the playoff, the team was left feeling shocked and disappointed.
There was little time to dwell on the loss as the Blizzard/Hurricanes faced the Conception Bay Renegades in a must win game. The team put forth a much stronger effort holding the Renegades off the score sheet until the final minute of play to earn a 3-1 victory.
On Friday the 13th the Blizzard/Hurricanes needed lady luck in their side as they faced the host team Port aux Basques Blaze in another must win game. The Blaze team had won the previous two provincial Easter tournaments and were well on their way to a third championship after winning their first three games. The home town fans at Bruce II Arena who were expecting another dominating victory were soon quieted as the Blizzard/Hurricanes used a physical game to intimidate the Blaze and stun the crowd with an upset 13-5 victory. With the win the Blizzard/Hurricanes jumped right back into playoff contention.
With the win, the team faced another must win situation on Saturday as they faced the Mount Pearl Blades. A win against the Blades would earn the Blizzard/Hurricanes a berth in the championship, a loss would mean the team would be go home empty handed. Once again the team came through when it really needed to and cruised to a 6-2 victory, setting up a rematch with the Port aux Basques Blaze for the provincial championship.
As game time approached you could cut the tension in the arena with a knife. The hometown fans seriously outnumbered the loyal Blizzard/Hurricanes fans and entered the arena confident their team would avenge the `Black Friday` loss. However, the Blizzard/Hurricanes fans were not intimated and match the boisterous Port aux Basques in their enthusiasm for their team.
In a pregame meeting with the Blizzard/Hurricanes players, the importance of Skill and Spirit were emphasized to the players, with the point being it is team that works the hardest, believes in itself the most and has the strongest spirit that often comes out on top. The players realized that both teams had a great deal of skill, but it would be the team with the most spirit that would claim the gold.
Nervous energy filled the building as our national anthem played which carried into the first few minutes of the game. The Blaze were on fire early in the game and jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but before the end of the first period the Blizzard/Hurricanes had fought back to within one goal.
In the second period, the Blizzard/Hurricanes demonstrated that they were indeed the team with the most spirit and having scored five straight goals were leading by a score of 5-3 at the end of second period.
As the teams took to the ice in the third period, fans knew they were in for an exciting finish. The Blaze scored a quick goal to move within one goal, but the Blizzard/Hurricanes quickly replied with a goal and used the combination of strong defence and opportunistic scoring to build up an 8-5 lead.
With less than minute left in the game, the Blizzard/Hurricanes coaches, players and fans knew victory was theirs. Cheers erupted and a few tears were shed, as the buzzer sounded and the players and coaches mobbed each other celebrating the team’s championship win. The never quit spirit of the Blizzard/Hurricanes had prevailed and parents and family swarmed the ice to celebrate the well deserved victory.
Once the individual medal, championship trophy and banner, players took turns skating victory laps around the rink, celebrating the win as ``Stanley Cup`` capping off a very successful season and for providing life-long memories
The parents-guardians of the Blizzard/Hurricanes sincerely congratulate the players for their outstanding effort and would like to extend their utmost appreciation to the coaching staff of Blizzard/Hurricanes; Corey Dominine, Jamie Hunt, Lorne Oxford, Sam Rose, and Terry Crant for their endless hours of dedication and hard work over the season.