With a great community theme kicked off with Friday’s You Can Play/Hockey is for Everyone night for the Carolina Hurricanes, Canes and Coffee is dedicating Saturday to our local hockey community with 3 features on local teams far below the NHL level.
First up is a recap of a great week of hockey for the Junior Hurricanes team that just completed play in the Quebec PeeWee hockey tourney last weekend.
The recap of the tourney is provided in ’email interview’ format thanks to the generosity of Brian Mehm from the Junior Hurricanes organization.
Brian Mehm started the Jr. Canes Quebec program in 2002 when he was the Youth & Amateur Hockey Coordinator for the Carolina Hurricanes. He has remained involved in the program as a volunteer since leaving the club in 2004. Brian serves as an assistant coach and handles pre-trip coordination and communication as well as social media. When not shuffling 11 and 12-year olds across the Canadian border, Brian works as a Sr. Business Development Manager for Cisco and coaches his son’s 8U House League hockey team.
Canes and Coffee: What can you tell fans about the Quebec Pee Wee hockey tournament and the Junior Hurricanes participation in it?
Brian Mehm: The Quebec International Pee Wee Hockey Tournament was founded in 1960. It is the largest hockey tournament in the world for 12 and under players. It is the equivalent to the Little League World Series in Williamsport.
The tournament takes place every February in conjunction with the Quebec Winter Carnival and annually hosts approximately 120 teams from around the world including traditional hockey countries like the United States, Canada, Finland, Germany, the United Kingdom, Ukraine and Russia but also teams from Mexico, Turkey, Morocco, Japan and Australia.
Over 10,000,000 spectators have attended the event which is currently held at Centre Videotron. Prior to the opening of the new facility, the tournament was held in the Colisee Pepsi… former home of the Quebec Nordiques
Over 1,100 players in the Quebec Pee Wee tournament have gone on to play in the NHL including Guy Lafleur, Ron Francis, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Auston Matthews.
The Jr. Hurricanes first participated in the tournament in 2002. Tripp Tracy and (at the time) Assistant Coach Randy Ladouceur served as head and assistant coaches. 2017 marked our 16th consecutive year in the event. Our best finish was in 2011 when the Jr. Hurricanes won the International B World Championship.
Canes and Coffee: What is the format of the tournament?
Brian Mehm: The tournament is a modified single elimination format. There are 4 different brackets – International C, International B, AA, AA Elite (our bracket) and AAA. Each team plays within their bracket only for tournament games. Each team has their first game in Centre Videotron. Winners stay in the arena and play until they lose. Losers play in a local rink and play until they lose. The winner of the losers side comes back to the Centre Videotron for the Championship on the final Sunday.
In addition to the tournament games, teams play in exhibition games at local rinks. This year, we played 5 tournament games and 3 exhibition games. We were 3-2 in tournament and 1-2 in exhibition.
Canes and Coffee: Describe the makeup of the Jr Hurricanes team.
Brian Mehm: Every year, the Carolina hurricanes host an open tryout in September for all A, AA and AAA level players 12U in the Carolina Amateur Hockey Association region (essentially North and South Carolina… primarily kids come from Wake County)
We generally have between 60 and 90 players tryout over a 3-day weekend with our coaching staff and independent evaluators. Ultimately we select the best 18 players. In the past, we would have 5 clear players who deserved to be on the roster and spend several hours filling out the remaining 10-13 spots. Through the years as the game has grown, the selection process has gotten much more challenging. This year we had 16 players that were clearly on the roster and had to have very difficult conversations about 5 or so players who all would have easily made the team in years past.
Our strength this year was size on the backline, speed and experience up front and two outstanding goaltenders. Our team was lead by returning players Braxton Powers and captain Owen Clifford. Both players had the opportunity to participate in 2016 and used that experience to bring their game and level of maturity to the next level. Owen provided a mature presence for us on and off the ice and showed how much he had grown and matured as a young man. Braxton struggled to find his game early but put the team on his back and had a breakout game against Ukraine (2G, 2A)
Goaltenders Mason Rosado (Charlotte, NC) and Grant Kloeber (Raleigh, NC) alternated games and were both solid. The best one two punch we have had in goal for sure.
