Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Quinte
Winning nearly all of its games this season was a great accomplishment for the Quinte Red Devils Borchert’s Roofing U11 team, but the rare losses were equally as important.
They lost just one regular season game and three others in tournament play earlier this season.
“The few losses that we had this year were really teaching moments and stepping stones for the boys to learn how to handle losing and being behind in a game and keep battling to the very end and it served us well,” said Red Devils head coach Gary Sage. “We actually lost our last regular season game. We were 19-0 and ended up losing 1-0 in our last game. You don’t like to lose, but it was good timing for us to have a reality check and realize how hard playoffs were going to be and that every team that’s in playoffs they want to win as bad as we do. We had to find another gear.”
They certainly did.
Quinte went undefeated in all eight playdown games before going 5-0 in Oakville this past weekend to capture the Ontario Minor Hockey Association U11 ‘AAA’ championship.
After earning wins of 13-1 over the Niagara North Stars, 6-0 against the Burlington Eagles and 3-1 over the Peterborough Petes, the toughest match-up of the tournament for the Red Devils was in the semifinals against the Oakville Rangers.
That’s where the experience from overcoming adversity played a factor. The Red Devils were trailing the Rangers 2-1 until Brody Grant tied the game with just 1:07 remaining on the clock before Austin Pettey scored the game-winner in overtime for the 3-2 victory.
“That was huge for the boys to stick with it and fight to the very end,” Gage said. “Sometimes those (big moments) are hard to handle when you’re used to winning all the time and they found a way to stick with it and I think that just set us up for the championship game (a 5-1 win over the Southern Tier Admirals from Welland). They found another gear and we had that one pretty much in hand right from the drop of the puck.”
Gage said his players bought into the three D’s – Determination, Discipline and Dedication – all season.
“Our motto was ‘110 per cent 100 per cent of the time’ the entire year,” he remarked. “We faced some adversity throughout the year which builds a strong group and they were able to handle some adversity over the weekend.
“The coaching staff is super proud of all the boys and the hard work they put in this year. They earned their red hats and it’s something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”
Quinte’s U11 Red Devils players have ended their season as champions as they don’t have an Ontario Hockey Federation tournament – the winners of the OMHA, Greater Toronto Hockey League, Minor Hockey Alliance of Ontario and Northern Ontario Hockey Association – to compete in this year like there has been in the past for the U11 age group.
While it’s not quite the same, Sage points to a tournament victory in Vaughan in December as a great achievement for his club as they won six of seven games, including over Southern Tier, the Toronto Jr. Canadiens in the semifinals and Toronto Marlboros in the final.
“That was a huge, huge step for us,” Sage said. “JRC had beat us a couple times in a row and had actually beat us the night before 5-1 and then we got them in the semifinals beat them 4-3. That was a huge weekend for us.”
Members of the U11 Red Devils team are goaltenders Dax Sage and Matthew Travers as well as Edmund Dowling, Holden Goulah, Brody Grant, James Gullage, Rowyn Haley, Noah Hughes, Thomas Marsden, Oliver McCulloch, Miller Nicholson, Austin Pettey, Jaxson Plummer, Grady Riley, Cameron Stevens, Shea Teather, Mason Whalen and Jack Woods.
Joining head coach Gary Sage on the staff were coaches Theo Citrullo, Edmund Dowling and Jeanna Oke, trainer James Hughes and manager Sarah Wannamaker.