Ahhh yes it’s spring! The signs of spring are everywhere. Well, at least there has been much chirping and plenty of chatter. It’s spring, there is a renewed sense of the seasons, new growth, and maybe it’s time for some head shots. I may stretch so far as to say there has been an ample sampling of class-less behavior, which could be misconstrued as a spring break of sorts. But this isn’t about spring so much as it’s about the progression of a team, the NH Avalanche 2000 team.
Game one vs. greenwich blues (5-2 win)
Game Winning Goal – Shawn Tewksbury
So, after not playing many games down the stretch as players played hockey for their various high school programs, the Avs entered play in the Spring Classic #1 Tournament. The tournament’s home rink is that of the neighboring Tri-Town Ice Arena. The locals, the Avalanche, entered play having won only a handful of games all season. They opened play in the tournament against the Greenwich Blues from Connecticut. Before this game was done there were some 13 and 14 yr old players talking some smack, lining up the slightly obnoxious hit, and waving fingers at one another.
The opening game was a little bit slow in developing and both teams slugged out a first period that ended in a 1-1 tie. By the end of the second period, it was clear which team had the upper hand. First, Shawn Tewksbury rejoined the Avs for this tournament and he made his presence felt right away. Tewksbury scored the first goal for the Avalanche after being set up on passes from Jon Last and Tyler Whiting. In the second period, the Avs built a 4-1 lead, getting three goals in the period, all of which were scored by Shawn Tewksbury. Whiting also picked up another assist in the middle stanza. In the 3rd period both teams scored once apiece, and the Avs won 5-2. The fifth goal was scored by Tyler Whiting, unassisted.
Although the score was decisive at 5-2, the Avalanche will likely tell you, to a man, that they didn’t play well as a team. What they did do was to limit the team from Greenwich from too many scoring chances. They also took advantage of the one spot that the Blues didn’t defend well, the middle of the ice, the slot. So, even when the Avalanche had their troubles getting through the neutral zone, or connecting on passes coming up the ice, they did make their shots from the slot count. Although aesthetics are often pleasing, results matter more, and the Avalanche won game one by getting results regardless of how it looked.
Game two vs. east haven yellow jackets (9-0 win)
Game Winning Goal – Tyler Whiting
Showing up for game two of the tournament Saturday morning there was a sense of excitement for the Avalanche team and their fans. After the opening game had been played at the Tri-Town Ice Arena, this game was played at Manchester’s West Side Arena. Coming off of a win always helps the team psyche going into the next contest. The mornings’ opponent was another team from Connecticut, the East Haven Yellow Jackets. Several of the Avs players, if not all of them, already knew that the East Haven squad had lost their first game in the tournament 6-0. Being expected to win, and winning, don’t always add up to the result that many think it would expect.
To the action we go. In the two minutes following the opening face-off, it appeared that the Avalanche held their game two fate in their own hands as they held the puck in the opponent’s end for two entire shifts. Before long, Tyler Whiting scored on an assist from Mikey Perry. One minute later, Shawn Tewksbury struck again and the Avs were off and running, leading 2-0. Then some things happened that I wasn’t expecting necessarily, nor should it have been seen. The teens on both squads decided they could take liberties with one another in a form of immature policing of themselves that can only look more out-of-place when adults take it to lower depths yet. Over the next five minutes of game time, the teams combined to take 7 penalties equaling more than a single periods-worth of penalty minutes. Max Lajeunesse would score on the power play on a feed from Sebastian Beal before the period ended, and the Avs held a 3-0 lead.
In the second period the Avs must have put 20+ shots on net, maybe more, and they even scored three more goals. First though, the brain-trust that was, or is, the East Haven coaching staff showed their brilliance and complete lack of understanding of any of the definitions of sportsmanship or even respect for; well, anything. The team from East Haven took five consecutive penalties, some of which may have been better penalized in the criminal justice system. The coaching staff did their part to quell the chaos by yelling more, yelling louder, slamming doors, and gesturing in the most respectful manner imaginable to the officiating crew. Good plan. Nothing better than a bunch of level-headed adults behaving in a calm and cool manner when realizing they are in over their heads and that their players/kids are, ummm, just showing their age and following their leaders. Goodness graciousness, that was one ugly period of humanity. After having several consecutive hours on the power play, or so it seemed, the Avs netted three goals in 150 seconds to lead 6-0. Cody Sullivan scored on a great pass from Lajeunesse. Then Shawn Tewksbury scored twice, once from Jon Last, and once from himself on a steal, a rush, and a goal.
The third period started with the Avalanche holding a 6-0 lead. The East Haven squad took a couple more senseless penalties and didn’t get called on several more simply because of the score and the fact that nobody was bleeding or missing any limbs. Before those things happened though, the Avs scored three more times building their lead to 9-0. Lajeunesse scored on a feed from Sullivan after the two forwards exchanged numerous passes to each other coming up the ice. Then Cade Facey scored, unassisted. Shawn Tewksbury scored his fourth goal of the game, for the second game in a row, assisted by Tyler Whiting.
