Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Quinte
Competing at the Pembroke Regional Silver Stick hockey tournament recently proved to be a valuable bonding experience for the Tweed Hawks U18 team.
Winning their division and qualifying for the Forest, Ontario-based North American Silver Stick Finals in the U18 ‘C’ Division was just a bonus.
“I think they were pleasantly surprised,” said head coach Paddy Cassidy. “We’ve started out other years with what we thought were pretty good teams and having a good chance at (success). This year’s team…we didn’t even have enough kids of our own (in Tweed) so we got a couple from Madoc and Deseronto and Napanee. So we had some kids I didn’t even know, that I’ve never coached before.”
That was unusual for Cassidy, who has coached for 13 years, and a different experience for the players as well. Familiarity with teammates is almost expected by the time they get to the U18 level.
“It was a little bit of struggle getting going, getting everybody on the same page,” Cassidy said. “I honestly didn’t think we were going there (to Pembroke) to win. I just figured it’s a tournament, good for the kids to bond.”
They certainly bonded well and played some great hockey in the process.
Tweed opened the tournament with a 4-1 win over the Valley Storm and earned a decisive 8-1 victory over the Otonabee Wolves (who Cassidy thought was one of the best teams they faced) before dropping a narrow 4-3 decision to the Sturgeon Lake Thunder.
In the semifinals, the Hawks edged the Mariposa Lightning 5-4 and then blanked the Kawartha Coyotes 2-0 in the championship game.
“I think they surprised themselves even,” Cassidy said. “I was pretty proud of them.
“They’re really starting to gel as a team and come together, everybody getting on the same page and starting to buy in,” the coach added. “I told them day one they’re going to get pushed. If they want to win and want to be good they’ve got to work, that’s what it’s all about.”
Last year the team was limited to scrimmages and Cassidy certainly believes that affected drawing players back for this season. At that age, the players can develop other interests or choose to focus more on school and work.
In Eastern Ontario Minor Hockey League play this season, the Hawks are off to a 5-7-2 record. Cassidy is pleased with his club’s progression.
“I don’t look at wins and losses as much I do how we’re doing, how we’re growing, how we’re progressing,” he remarked. “If you’re beat by a better team, you’re beat by a better team. We’ve grown a lot as a team in the few months we’ve been together on the ice.”
Currently, games and practices are postponed as now are the North American Silver Stick Finals, which were scheduled to be held in Forest Jan. 7 to 9.
Tweed’s Hawks will hope to resume playing early in the new year.
Team members are Niilo Ahola, Hunter Beatty, Michael Beatty, Hayden Blackburn, Gavin Brooks, Chaz Cassidy, Liam Cassidy, Will Cassidy, Daniel Chase, Laine Clement, Levi Gravelle, Kleighton Grove, Charles Gunning, Jacob Heard, Brody Hunt, Ryan Maracle, Hayden Riley, Liam Rogers and Jack Shalton.