Best Uniform - Junior Steelers
Elk River's Braden Hansberger celebrated his game winner in a shootout Friday
A band of three teams from Minnesota headed to Vancouver last weekend to play hockey, learn about the game and see one of North America's prettiest cities. All three teams played at least five games at a very high pace. Each team had some success, the '05 team won three games and lost in the semifinals. The '07 team lost in the Quarterfinals Sunday.
The pace and style of play was very fast and very physical - not cheap - just physically demanding. Minnesota players learned there is a game out there that is as good or better than home. They also tasted enough success to have something to build on for this off-season.
Two of the teams had a group of Vancouver imports. Special thanks to Ben Rosenoff (05) and Jason Pue (07) for helping us find great kids and great players to play with for the weekend.
Jasha Bichin (Langley, BC) lead the 2007 MN Black Bears with 4G/1A
Mathis Preston, VAN Vipers (2008)
Editor's Note: With two rinks 30 miles apart, I didn't get to see as much as we would have liked at all levels. Here is who I liked.
Dayton Arneson, VAN Vipers (2005) - Strong D-man with a heavy shot - controls the game with puck control and vision.
Connor Bedard, VAN Vipers (2005) - Widely considered the top 2005 in all of North America. Gave us no reason to dispute this claim last weekend.
Clarke Caswell, BC Interior Stars (2006) - High energy player who has great balance and a nose for the net.
Chris Kilduff, Kelowna Heat (2007) - Powerful player with a very fast game. Made several unselfish plays with the puck all weekend.
AJ LaCroix, MN Black Bears (2005) - Lead the scrappy Bears in scoring, strong skater who saw the ice well.
Jakob Oreskovic, BC Bears (2007) - Fun player to watch, uses his body and stick well to create opportunities.
Aidan Park, California Patriots (2006) - Besides Bedard, the most complete player I saw all weekend. Fluid skater, great vision - can be physical when necessary.
Mathis Preston, VAN Vipers (2008) - Fastest feet and hands I saw all weekend. Uses his skill to get his entire team involved.
Liam Pue, Fraser Valley (2009) - Very skilled with the puck - has a knack to always find himself with the puck in open spaces.
Tyus Sparks, Fraser Valley (2008) - Can take over a game at any time. Hardest shot for his age...by far.
Jakob Oreskovic, BC Bears (2007)
Best Team - 2005 Vancouver Vipers dominated play all weekend, outscoring opponents 77-9 in seven games.
Best View - Grouse Mountain...took a gondola to the top and saw the whole city. Wow!
Best Game - VAN Vipers '06 over California Patriots (4-3, OT). Yes, the Patriots defeated the Vipers in a crazy 10-8 affair Sunday. But the Saturday affair was way faster, way more dramatic. Plus, it's not every game where the Zamboni driver nearly ends it twice because the game had gone over the allotted time slot!
Best Fan - Not sure I've ever witnessed a guy with so much energy for his team/s. Steeler Super Fan made his way around both rinks to cheer on his favorite team. Very positive and very loud. It was great to meet this young man.
Best Chant - "USA, USA, USA!" The 2007 MN Black Bears defeated the undefeated Kelowna Heat Saturday. Afterward the boys (with 4 imports from Langley, BC) started to chant their country's favorite chant. The Canadian boys chimed right in and a bond for life was built.
Best Uniform - Junior Steelers
USA, USA, USA