I realize I have been tough on the group from East Haven here, but I am also tough on my kids when they act childish, unruly, and furthermore push the boundaries of decency even though they know better. One player for the Yellow Jackets that I would like to lift up, is goaltender and Captain, Danny Godlewski. I have no idea what kind of kid this young man is, but he made so many saves in this game that nobody could keep track. Yes, he let in 9 goals, and his team was trounced in hockey terms, but this kid saved dozens more would be goals, was diving side to side, and doing everything in his power to keep the puck out of the net. My guess is that had his teammates played with the same level of effort to compete in the game of hockey, they’d at least be able to look in the mirror and face themselves with a clear conscience.
Game Winning Goal – Christian Levesque
It was back to Tri-Town Ice Arena for the third and final game of the round-robin games in the tournament. The opponent for the final game was Hockey West Island from the outskirts of Montreal, PQ, Canada.
It was evident quite early that the visitors from Quebec were well out of their league as it related to the hockey caliber in this tournament. That’s not a knock on them but rather a product of the tier of hockey they play back in Quebec. For the most part though, the group showed well for themselves in regard to sportsmanship and how to teach youngsters what is acceptable and what is not. Toward the end of the game, a pair of West Island players took runs at Avs players, making direct contact to the players helmets/heads. The guilty parties were each ejected from the game and nobody was hurt. After the game, the coach from West Island brought one of the offending players into the Avs locker-room to share the remorse he felt and to apologize for the action.
The Avs 2000 team jumped out to an early lead, scoring 6 times in the opening period. From what I could tell, they spent the rest of the game making extra passes, cycling the puck, playing their off-positions, and making sure not to hit anyone. By virtue of their third win in three tournament games, the Avs earned the top spot in the standings and an opportunity to play in the championship game for their division.
Okay, so let’s get to the action from their third game. In a two-minute span early in the opening period, the Avs scored three times, on goals from Christian Levesque, and a pair of goals from Mikey Perry. Cody Sullivan, Cade Facey, and Clay Sanders recorded assists, respectively. Later in the first period, Shawn Tewksbury scored twice, his 9th and 10th goals of the tournament, and Tyler Whiting added a goal. Assists went to Cam Leborgne and Mikey Perry. The Avs led 6-0 after one period and the strategy shifted to sportsmanship and getting out of game three without embarrassment or injury. The Avs scored single goals in the second and third periods, finishing with an 8-0 win. In the second period, Whiting scored again on a helper from Sebastian Beal. In the third period the Avs scored one last time after completing a series of several passes before Cam Leborgne and Cody Sullivan made consecutive passes to Beal, who rifled a shot in to the back of the net.
GAME four VS. twin valley flyers (7-0 WIN)
Game Winning Goal – Cody Sullivan
The final score of the championship game tells part of the story in this game, but not all of it. Yes, the Avs 2000 team was the better team. Yes, they played a better game than Twin Valley. But, for more than half of the game, 19:06 to be exact, the Avs were only able to distance themselves from their opponent by a single goal. It was apparent early that the Avs came to play, but so did Twin Valley. Twin Valley has shown in recent years that they are used to winning in NH Tier IV hockey. They were 16-1 in the Granite State League, outscoring their opponents by a whopping 87-14 margin. The NH Avalanche 2000 team peppered the goaltender and end boards with at least a couple of dozen shots in the opening period, and held the offensive advantage, but still, led just 1-0. Cody Sullivan scored on a nice little backhand shot set up by Mikey Perry, but that was it for the first 19:06.
With 4:54 left to play in the second period, Shawn Tewksbury scored on the power play, assisted by Max Lajeunesse. Just 36 seconds later, also on the power play, Tewksbury struck again with the assist going to Colin Leighton. Twin Valley killed off a third consecutive penalty, keeping the deficit at 3-0. Then in the last 0:14 of the period, the Avs put the nails in the proverbial coffin when Jon Last scored on a nice play set up by Leighton and Tyler Whiting. Then, just 11 seconds later, on a beautiful pass play, Sebastian Beal hit Cody Sullivan with a pass, who then fed Lajeunesse, who scored. Just like that, it was 5-0 after two periods.
Twin Valley kept hustling, they kept trying to play physical, but the pace and passing that Avs brought to the rink today was too much for them to answer for. In the third period, the Avs scored their 3rd power play goal in 4 attempts when Tyler Whiting and Shawn Tewksbury all but scored themselves, before Jon Last pounded a shot into the net from about two feet away. Moments later the line of Cody Sullivan, Max Lajeunesse, and Sebastian Beal, completed their second consecutive dominant shift when Lajeunesse scored on a backhand shot under the crossbar after being set up by Sullivan and Beal. The final score was 7-0 in favor of the Avalanche. The win gave the Avs a perfect, 4-0 record in the tournament, while outscoring their opponents 29-2 in the four games. Shawn Tewksbury earned the MVP of the tournament honors, which included him scoring 12 goals in the four games.
This was a total team contribution, and it took all of them to play at the level showed this weekend. Goaltender, Gavin Cram only allowed two goals in four games, and even though his team played excellent defense in front of him, he made the saves he needed to when asked, and he won all four games between the pipes. Cody Sullivan, Tyler Whiting, Cade Facey, Jon Last, Sebastian Beal, Cam Leborgne, Colin Leighton, Max Lajeunesse, Caiden Paradise, Clay Sanders, Christian Levesque, Mikey Perry, and Shawn Tewksbury made up the roster for the NH Avalanche team. Everyone on the roster played a role, and played together to bring the big trophy home. (All Photos by T. Perry – Thank you)