Vineyard Travel Mites coach describes a winning season

The Vineyard Travel Mites celebrated their Cape and Islands League championship after defeating Hetland 5-1 on March 11 at the Tony Kent Arena in South Dennis. — Photo by Kimberly Biggs

We began the season with a lot of conversations that went like “it will be a growing season”, “we will learn to persevere”, and “it will make the kids stronger.” We had pretty low expectations because every kid was a first year travel mite except for two returning players, Eli Gundersen and Will Bruguiere, and a third, Liam Marek, who was injured and would not be able to play until mid-December. We actually went out and recruited a few kids to fill out the roster. We started the season with the fundamentals all based upon developing skaters and keeping it fun. We hardly had any absenteeism: there was an unbelievable turnout and commitment from both players and parents.

At the beginning of the season, the league had a cross-ice jamboree where all the teams got to see the kids in action and the league placed the teams into two levels. We fared well and ended up placed in the upper tier. The first half of the season went as expected; we continued to develop as skaters and slowly the skills started to follow. We won a few and lost a few, but the kids were having fun.

The locker room and travel camaraderie started to develop and that wonderful thing we call “team” started to form. Somewhere towards the end of January you saw the mindset change from the kids playing “recess hockey” to competition. We had an excellent Ryan Mone Memorial tournament where we placed 2nd and everything started to click. The kids continued to work hard and qualified for the 4th and final seed in the league playoffs in early February. They had developed skills and were playing great, but they still couldn’t manage to get a win and get past any of the top three teams — Nantucket, Hetland and Lower Cape.

On February 24-26 the team travelled to Needham to play in the Frank Bell Memorial tournament. This was possibly the best and most important point in the season. The team had relied heavily on the three veteran players all season and they consistently carried the team. It was here, however, that the other 12 players stepped up and truly came together as a team. We ended up winning the tournament by sweeping all four games.

Our first league playoff foe was our island rival Nantucket. They had beaten us three times and we had squeaked out one tie. Somehow, even at the age of 6 to 8, these kids seemed to already understand the importance of this rivalry. Nantucket, however, was 18-1-1. After the opening faceoff, it was clear that our team was a different team than the one that Nantucket had faced earlier in the season. We dominated play for the majority of the game and got some huge saves when it really counted from our goalie, Oliver Lively. At the end of regulation we were tied 2-2. Fortunately for the coaches’ hearts, it didn’t take long for Will Bruguiere to net the winning goal in sudden death overtime to take us to the championship game.

The following day we returned to Tony Kent Arena to face the Hetland Panthers. They had beaten us three times and we had tied once. They had also pushed us around and were more physical than what we were used to. Once again, from the opening faceoff, it was clear that things would be different today. A total team commitment for three periods led to a final score of 5-1.

In the locker room after the game the smiles and cheering was infectious. However, there was one sad face. I asked him what was wrong. His answer: “I’m sad it’s all over.” Another parent asked his kid what the coaches were saying between periods. His answer: “Go out there and have fun.”

IT was a magical season that was a true testament to everyone involved: the coaches, the players, and the parents. Rarely do you get so many people on the same page with a common goal. This is what youth sports is supposed to be about.

* Note from MVYH: we could not be more delighted for our youngest travel team, these guys had an outstanding year.

Players:Will Bruguiere, Eli Gundersen, Cam Geary, Mike Wallace, Oliver Lively, Graham Sterns, Dylan Biggs, Riley Sylvia, Jack Lionette, John Coogan, Nick Rego, Micah Simmons, Richie Combra, Liam Marek, Harper Hearn.Coaches: Geoghan Coogan, Dan Townes, Erik Bruguiere, Jevon Rego