Avalanche Peewee A Team Wins District Title
Win in final seconds caps 'magical' season
It was like in the movies, when everything goes silent and all the action is in slow motion. That's the way the players remember it, anyway.
Mike Miano shot the puck — hit it hard from way back in an act of desperation that only comes when the championship is on the line with five seconds left in the game The puck skidded across the ice. It deflected off the stick of a defenseman from the opposing team and flew into the air. The puck soared over the goalie's head and into the net.
Mike and the rest of the Avalanche Pee Wee A team didn't move for a moment, didn't believe what had just happened.
Then, all around them, they heard a roar.
"We looked up at the parents and they were screaming," said Peter Cassidy, a seventh-grader fromGlen Rock. "The coaches were choking."
Everyone was suddenly piling on top the team goalie and Mike. Even their head coach, Gary L'Heureux, joined the dogpile.
The 12-and-under team had won the Atlantic District Championship and earned the right to call themselves the best pee wee ice hockey team in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Their championship banner should soon be hanging over one of the rinks at their home turf, the Ice House inHackensack.
"This will be a memory," said Mike, a 12-year-old seventh-grader from the Bronx. "I tell all my friends about it."
L'Heureux's voice is still hoarse from yelling that day. "They had a magical year," the Tenafly resident said. "We were fortunate at that point the kids were playing their best hockey of the year. We jelled as a team."
When he first got his team together last fall with players from all over North Jersey and New York, L'Heureux remembers thinking they had "tremendous potential," but he didn't know how far that would take them.
"We really developed together as a team," he said. "We got to where everyone was getting along and helping each other out, promoting each other. They had an instinct about where their teammate would be for a pass."
Joe Sponenburg, one of the team's goalies, agreed.
"We played as a team," said the seventh-grader from Wayne. "We always passed the puck. It wasn't just one person taking it down the ice all the time."
"We even had a great time at practice," Mike added.
The Avs went undefeated in their league games, winning 18 and tying two on their way to taking the Peewee A North division title. They rose through the districts and conquered teams from other states on their way to the championship game.
But as good as they were, their opponents seemed indomitable. The Princeton Tigers had an awe-inspiring 50-0-2 record.
The championship game was held March 18 in Mennen Sports Arena in Morris Township.
"It was a very close game and a battle of two good teams," said Nicolas L'Heureux, who plays left wing for the team. "It was very exciting."
The game was tied 1-1 with 5 seconds to go. "We had no hope," Mike said.
The coaches were busy trying to figure out their lineup for a shootout when Mike took his shot.
"It was crazy," Joe said. "Everyone was screaming"
"Nobody could believe it," Peter said.
The win was the last game of the season — there is no nationals tournament at this level — and many of the players have already moved on to baseball and lacrosse. But all of them are already talking about next year.
"It was quite a thrill," L'Heureux said. "Now that you have a taste of it, you want it all the time."