Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Quinte
Belleville’s Brighton KOA/Wild Wing Jr. Bulls recently won the U12 ‘AA’ division at the Sylvia Tremblett Georgina Regional Silver Stick hockey tournament.
In doing so, they qualified for the International Silver Stick Finals in Newmarket, currently scheduled for Jan. 6 to 9.
Facing strong competition from Toronto area teams and other strong regions, the Bulls went 3-1 in round-robin play before winning their semifinal and championship games.
Belleville opened the tournament with a 2-1 victory over the Toronto East Enders on the first day of competition, though were blanked 2-0 by the Aurora Tigers that evening.
That loss proved to be the only blemish for the Bulls, which went on to defeat the Markham Waxers 4-2 and Vaughan Panthers 1-0 in the preliminary round and produced their largest margin of victory, 6-1 over North Toronto, in the semifinals.
In the championship game, the Bulls jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the North York Knights rallied with three straight goals by the end of the second period to go up 3-2. A shorthanded goal by Belleville’s Dominic LaBarge ultimately sent the contest into overtime where Austin Preston tallied the tournament-winning goal for the 4-3 victory.
“There were lots of good teams and the boys just stuck to the game plan all the time and it worked out,” said U12 Bulls head coach Dan Howard. “They all work hard and definitely listen to instruction and follow the plan we have in place.”
Those are certainly key reasons why the team is off to a strong start in its Ontario Minor Hockey Association Lakeshore League regular season as well, sitting in second place with an 11-3-1 record.
A majority of players on this Bulls team have been together for a number of years, though last season was quite different. They were split up into groups of four as was the AE team for the same age group and they played exhibition games, mostly at 3-on-3 and 4-on-4.
“We did a lot of development stuff,” Howard said. “There was lots of extra ice in Belleville so any kids that wanted to be on the ice were on the ice five or six days a week because they wanted to be.”
Currently, the U12 Bulls are allowed to practice, but games are postponed until the new year and they are monitoring the status of the International Silver Stick tournaments.
Team members are players Rory Young, Nathan McDonald, Eli Anderson, Ryan Jowett, Grayden Howard, Connor Sagriff, Jake Vandenburg, Brody Parks, Brycen McCoy, Brock Rivers, Jax McMurter, Landon Hayes, Logan Broek, Logan Hanna, Austin Preston, Dominic LaBarge and William Gauthier as well as the coaching staff of Dan Howard, Adam Rivers, Peter Sagriff, Andy Jowett and Jordy McMurter.