Pee Wee hockey team beats Falmouth to advance in tournament

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Alexa Pil scrambles to score against Falmouth. — Photo by Michael Cummo

The Martha’s Vineyard Pee Wee hockey team roared back from a one-goal deficit early in the first period to score seven unanswered goals, including four by Will Bruguiere, en route to an 8-2 win over visiting Falmouth at the MV Ice Arena on Sunday afternoon.

The win allows the Vineyard 11- and 12-year-old boys and girls to advance in the Cape and Islands region of the state Pee Wee Playdown Tournament. The victory on Sunday was the second for the Island skaters in the single-elimination tournament round.

The annual Playdown Tournament, sponsored by Massachusetts Hockey, an affiliate of the amateur USAHockey organization, involves several hundred Pee Wee teams in ten regions across the state. The Vineyarders next play a Lower Cape team in Orleans at a date to be determined. A win allows the Vineyarders to advance to round robin play from which the eventual winner in the Cape and Island region will play in the state championship round with winners from the nine other regions in Massachusetts. The Playdown Tournament will extend into March or early April for the final teams.

Peter Gillis, Alexa Gil, Hunter Meader, and Cam Geary also scored for the Vineyarders, who peppered the Falmouth net with 29 shots. Vineyard netminder Oliver Lively turned away 14 of 16 Falmouth shots on goal. Lauren Boyd, Hunter Meader, Cam Geary, and Pete Gillis had multiple assists in the game. Hoffman Hearn and Elias Gunderson also contributed helpers.
Before the game, coach George Hearn said, ”Yup. This is a big one, and against Falmouth, our arch-rivals.”

In post-game comments, coach Pete Gillis copped to some pre-game anxiety about the matchup. “We weren’t sure what to expect,” he said. “They gave us a pretty good beating last time we played them.”
And after an early Will Bruguiere first period goal, Falmouth stormed back with two quick goals to take a 2-1 lead. A “here we go again” moment?  Nope. The Vineyarders regained their giddyup, scoring twice to close out the first period up, 3-2, the last on a nifty wrap-around move by Will Bruguiere with 1:30 left.
Will completed a hat trick (three goals in a game) early in the second period and a composed Island squad handled the deflated Falmouth squad easily thereafter, scoring twice more in the second period and adding a pair in the third.

If you haven’t seen youth hockey lately, you’re in for a surprise. Youth play today is far removed from an older version that tended to be dominated by one or two star players (aka “puck hogs”) who lugged the biscuit from end to end without a thought to passing. The Island team featured heady, disciplined positional play, a crisp short passing game and patient use of the boards in the offensive end to wait for scoring chances to materialize.

“We coach according to USAHockey standards which emphasize strong fundamentals and skill development,” Mr. Gillis said this week. “We do teach the fundamentals of positioning on the chalkboard in the locker room but we use small area drills – three on threes – to allow kids to develop stick handling and passing skills and to figure things out that they can take into a game situation.”

The days of lining up for shots and skating through cones have been replaced by practices with a focus on creating real-game situations.

The well-used MV Ice Arena is rockin’ with hockey this time of year with upwards of 200 kids from instructional to Bantam players playing and practicing, not to mention the boys and girls high school teams. Mr. Gillis credited the explosion of interest in Island hockey to creation of an instructional league four or five years ago. “When kids experience hockey, they love it,” he said, adding “the arena is a very expensive venue to maintain. We’re concerned about the big increase coming for electricity rates, for example, But it’s a great outlet for kids in the winter when there isn’t much to do on the Island.”