Jr. Sharks Squirts romp en route to Silver Stick championship
For many members of the San Jose Jr. Sharks’ 10U Squirt team, their first trip north of the border was one to remember.
After dropping their first game at the 18th annual International Silver Stick Finals tournament in and around Pelham, Ont., the Jr. Sharks were unstoppable the rest of the tournament, racking up five straight wins while outscoring their opponents by a margin of 22-8 to capture the Atom/Squirt Tier I championship.
“All the games were pretty tight, and the competition was great,” said Jr. Sharks coach Salvatore Barranco. “It was just an incredible experience for the boys. Being able to come home with a championship is great, but when you add in all the other experiences that happened off the ice. Having a chance to be around that and see how excited they were made it really enjoyable.”
The 16-team tournament featured a mix of teams from Canada and the United States, and Barranco said traveling a great distance for a tournament of such high caliber played a factor in dropping a 3-0 decision to Oakridge, Ont., in the tournament opener.
“This was kind of the first long cross-country road trip for most of the boys, and they deserve all the credit in the world,” said Barranco. “We lost the first game, and it would have been easy to just say that we were in trouble at a tournament like this, but they really responded well and were able to come out strong the next game, and that carried through the rest of the tournament.”
Wins over Chicago and a pair of Ontario teams put the Jr. Sharks in the semifinals against Whitby, Ont., a game that Barranco said ended up being the game of the tournament.
“The semifinal was just an incredible game,” said Barranco. “It was one of those games that ended up giving us so much momentum heading into the finals. We were down 5-4 with 30 seconds left and we pulled the goalie and for most of our guys, it was the first time they were in a situation where the goalie was pulled to try and tie up a game.
“But we ended up scoring to tie it up and we won it on a shorthanded goal in overtime. It was just one of those games everyone is going to remember for a long time, and to be able to go on the next day and finish it off with a win (2-0 over Lincoln, Neb.) was just the perfect way to cap it all off.”
While coming home from a tournament with the championship trophy is always the best-case scenario, Barranco noted that at such a young age being able to grow and develop off the ice is just as important as what happens on it.
“A lot of what these kids are going to remember most is the stuff that happened off the ice,” said Barranco. “There were a few of these kids that had never seen snow before. In a lot of ways, building that camaraderie off the ice and getting the feeling of what it means to be part of a team is most important.”
The 10U Jr. Sharks are made up of skaters Jayden Balan, Griffin Brown, Isaiah Castro, Thomas Corneillie, Tanner Fast, Colten Fazio, Tanner Ford, Daniel Hemming, Andrei Nabokov, Dylan Nolan, Jack O’Connor, Joshua Phillips, Carrick Stevens, Steven Wang and Jaydn Yee and goaltenders Christopher Dean and Bennett Law. Barranco is joined behind the bench by assistant coaches Alex Azevedo, Curtis Brown, Evgeni Nabokov and Owen Nolan.
“There’s a lot of strong hockey teams coming out of California at all ages right now, and I think we showed some of that at this tournament,” said Barranco. “Even at this young age, we hold ourselves to a certain standard and if we don’t reach that standard, then we need to keep pushing ourselves to get there.”
— John B. Spigott