After an 0-2 start, each tough one goal losses despite controlling much of the contests, the Ice Dogs won out the remaining tournament games to keep hope for a championship alive.
NOVA Captain Logan McCarthy opened the scoring for the tournament, with a strong net presence leading to a tucked away rebound in the first period after smart blue-line play from the Ice Dog defense. Rooftop fought back with two goals before Eamon Bolton scored on an end-to-end rush with a sharp wrister knotting it at 2. Rooftop pressed further in the second and third periods, scoring twice to go up 4 -2 late in the game.
The Ice Dogs closed the game versus Rooftop furiously, pulling their goaltender for a desperate push and scoring to come within one with 35 seconds remaining after Ethan McCabes' speed created a partial breakaway that he buried for a strong statement goal. Though not enough for a win and falling 4-3, the Ice Dogs knew they had more than they displayed against Rooftop.
Game two saw the Ice Dogs dominate possession play and double the Hillsborough Hogs in shots, however they were unable to convert on their scoring chances other than Robbie Mates beautiful backhand goal off a strong drive to the net, squandering a good opportunity to get back on the right track.
A bright spot among the losses, and despite the higher than usual number of penalties, was impressively strong penalty killing by the Ice Dogs, particularly Linden St. Clair. Often called on for energy and grit, St. Claire's relentless forecheck hurried the opposition, stripped multiple pucks and wore out defenders in the corners, even generating some sustained offense until his team returned to even strength. This effort would benefit later in game three for St Clair.
Veteran goaltender Roeth Gingery, an Alternate Captain for the tournament, started game three - the first must win - against then-undefeated Pittsburgh and played strong for the W. His defenseman were equally up to task with Jacob Greenway providing excellent play defending the rush, and Brody Chase, only recently transitioned to defense, proving a tough competitor always willing to engage anyone near the Ice Dog net. St Clairs game winning goal proved the difference in the 3-2 victory.
Alternate Captain Michael Biehn, playing stingy defense and strong wing while not in net for the Ice Dogs, stepped between the pipes for game fours must-win versus the Reston Raiders and endured, holding on for the win. Strong offensive showings by Maxwell Nguyen and Ellis Ferster, each carrying heavy shots throughout the tournament, factored heavily in the 5-3 victory to send the Ice Dogs to the championship.
Jack Foote and Kent Mitchell had two of their best games all season during the two game push for the championship, with the "white helmets" strong pressure on the puck in the offensive zone resulting in the first goal of game four, scored by Callum Cochran with a snipe from down low. Cochran factored heavily with two of his three tournament goals as game openers, each in hard fought scrums near the goal.
Having stormed their way back to a rematch with undefeated Rooftop and a shot at the Mid-WInter Classic Championship, 10U LA was encouraged by news of their 10U UA teammates championship victory in Pittsburgh. And even better motivarion was the coaches and fellow Ice Dogs players attendance to cheer them on!
The championship game proved to be a test, with the Ice Dogs scoring two quick goals on pure energy and effort to carry a tight 2-0 lead into the first intermission. The dreaded two-goal lead tested NOVA, as Rooftop scored on the opening shift of the second period and began to tilt the ice, tying it soon after. Both goaltenders dialed their games in, as each team dug deep and started increasing their shot attempts. Team defense would hold tight, stepping in shooting lanes, tying up opponents, and clearing the crease. About to transition to the third period, Rooftop scored to gain their first lead of the game 3-2.
NOVA would score twice to go up 4-3, before seeing Rooftop tie it again at 4 all, which stood with less than five minutes remaining Ellis Ferster turned a strong neutral zone takeaway into a quick entry down to the corner and centering pass toward the net with Mate down low and and McCabe high in the slot, positioning for a pass. The goal line play caught the Rooftop goalie by surprise and the game winning goal was scored by Robbie Mate, his team-leading 5th of the tournament. Not ready to celebrate yet, each team would use their timeout in the last two minutes, and Rooftop would pull their goalie to press, but strong defense carried all the way down to the final buzzer, announcing their victory. The Ice Dogs look forward to sharing their experience with Luke Hodgkinson when he returns from injury as they continue their strong start to 2020!