Ayden Peters (Raleigh, NC) played the best hockey of his career in the opening games and really helped keep the team afloat while we struggled with illness and some injury. His leadership and attitude were tremendous.
Carson Schrock (Raleigh, NC) provided the highlight of the tournament as he returned to action against Antoine Girouard by soaring down the ice in the final 7 seconds of a tie game to score a top shelf goal with 0.4 seconds left in the game.
Jackson Weglarz (Wake Forest) and Andrew Throndson (Raleigh) were both huge on the blue line blocking shots and shutting down the other team. Andrew is the third in his family to play in the tournament following in the footsteps of brothers Eric and Christopher.
Canes and Coffee: How did the tourney unfold for the Jr. Hurricanes.
Brian Mehm: Our opening game against the Brantford 99ers (Wayne Gretzky’s home town) was a huge heart break. We had at least 5 players that had no business being in the line up due to illness. In spite of jumping out to an early 2-0 lead, Brantford fought back to tie the game with under 2 minutes remaining and ultimately scored 18 seconds in to 3 v 3 overtime. Grant Kloeber was stellar in goal but the team was playing on borrowed time and faded as the game went on.
The team regrouped, bounced back and stepped up and beat a very undisciplined Ukraine team. The 4-1 victory was cemented by stellar efforts by Ayden Peters 2G + 2A, and Colin Roberts and Owen Clifford both 2A.
Our next game was the Braxton Powers’ show. After falling being 0-1 in the first, Braxton put the team on his back with solid back checking and collecting 2G and 2A helping the club to a 4-1 victory.
The quarterfinal game against Antoine Girouard was an instant classic between two evenly matched teams with speed and goaltending. Mason Rosado was solid in net helping the Jr. Canes enter the 3rd period tied 0-0. AG scored 55 seconds in and played very stingy defense until Colin Roberts was finally able to get to the high traffic area in front of their net for a second chance goal with 2 minutes left. And the “IT” happened. Carson Schrock stepped on the ice with ~45 seconds left, grabbed the puck in front of our net with 7 seconds left and skated down the right wing, around the AG defenseman, pulled the puck to his forehand and went near side top shelf with 0.4 showing on the game clock. The team and fans went crazy.
The team battled hard in the semi-final against Chicoutimi but were completely out-sized and outworked. Our kids left it on the ice and held their heads high and stuck together until the end.
As for next year, the future is bright as we return 3 players – the speedy Kaden Wolitski at forward and very talented Cole Latzy and Conner De Haro on the blue line. Each will need to grow and continue to work hard, but all showed glimpses of excellence and will be ready to lead next year.
Canes and Coffee: What were the highlights of the tourney for the team and what does it mean to them?
Brian Mehm: Every year we are very clear about two things. First and foremost, the results do not define the experience. We play to win and want to win, but win or lose, this is a life experience and the true impact and benefit of this last far beyond the score sheet and record books. Second, this is more than a “hockey tournament”. We insist that players stay with billeting families in order to get the full immersive experience of French Canadian life. Players are treated as professionals and expected to conduct themselves with a level of responsibility most of them are not accustomed to at 11 and 12 years old. This year was no exception on either front. The players faced adversity from illness to home sickness to injury and more. They stuck together, played for each other and soaked in every moment of the trip both on and off the ice. No finer example of what we hope for by offering this experience and why the Hurricanes continue to invest in this amazing program.
For another look inside Jr. Hurricanes and the Quebec Pee Wee Tourney, also check out this video on the 2014 Jr. Hurricanes team.
Canes and Coffee would like to extend a huge thank you to Brian Mehm and the Jr. Hurricanes organization for sharing their wonderful story from the 2017 Quebec Pee Wee tourney and also doing their part to make us proud of our local Hurricanes hockey community!
On a different local hockey front, check out the recap of NC State mens’ ice hockey’s season HERE.
Or instead if you are light blue-inclined, check out the recap of UNC hockey’s 2016-17 season HERE.