We have seen the future of Martha’s Vineyard hockey and it is bright, judging by the enthusiasm and talent on display Saturday as part of the four-day MV Youth Hockey Invitational Tournament at the MV Ice Arena. The event, in its 28th year, featured round robin competition among 13 teams in three different divisions: House, Mites (age 8 and under), and Squirts (ages 9 and 10).
This year’s event was actually a combination of two separate tourneys: the Ryan Mone Tournament, held to honor the memory of former MVYH player Ryan Prescott Mone, and the Red Kennedy Tournament, named for an early and indispensable figure in the building of the MV Arena.
In a Mites contest on Saturday, the MV Ospreys faced off against the Bulldogs of New Haven, Conn. This game was of particular interest on two counts. First, the MV coaches had decided to create a new, all-girls Mites team for the tournament by uniting all 10 girls who participated in the program this winter. Second, this group normally plays half-rink games during the season; this tournament was the first time they played full-rink games all year.
As it turned out, the all-girl Osprey squad had another challenge; the bigger and more experienced Bulldogs. In a fast-moving, entertaining game, the New Haven team had the edge, prevailing 6-1. But the Osprey played smoothly together and handled the full rink just fine. Goalie Bailen Darack was strong throughout, foiling numerous Bulldog opportunities, and Izzy Blake provided a beautiful breakaway goal for the lone Osprey score.
According to MV Youth Hockey board member Geoghan Coogan, the last three years have seen a steady increase in participation by girls. “A recreational grant has helped us create low-key, no-travel hockey opportunities for younger kids — called the House program,” Mr. Coogan said. “Kids are responding, including more girls.” That’s good news for Island hockey.
The Squirts were next to take the ice, with the MV Mariners, comprised of nine boys and three girls, facing the all-boy Falmouth Clippers. After an early Falmouth goal, the home team soon took charge and dominated play on their way to a 6-1 victory. It was an impressive team effort highlighted by the solid goaltending of Maks Pachico and the speed of Frankie Paciello, who converted on four breakaway chances. Jackson Burgoyne also scored for the Mariners.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable experience at the rink on Saturday for all involved. The spirit of the players, coaches, and fans was infectious. As for the hockey, these young players exhibit terrific effort and sportsmanship, and their level of play is impressive. MV hockey is in good hands.