Cayman teams rolling on to the championships

Cayman's 8&u white team came out on top. (Images submitted)

Cayman Islands will be represented at the North American Roller Hockey Championships being held in Toronto this July after strong showings in recent qualifiers in California and Georgia.

At the most recent qualifiers in Atlanta from 21-22 May, 2017, the Cayman Islands Youth Roller Hockey programme sent one of its largest teams ever for the Georgia Regional Qualifiers, with teams in the Atom (8 & under), Mite (10 & under), Squirt (12 & under) and Peewee (14 & under) Divisions.

“Each year the teams get stronger and are now consistently in contention for medals in the Gold Division,” said coach Dennis Passchier.

“We added the Irvine Qualifier (at the end of April) to the roster this year due to the high quality of play in California and the Cayman teams proved themselves there against some of the best in line hockey players in the U.S. With just three weeks in between tournaments the kids worked hard to may improvements and tighten up plays and it payed off in Atlanta,” he added.

Cayman fielded two Atom Division teams in Atlanta, both coming home with medals, demonstrating the depth of the programme and the promising future of the sport in the Cayman Islands.

After going undefeated in the round robin, the Cayman Islands White team were the number one seed heading into the gold final against a familiar foe, the Atlanta Bulldog Red team, having narrowly defeated them in the last minute of a similar tournament final last year.

Seeking revenge for last year’s loss, the Bulldogs started of hot opening an early 6-4 lead, but Cayman battled back closing the first with a 6-6 tie.  Cayman played well under pressure and pulled away in the 2nd half taking home the gold with an 11-8 final.

The “blue” team won the 8&u silver division.

Despite no longer being an unknown and with continual pressure put on him, Jaxon Cover followed his high scorer title from Irvine, with the same award this time around.  He also found success with line-mate Kameron Hiryrok, who came away with a double hat-trick in one of the round-robin games.

The team was also led by Thatcher Duty and Eliana Marr who shared goalie detail and combined to win top goalie honours.  Matthew Huys was the steadying influence on defense, and other key contributors were Mason McDonald, Aiden “Suits” Suitor, Cohen Ting, and Sarah Godwin.

The Cayman Islands Blue team were led by up-and-comers Tommy Isbister, Christian Goulden and John-Michael Parker. The Blue team went 2-2 overall and following a confidence building 9-1 win in the third round-robin match, they earned gold in the important Silver Division final game against the Atlanta Bulldogs White, giving team Cayman the Atom Division sweep overall.

Cayman’s 8 & under teams have only lost one tournament in the last six they have played.

In the Mite Division, Cayman kicked off with an early morning 5-4 win against the Atlanta-based Gwinnett Thunder. In their second game, the Cayman team played a very exciting match against the Tour Junior Gladiators Red, winning 1-0. They completed their round robin matches undefeated with a strong 6-2 win over the Atlanta Bulldogs earning them a spot in the Gold Division final.

The Cayman team lost a tough game to Atlanta’s Tour Junior Gladiators top team, taking home the silver medal. “The kids played a great team game the entire tournament and after a shaky California trip, things look to be back on track going into the NARCH finals in Toronto this summer. I think this group of young players really surprised a lot of teams and caught them off guard by rolling through the round robin stage with ease going 3-0,” Passchier said.

Top scorers were Jaxon Cover who won both the 8 & under and 10 & under top point man, Jaedon Cover and Lachlin Lambert.

Cayman’s 10&u team won a silver medal.

The Squirt Division was the last to face off on Saturday winning two games in a row, 7-2 to the Tour Junior Gladiators Red and 5-4 to the Tour Lizard Kings.  In their final round-robin game against the Tour Junior Gladiators 06, the Gladiators broke a 7-7 tie with 30 seconds left on the clock which proved a devastating loss for Cayman moving them from the top seed to number three and knocking them out of the Gold Division final.

The Gold Division was ultimately won by the Tour Lizard Kings who Cayman had defeated in the round robin.  The Cayman team came back strong on Sunday morning, defeating the Atlanta Bulldogs 10-3 in the Silver Division semi-final.  Cayman faced off against the Tour Junior Gladiators Red in the final taking the gold medal with a commanding 7-1 win.

Top scorers for the 12 & under Cayman team were Andy Hastings, Sadie and Connor Finch, and Jaxon Cover.

“The Cayman Islands 12& under team has really improved as they’ve stayed together and aged up and now in 12 & Under division. I have a feeling some teams here are very disappointed in their play because they lost games to this Cayman team when they’ve beaten them in past years,” said NARCH organiser Daryn Goodwin.

“[Cayman] went to California and beat some legitimate teams just a few weeks ago. I guess part of the lesson is, just because you beat a team last year or two years ago, it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen again automatically.  Young players advance at different paces and this team has worked very hard to get where they are today,” Goodwin added.

Cayman’s 12&u team has shown improvement.

In the Peewee division, Cayman’s 14 & Under team played in their first tournament this year and took an early lead with an 8-1 win in their first game.  They went on to play three very strong teams and struggled a bit to produce goals, but qualified for the Silver Division final.

After being down 6-2 the team stormed back to make it 6-7 coming up just short for the big comeback. This team will be adding a couple key players for the NARCH finals that couldn’t make the Atlanta trip and are expected to finish at the top end of the Silver Division in July. Leading scorers in Atlanta were Justin Hastings, Jayden Mannisto and Josh Small.

Teams returned to Cayman on Monday and will begin preparations for the NARCH finals in Toronto.  In addition to the teams that played in the four age divisions in California and Georgia, Cayman will bring a 6 and under, Cub Division team to the finals, and will field a girls’ team for the first time ever.


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